The Pelicans, coming off a breakthrough playoff appearance, are keeping the band together.
They’ve re-signed Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca and Dante Cunningham.
Add Luke Babbitt to the list – with Alonzo Gee joining him in New Orleans.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
These are only slightly above minimum contracts – or maybe even minimum deals with generous rounding. So, don’t expect either player to move the needle too much. Everything starts and ends with Anthony Davis.
But Babbitt has a chance to contribute as a stretch four in Alvin Gentry’s spread offense. That would mean more minutes for Davis at center, another plus.
Gee provides length on defense, which could help New Orleans switch more often (a la Gentry’s old team, the Warriors).
Fresh off winning a championship as an assistant with the Warriors, Alvin Gentry was finally officially introduced Monday morning as the next head coach of the Pelicans. His uptempo offensive style should be a great fit with the Pelicans’ roster, and he gets the opportunity to coach the league’s fastest-rising star in
Luke Babbitt Anthony Davis. Gentry made his excitement known at his introductory press conference.
From the Times-Picayune‘s John Reid:
With emerging star power forward Anthony Davis in the fold, Gentry said the Pelicans roster has tremendous potential and he is eager to get started.
”We got the best player in the NBA, not named LeBron James,” Gentry said. ”But I’m really excited. I look at the roster and I lot of these guys I have a special relationship with.”
He’s not exactly wrong. The other player in that discussion is Kevin Durant, but he missed most of the 2014-15 season with a foot injury. If he’s healthy, he’s probably still the second-best player in the NBA. But taking into account age (Davis is 22) and untapped potential, there’s nobody in the league that any coach should be more excited to get to work with than Davis.
New Orleans coach Monty Williams liked the idea of Tyreke Evans as the sixth man again this season — a guy who could come in off the bench and just change the dynamic of the game with his scoring. Like Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford does for the Clippers.
Evans is going to start at the three spot when the Pelicans tip off the season.
It’s not official yet, but it will be soon according to Nakia Hogan of the Times-Picayune.
After three preseason games with less than stellar production from the three players – Darius Miller, Luke Babbitt and John Salmons – originally competing for the starting small forward spot, the Pelicans are closing in on moving Tyreke Evans, who practiced for the first time on Saturday after recovering from a strained hamstring suffered this offseason, into the starting lineup.
“Tyreke right now in my head, that’s where he is going to play (at small forward),” Williams said.
That’s great… if Evans can stay healthy. Williams talks about playing him 30 minutes a night, but Evans will not play on Tuesday as he continues to get over a hamstring strain. (To be fair, Evans played 72 games last season.)
Evans at the three always seemed the logical end of the road for the Pelicans this season, even if they are left looking for more off the bench (watch Ryan Anderson to step up). Evans is just the best fit there, next to Eric Gordon at the two.
Evans is undersized for the three spot in the NBA and that is going to lead to teams trying to exploit him in the post — that’s where having the long arms of Anthony Davis as the help defender. Plus, as Williams notes, those bigger guys then have to deal with Evans in transition and out on the wing on the pick-and-roll.
Babbitt, Salmons and Miller will come off the bench, likely one of them a lot more than the other two.
There were plenty of positives for New Orleans in its Saturday night preseason opener in Louisville — Ryan Anderson looked good, hitting 4-of-9 shots, Jimmer Fredette scored 17 points, Luke Babbitt had 15, plus Russ Smith dropped 12. But all you really wanted was to get out of this contest against the Heat healthy.
They had a scare at one point: Anthony Davis left the game after injuring the index finger of his left hand.
But it appears not to be serious.
That’s good news for the Pelicans. And they were right not to put him back out there.
Count me in the group that thinks New Orleans is going to make the playoffs this season. Probably. This is the brutal Western Conference but if any other team slips this team is poised to step into their spot.
But they need a fully healthy Davis for that to happen.
Three of the five starting spots for the New Orleans Pelicans are set in stone: Jrue Holiday at the point, Anthony Davis at the four and Omer Asik at center.
Out on the wings there is some talent but there are questions, too. At the two guard spot I expect Eric Gordon to win out and start but Tyreke Evans is in that mix. Either way coach Monty Williams has some solid options.
Then over the three… how about John Salmons? That’s not a good option anymore, but it may be the best one. He turns 35 this season and didn’t impress last season in Sacramento or Toronto (he had a PER of 7.8), although he did shoot 38 percent from three. Bottom line is Salmons is going to get a shot reports John Reid at the Times Picayune.
It’s likely that Salmons, a 12-year veteran, will be in a competitive battle with third-year forward Darius Miller and Luke Babbitt for the starting job. Also, it has not been ruled out that swingman Tyreke Evans could move into the spot as a starter if Pelicans coach Monty Williams decides to stick with Eric Gordon as the starting shooting guard.
That last option (starting Gordon and Evans) seems the most logical, but I get why Williams would want to bring the scoring firepower of Evans off the bench as a sixth man. However, Williams only has that option if he can trust Salmons to find his old form (or for Babbitt or Morris to really step up their games). If you start Evans then frankly none of those backup options are very thrilling.
Salmons used to be a solid wing, but his game has dropped off with age dramatically in recent seasons. He has ball handling skills but used to drive and shoot or create, plus he got to the line, now he really doesn’t draw fouls anymore. If he can give the Pelicans any kind of consistent play starting or off the bench it would be a huge boost for a team that should be dramatically better and maybe even threaten for a playoff spot. But I expect Monty Williams and the Pelicans management will spend a lot of time looking for better options at the three.