Since the end of the 2012-3 NBA Playoffs, through the draft and into free agency, there has been lots of positive speculation comming out of the Bayou. Recently eliminated from this years Summer League Tournament, Pelicans fans can now steer their anticipation towards this comming regular season.
With the acquisitions of Jrue Holiday, Pierre Jackson, Tyreke Evans, Jeff Withey, Anthony Morrow, Greg Stiemsma, resigning Al-Farouq Aminu and the possibility of signing Greg Oden this has been one of the most active off seasons in the franchises history. With an all-star, two rookies, a potential superstar and a few role players, Dell Demps and Co. have decided if they could make the team any better than last season, this offseason was the time to do it. Anticipating improvement from fringe players such as Xavier Henry, Robin Lopez and Grievis Vasquez was obviously taking a toll on the front office.
Many fans were upset with the trading of Vasquez, few with the loss of Lopez and I'm unsure whether Henry will be able to work his way onto an NBA roster after three tumultuous season. The fact of the matter is, if you can believe it or even want to, with the amount of playing time given to these players, it was obvious what their ceiling was, and it was now or never to get as much as they could for Robin and Grievis.
Summer League Summary
Onto the current New Orleans Pelicans, Austin Rivers gave some an eye opening experience in the four Summer League games. He showed how agile and quick he is slashing to the basket when healthy and his jump shot actually had a pulse at times. It's clear what Demps saw in him when drafting him in the lottery two years past. With the acquisition of Holiday, signed to a four year extension, it's clear that their could be the opportunity for Rivers to get moved before the end of the year, given the playing time he'll receive game-in and out.
Darius Miller had a breakout game, two nights ago, showing that he could become this years Brian Roberts and securing a roster spot. He really isn't the most athletic and doesn't have the experience to really fight for anything other than garbage time and spot starting. His game has quite a few holes and unless he can either excel in either his offensive or defensive game, his contract seems expendable.
Brian Roberts was the one reliable player that made me feel comfortable while on the floor. His 3-PT shot was inconsistent but has proven he can be a capable backup Point Guard regardless of the talent he went up against. Many basketball fans sleep on the Summer League, although a majority of the players are fighting for the final one or two roster spots and find watching the low scoring games as intriguing as the regular season games.
The last positive from the summer league would have to be Jeff Withey. Even in a limited role he proved that he can bring his shot blocking from the NCAA to the pros. Like Anthony Davis, Withey has the potential to bulk twenty to twenty five pounds and could really benefit from developing a post game. If their was one player this SL (Summer League) that has the potential to really thrive in this league, Withey could be a player that plays the role Chris Andersen played during the Heat's run to winning the Finals with a few years of positive development.
The Acquistions a.k.a Saviors
The position Holiday, Evans even Morrow have been put in, a lot is to be expected during the 82 game stretch come October. Holiday is going to have to find a way to build on the eye-opening season he had despite the season high in turnovers. He has shown the ability to make his teammates better although so much was expected out of Andrew Bynum last year. With a healthy Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis, the scoring possibilities become plentiful and Jrue has the talent to maximize what's around him.
Tyreke Evans is the wildcard out of the free agent frenzy. Evans, former ROY (Rookie of the Year) recepient, has flashed potential while playing on an immature, inexperienced team. The way Evans was utilized in Sacremento, including the way the Kings' roster was made up, it was easy to have confusion with which rotations and lineups would work best. With Isaiah Thomas, Jimmer Fredette, Marcus Thornton and Aaron Brooks it was hard for Tyreke, undersized for the Small Foward position, to have adequate starter playing time at his natural position. Including the decline of production, Keith Smart felt it was best to start moving Evans around to the Point and Small Foward position, attempting to get the most out of his team, secure his job title and win games.
Evans has the game to perform in this league, Demarcus Cousins really hurt Evans more than he helped him. Cousins was perceived as the Kings franchise player. His attitude, demanding to be traded, numerous ejections and suspensions, made it difficult for the pressure of losing not to ride on Tyrekes' shoulders. Brooks is a proven average player, Thornton is streaky and Jason Thompson is an average big man at best. It's easy to see why Tyreke gave up on the Kings last season.
