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Watch Jrue Holiday throw no-look backward pass to Anthony Davis for the dunk

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Something not a lot of fans realize: The New Orleans Pelicans played at the fastest pace in the NBA last season. Faster than the Warriors, the Lakers, all of them. The Pelicans love to run.

Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis are amazing in transition. That leads to plays like this:

I expect another monster season from Davis (he’s my MVP prediction), and with that are going to come a lot of highlight plays. This season, with the Pelicans on national television some, more people will be watching.

The GMs from 29 other teams will be watching, too, and wondering “what if?”

Klay Thompson ‘really wants to make’ NBA All-Defensive team

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Last season, the NBA’s All-Defensive Team guards were Victor Oladipo and Jrue Holiday (first team), with Dejounte Murray and Jimmy Butler (second team).

Is Golden State’s Klay Thompson better than one of those?

He thinks so and said as much speaking to Shams Charania of The Athletic in a recent interview (hat tip Chinmay Vaidya at Watch Stadium).

“The past few years, there’s been some guys where I’m like, ‘Man, I know I’m a better defender than him.’ I really want to make one of those teams. I think I put the work in on both ends to get that recognition.”

Thompson came in a distant sixth in guard voting (Chris Paul was fifth). That’s not far off, but the West is stacked with talent and it can be hard to get noticed.

Much like his offensive game, Thompson’s defense is impressive but can get lost amongst a team with a former Defensive Player of the  Year (Draymond Green) and other guys who can crank it up on the defensive end when they want to (Kevin Durant, for example). Last season, pick-and-roll ball handlers scored 0.85 points per possession when guarded by Thompson (about the league average) and he struggled some when he had to go over picks (tracking stats via Synergy Sports). Also, the advanced stats don’t always love Thompson — his defensive real plus/minus was 26th among shooting guards, and the Warriors were good but not dynamic 1.4 points per 100 possessions better defensively when he was on the court. That doesn’t help his case.

Part of that is Thompson always gets the toughest perimeter defensive assignments, a lot is asked of him on both ends and Thompson steps up. He’s got three rings the last four years on what has been an elite defensive team to show it.

Thompson is starting his campaign to make the team early this season — before it even tips off. That said, his play has deserved serious consideration for years and eventually he is going to make the team. He’s that good defensively.

Anthony Davis and Pelicans enter yet another season full of speculation about their future together

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This is the latest of NBC’s NBA preview stories, with at least one a day appearing on these pages until Oct. 16, when the NBA season kicks off. We will look at teams and topics around the NBA throughout the series, today it is New Orleans.

In Anthony Davis‘ lifetime, 22 players have made an All-NBA first team during their first six seasons. Just seven did so without reaching a conference finals in that span. Of those seven, only one began his seventh season with his original team.

Anthony Davis is set to become the second.

Davis, a three-time All-NBA first-teamer, has made the playoffs only twice and won a series only once in six years with the Pelicans. He’s following the footsteps of Kevin Garnett, who spent his first 12 seasons with the Timberwolves while advancing in the playoffs only once with them, in his ninth season.

That’s the same Kevin Garnett whom Anthony used as somewhat of a cautionary tale about remaining loyal to a franchise. And the most recent example of someone who became an All-NBA first-teamer so young without reaching the conference finals: Chris Paul, who engineered a trade from New Orleans after his sixth season there.

Uneasy parallels abound for the Pelicans as they try to keep Davis happy.

Of course, Davis is neither Paul nor Garnett nor anybody but Anthony Davis. Davis has mostly stayed on message: His priority is winning in New Orleans.

I believe that. But what if he determines he can’t win enough with the Pelicans? Will he choose them or a team he believes offers a better chance of on-court success. That, I don’t know.

The Pelicans should gain clarity next summer, when they can offer Davis a super-max extension that projects to be worth about $240 million over five years (about $48 million annually).

If he were to wait to leave in 2020 unrestricted free agency, Davis would have a projected max with another team of about $152 million over four years (about $38 million annually). Even if he got traded before then so he could re-sign with his new team in 2020, his projected max would still be “just” about $205 million over five years (about $41 million annually). He can get the super-max from only New Orleans.

