The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.
Last Season: 34-48, missed the playoffs.
THREE QUESTIONS THE PELICANS MUST ANSWER:
1) Will we see a spark from Boogie and AD together? The pairing of Davis and Cousins together does make a lot of sense on paper. They are two of the NBA’s premier big men, and both have talent on both sides of the ball.
In limited minutes together last season, the two struggled to find something that would work from a wins perspective for New Orleans. That, of course, has a lot to do with the roster around them, and the interplay between Davis and Cousins did at least seem to be something that could flourish given more time together.
There is some specific lineup data that suggests that Cousins and Davis are some of the best 2-man lineups for the Pelicans when it comes to net points. What we need for New Orleans to survive out West is to see a spark that pushes both players past the level of play they’ve shown individually before. That’s the only thing that will be able to make up for the weaker roster that New Orleans will be trotting out against conference opponents every night.
2) What will the offense look like with Rajon Rondo? Rondo was not good last season for the Chicago Bulls even if he did have the support of some of his younger teammates in battling against Dwyane Wade. What the Pelicans need from Rondo is competent pick-and-roll, and we just aren’t sure that he can provide that anymore.
That is exacerbated by the fact that New Orleans does not have many 3-point shooters, which severely impact who Rondo can navigate to either directly or via hockey assist while operating the off screens.
It’s possible that there will be some interplay here between Jrue Holiday and Rondo which could benefit both players. Holiday shot 39% from 3-point range last season for New Orleans, so that will be something to watch in terms of how the offense works this season.
3) Can this team finally find some dang offense? This has been the question for New Orleans since they brought in head coach Alvin Gentry in 2015. The team has struggled to be a good offensive team, and hasn’t put much of a modern offense around Anthony Davis.
Having two hard-rebounding stars in Davis and Cousins should help them during the course of 82 games, and they did add some players they are hoping it will be good 3-point shooters, Ian Clark in particular.
The Pelicans finally have two years under their belts of playing with some pace, something they were previously hampered by. But that change in pace hasn’t helped their offense much, and they have remained in the lower part of the league in terms of offensive rating.
Good NBA rosters do tend to be somewhat top-heavy, and the Pelicans have three stars in Cousins, Davis, and Holiday. It seems like that should be enough to give them an offense that is better from some of the young and developing teams in this league. This will have to be the final chance for Gentry, and he has a lot of talent on the roster to try to get it done.