Anthony Morrow is the signing that really raised eyebrows. Unexpected, Morrow was the shooter many fans clamored for and filled a significant hole that was previously Xavier Henry's ( a shooter in college that lost his ability to score points). Morrow is known for his SL game against his current team and his high career 3-PT percentage. He isn't a 3-&-D type role-player, but can easily put up twelve to eighteen points in a game. It isn't shocking to expect Aminu to have his seasonal stretch of defensive lapses and lack of effort. Morrow is a suitable candidate to perform as a spot starter or off the bench.
A Healthy Eric Gordon??
The way Eric was used last season does not upset me. in fact, Monty Williams used Gordon as an example as to why he got a contract extension two years ago. After the Pelicans traded Chris Paul, Eric Gordon arrived in New Orleans and made fans forget about the all-star Point Guard in the season opener versus Phenoix. Soon after that game, he got hit with the injury bug allowing him to play in only nine games in 2011-2.
After taking close to ten weeks of the 2012-3 season off, Eric was thruster into his starting, shooting guard, position unable to play in the second of every back-to-back game the Pelicans had last season. Giving Gordon the proper time to come back from such a serious injury, even with the extra time off, the rust was still clearly visible and Eric still came down with some bumps and bruises. If any Pelican fans expected all-star type numbers from Gordon and predicted he would play in sixty or more games should be considered foolish and accept the way Gordon performed given the lack of enthusiasm he showed for the city and team.
I hold no animosity towards EG, in fact, even with the trade for Ryan Anderson and the drafting of Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers, it was blind optimism that I held for the Pelicans to win thirty or more games. This is the season Eric Gordon has to prove he deserves his max contract, that he belonged on the 2012 USA Olympic Team, that he can be a superstar in this League.
I still feel as if Monty has to take it easy on Gordon, at least when it comes to back-to-backs and heavy minutes during the first few months of this upcoming season. Austin Rivers was drafted when the lack of depth up front was and remains evident despit the Greg Stiemsma signing. Both John Henson and Jared Sullinger were both available at the tenth spot in the 2012 NBA Draft and Rivers looked healthier than I've seen him in this league during the SL games.
Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts
The more thought I have on Austin Rivers SL this year compared to last year, his play leaves me practically speechless. If his SL play holds any indication of how he'll play this regular season, I have high expectation for Austin and believe he can double last years production in points and steals.
Brian Roberts. I could describe Roberts in a few different ways. Most of them relate to each other in Roberts being a capable backup Point Guard. If he was a few years younger he would have the backup Point Guard position with a contract extension. It leads me to believe that Brian Roberts is as valuable as he possibly can be right now and with the depth we have at the one and two makes me think that he could be a trade chip, as Austin Rivers can be if he continues to play the way he did the past two weeks.
Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans and Austin Rivers are all incredibly young and have untapped potential that can be shown through practice and in-game experience. Unless the injury bug hits, it would be safe to have Roberts and his low salary stick around on this team.
Depending on how well this post is received and if anyone agrees or disagrees with me, I'm hoping some of you can share your opinions and reflect on how you think the Pelicans offseason and Summer League ended up and if you have predictions of your own for this comming season. I want to write a Part 2 regarding the Big Men on the roster and possibly including trade scenarios and end of the season record/ personal achievements. For the end of this post I want to give my predictions for the players I've discussed two most improved/unimproved statistics
Jrue Holiday 2012-3: PPG 17.7/ APG 8.0
Jrue Holiday 2013-4: APG 9.2/ TO 2.6
Brian Roberts 2012-3: PPG 7.1/ APG 2.8
Brian Roberts 2013-4: TO 1.4/ 3PT% .405
Eric Gordon 2012-3: PPG 17.0/ APG 3.3
Eric Gordon 2013-4: PPG 21.4/ GP 66
Austin Rivers 2012-3: PPG 6.2/ 3PT% .326
Austin Rivers 2013-4: PPG 11.1/ SPG 1.2
Tyreke Evans 2012-3: 3PT% .338/ PPG 15.2
Tyreke Evans 2013-4: REB 5.0/ SPG 1.8
Anthony Morrow 2012-3: 3PT% .372/ PPG 4.0
Anthony Morrow 2013-4: 3PT% .420/ MIN 16.0