If Davis is predisposed to stay with the Pelicans anyway, why wouldn’t he just take that monster offer next summer?

Again, speculation centers on New Orleans’ underwhelming results since drafting him No. 1 overall in 2012. The Pelicans have tried to fast-track their ascension around Davis, repeatedly trading first-round picks. They haven’t won enough to justify that strategy, and it has resulted in a roster primed for disappointment going forward.

Jrue Holiday is nice. Nikola Mirotic is underrated. Julius Randle could take another step. Otherwise, New Orleans’ supporting cast doesn’t make a convincing case.

Of course, the Pelicans could exceed expectations. They sure did last year, winning 48 games and sweeping the third-seeded Trail Blazers even after DeMarcus Cousins‘ injury.

Davis is locked up for two more years. If he makes another All-NBA team next season, he’ll be eligible to re-sign for the supermax in 2020 no matter how he performs during the 2019-20 season. Next season is not necessarily a breaking point.

But it’ll be another data point in Davis’ ongoing assessment of New Orleans. That assessment will be guided by a new agent (maybe Rich Paul, who represents Lakers superstar LeBron James) – which only adds variability to the equation.

The stakes are high. The small-market Pelicans would likely fall into into irrelevance if they lose Davis, which is precisely why they won’t rush to move him. But if they’re going to lose Davis, they’re better off trading him while his value nears its peak so they can get assets that will help in a new era. Whichever team gets Davis will likely vault up the championship-contention ladder.

Eyes will be on Davis and New Orleans, searching for any sign of discord. That might not be fair considering all Davis has done to fit in with the Pelicans, but it’s also reality. The vultures are swarming.

It has been this way for years now. Davis and the Pelicans are used to it, and neither he nor the team has budged much from their stated plan of sticking together.

But the super-max-extension window is around the corner with only the upcoming season in between. It’ll be a big one for determining whether everything in New Orleans is still on track.

Jarrett Jack reportedly reaches non-guaranteed deal with Pelicans

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After knee injuries and surgeries sidelined Jarrett Jack for the better part of two seasons, he was back last season with the Knicks and showed he’s got some game left in those 34-year-old legs. He started 56 games for New York, averaging 7.5 points and 5.6 assists per night, and while his shooting has slipped (an unimpressive 48.9 true shooting percentage, and shooting 29.1 percent from three) he showed he still could have a role in the NBA.

That role may be back with the Pelicans. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news.

Jack has a chance here, because while the Pelicans are bringing a lot of guards to camp there is only one worth trusting, Jrue Holiday. He is a borderline All-Star. After that, they are putting a lot of trust in Elfrid Payton as a point guard (to call the feeling on him around the league “divisive” would be kind), and behind them there are Ian Clark, Frank Jackson, and Trevon Bluiett. A solid veteran like Jack, asked to play a smaller role than he did in New York ( playing 25 minutes a night), could work.

The Pelicans are going to have one of the most interesting training camps in the league, because it is an actual tryout with roster spots and minutes up for grabs. They are not going through the motions in the Big Easy.

New Orleans signs Darius Morris to compete for guard spot on roster

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The New Orleans Pelicans are looking for depth at the guard and wing spots, and at the wing they are doing and old-school tryout during training camp. At guard, New Orleans has a borderline All-Star in Jrue Holiday (they want to say he’s not the point, he’s the two guard, but are they going to want the ball in his hands or Elfrid Payton‘s?), after that it gets thin.

Now add Darius Morris is going to get his shot at a spot, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Morris last played in the NBA in 2015 in Brooklyn and may be best remembered for a couple of seasons with the Lakers at the start of this decade (they drafted him in the second round in 2011). The past couple of seasons he has primarily been in the G-League, but has played in China as well.

The Pelicans need guard depth. Behind Holiday there is Payton, Ian Clark, Frank Jackson and likely Tyronne Wallace (they put in an offer sheet on him the Clippers are unlikely to match). Rarely is there a lot of drama in NBA training camps, due to guaranteed contracts, but this season in New Orleans will be different — roster spots and minutes will be available. Should be interesting to watch.