67RIEFNS No. 25: Synergy of the Pelicans’ lineup

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The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.

The immediate and widespread reaction to the Pelicans trading a draft pick that could fall in the top 10 for Omer Asik was that New Orleans overpaid.

And that was accurate.

The Pelicans – in a tough Western Conference, where just making the playoffs will take an extremely impressive season – dealt a pick unprotected for picks 4-19. It’s quite likely, that turns out favorably for the Rockets.

But the trade is done. Now, New Orleans just has a really good lineup.

The Pelicans, even if healthy, had a weak spot at starting center. A four-headed monster of Alexis Ajinca, Jason Smith, Greg Stiemsma and Jeff Withey did not cut it last season.

Worse yet, that center rotation left Anthony Davis to handle more pounding down low. Davis is pretty great, a true emerging superstar, but he’s not built to withstand so much physicality. Asik will gladly carry that burden.

Asik is far from perfect, but he fits incredibly well in New Orleans. He’s the missing piece that makes everything come together for a team that went 34-48 last season.

Just look at this lineup

  • Point guard: Jrue Holiday
  • Shooting guard: Eric Gordon
  • Small forward: Tyreke Evans
  • Power forward: Anthony Davis
  • Center: Omer Asik
  • Sixth man: Ryan Anderson

That’s a lineup with talent. That’s a lineup with balanced skills. That’s a lineup that strikes fear in opponents.

Holiday has already turned his impressive physical traits into stout defense, and his offensive game is solid and moving in the right direction. Gordon can space the floor, and Evans can use that spacing to get to the rim. Davis is a versatile offensive weapon, capable of scoring inside and in mid-range, and he has Defensive Player of the Year potential due to his length and agility. Asik is a physical banger who will grab rebounds and control the paint. Anderson, a talented stretch four, scores and rebounds, though his defense is underwhelming.

When combinations of those six play together, the Pelicans should be very good. Very good.

I’m still not sold they’ll make the playoffs in a deep Western Conference, so I wouldn’t have traded such a valuable pick for Asik. Especially with Davis on the roster, the goal should be contending for a championship in a few years, not sneaking into the postseason this year.

But the series is called “Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season,” not “Reasons I’m Wary About Three Years From Now.” So, the Pelicans lineup – with Asik bringing everything together and freeing Davis to soar even higher – easily makes the cut.