The hype train has just entered New Orleans. For the first time in nearly seven years, the Pelicans will have four players formidable enough to make a run into the playoffs. The days of "Lob City" now reside in Los Angeles, Tyson Chandler is still battling injuries, David West has refined his game and made himself more known to the media and Peja Stojakovic is out of the NBA.
The man "destined" to lead his team to the conference finals for the first time in franchise history, the second chances, the flyer hoping that you can squeeze the rest of the juice out of the orange, management has taken a new direction in competing for a title. Dell Demps said once new ownership bought the team that the team would compete while remaining young. It would take time but it was obvious the chance of busting through the draft is the highest in the NBA than any other sport.
This past offseason has garnered more than the usual media attention for New Orleans, and it isn't the Saints that are marching in this one. The predictions in this three part fan post are unusual, giving only two statistics that are completely random. I've covered the recently acquired, excluding the rookies and Greg Stiemsma, but I haven't given my two cents on any of the big men on the Pelicians.
The man known for making Blake Griffin flop
Jason Smith is going to start at Center at the start of the regular season. That was a bold prediction and it didn't take me a paragraph or two to predict it. With Lopez no longer on the team and Jeff Withey not being physically capable of handling the daily grind down low, Smith has really developed his game in pieces.
It sounds absurd to say, especially for a bench player throughout his entire career, Jason Smith has more strengths than weaknesses in his game. His post game could be tweaked and for being a seven footer, should block more shots. His defense is also suspect at times even though his energy level is extremely high it's hard to tell.
He has such a wet shot, especially in NBA 2K13, and he has decent speed for a big man. Not afraid of any opponent, constantly fights for position on rebounds. Unless he is hampered with injuries, he should be given the green light. The way Anderson Varejao plays the position, that's the type of player Jason Smith can become, only with a better jump shot. If he can get thirty minutes a game I have no doubt in my mind that he can average a double double per game disregarding his hot/cold streaks.
The great thing about this Pelicans roster, it has so much potential and every player has the opportunity to succeed. The bad thing about this roster, how and when to play certain players and who the offense/defense should be centered around.
Regardless of if Tyreke Evans is playing off the bench or not, Ryan Anderson deserves to retain his "Sixth Man" title. He is never going to be anything other than a 3 PT shooting big, but he does that so well. I'm one of the few people, regarding whom I talk basketball with, that feel Anderson is touching his ceiling and the older you get the shorter you get. He's a plus player and although its possible to become better at certain aspects of the game through practice and experience, his spot on the team seems to be solely for his 3 PT shot. There really is no need to step outside of his game.
He can continue to put up 18 and 6 and I feel that Anderson can gain career highs in his FG% and 3 PT%. With the talent rounded up, he should get more open looks especially with our guards and their strength in slashing through the paint to the basket. His defense, on the court with Anthony Davis, will remain a flaw but that's why New Orleans drafted Anthony Davis.
Every time I watch the Monty Williams Era Pelicans it reminds me how much of a defensive genius Williams is as a coach. Most media broadcasts (NBA Tonight, Iniside the NBA, NBA on TNT) on television don't have ample time to discuss all the NBA teams competing through the season. The fans who've watched the team play with Monty as coach could agree that injuries have hurt the team in the past, points have been few and far between and the supporting cast has been subpar at times and downright laughable at others.
Monty could be one of the best coaches for Anthony Davis in basketball today. I couldn't be more impressed with the way AD looks on the Team USA squad. He was compared to Kevin Garnett comming out of college but it seems like his game is much more fluid than Garnett's and, comparing ages, Garnett had to work for everything his rookie year.
Anthony Davis plays the game mainly through his size. If Davis was four to five inches smaller he wouldn't have been the number one overall pick. It's hard to put into words but if I had to explain myself I would say Anthony Davis plays defense through anticipation and timing. He has a decent basketball IQ and seems determined to work and get better, but without his growth spurt would be a totally different player.
He looked amazing in the Team USA scrimmage and its hard to tell how hard both teams were competing. Anthony is an all-star if healthy no question. The way the Pelicans are shaping the team, Davis seems the one who'll benefit the most. With 3 PT specialists in Morrow and Anderson, Davis will have games where he'll be able to strengthen his post game. With dangerous guards on the dribble in Holiday, Gordon and Rivers, Anthony will have plenty of lobs thrown his way towards the basket. Even paired with Al-Farouq Aminu can help. Davis down low and Aminu defending the dribble or perimeter, steal/block chances easily increase. He just needs to stay healthy and the more AD, the more wins.
The "New Guy" and The Rookie
I'm going to keep this short and sweet reason being my passion for the ex- Hornets, current Pelicans makes me write too much. Stiemsma was signed due to the injury cloud that hovers over this franchise. Greg can be plugged in for a few games and perform positively due to his energy.
He isn't going to emerge as this years Robin Lopez nor will he have eye popping statistics if he's given heavy minutes. He's the type of player that is to be in the right place at the right time, make less noise on the court than mistakes. Stiemsma isn't a bad player, and I don't dislike the sign. I feel he is a plug-in, he's got size and can protect the paint quite adequately. Withey has this year and possibly next to learn what he can. I won't look to 2014 for now but Jeff Withey has the potential to become a staple bench player for any NBA team.
I didn't watch a lot of college basketball last year, nor did I watch any game in the Final 4 Tournament. I was a huge slacker, but I did watch the NBA combine and I watched the draft. I read scouting reports and watch highlights of certain games. Jeff Withey was a player I figured could've gone ten spaces high in the draft.
He really needs to bulk and he needs either a hook or fade in the post. He looks taller than he is and if he could score in the post, by score I mean develop a plus-plus hook shot or fadeaway, Jeff Withey will become a better player than Tyler Zeller, the Plumlee brothers, Fab Melo and Meyers Leonard. Again, I'm not a fortune teller,but it isn't hard to see how easily Withey can block shots. His rebounding skills will flourish with twenty/twenty-five pound of bulk. The ability to box your opponent out is huge, HUGE. This year I see Withey watching a lot of games from the bench, I can't see them taking the Gustavo Ayon route mainly because Ayon had more bulk and was hard to push around.
I'll leave you with stats and I feel that regardless if you agree or disagree I would like some predictions posted, maybe which stat you think each player will improve or decline in. I would like to finish this up with an awards post, maybe what would happen if the Pelicans were -500%\+.500% by All-Star break. Trade scenarios, who would stand out on another team things like that.
Jason Smith 2012-3 Statistics: 8.2 PPG/ 0.9 BPG
Jason Smith 2013-4 Predictions: 9.4 PPG/ 6.8 RPG
Ryan Anderson 2012-3 Statistics: 16.2 PPG/ .382% 3 PT
Ryan Anderson 2013-4 Predictions: .410% 3 PT/ 18.9 PPG
Anthony Davis 2012-3 Statistics: 8.2 RPG/ 1.8 BPG
Anthony Davis 2013-4 Predictions: 2.4 BPG/ 16.1 PPG
Greg Stiemsma 2012-3 Statistics: 4.0 PPG/ 1.2 BPG
Greg Stiemsma 2013-4 Projections: 3.3 PPG/ .495% FG
Jeff Withey 2013-4 Predictions: 11.8 MPG/ 0.5 BPG