1) Should Dante Cunningham continue to start or would the Pelicans be better served by inserting Quincy Pondexter in his place? Why or why not?
Kevin B.: Yes, the Pelicans need to maintain three solid scoring options on the court at all times. With Holiday out, this means we have Tyreke playing his best position — point guard, Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis all chipping in as consistent scoring options. Cunningham and Asik are there to defend and take a wide open shot/dunk and do all of the dirty work. The bench is hurting a bit right now, but Anderson, Pondexter and Ajinca are the guys we need to rely on for scoring from the second unit. If we move Pondexter into the starting unit, we then rely solely on Anderson and Ajinca, who have been wildly inconsistent scoring the basketball.
Chris C.: I have stated pretty consistently that it really does not matter who starts but finishes the game. The team has been performing well with Dante in the starting lineup, so there seems to be no real reason to switch now. Against the Nuggets, however, we saw Dante play 22 more minutes than Quincy, which I disagree with pretty strongly. If Monty wants to play Dante a few more minutes than Quincy in various games for match up reasons or because Dante is playing really well on a certain night, that is fine. I just do not see any justification in ever playing Dante 22 more minutes than Quincy any given night.
Jamile D.: Yes, if it ain't broke don't fix it. This team has struggled to gain momentum all season. They are currently on a four game win streak so now is not the time to mess around with the rotation. In addition, Pondexter is a bit of a stabilizing force on the second unit. He also provides an extra ball handler with the subs.
Quentin H.: Let Cunningham continue to start. I’m fine with his defensive contributions and the lack of touches he needs to be effective. He’s been solid for New Orleans since his arrival. No need to change anything at the moment. The thing is, Pondexter isn’t playing that much better since his arrival in New Orleans, he’s just an upgrade. Leave him on the bench and allow him to earn more playing time by playing better.
Will H.: I'd prefer Quincy in there, as his offensive potential fits well with the starters and provides more spacing than DC. Though I don't think it matters much as long as Quincy is getting minutes.
Oleh K.: I'd prefer Pondexter gets inserted into the starting lineup sooner rather than later. The Pelicans seem to be heavily reliant on early game performance as they have a record of 7-15 when they lose the first quarter. Q-Pon will bring a little more quickness, range and aggressiveness that the starting unit needs with Omer Asik manning the middle. Cunningham's lack of offense among the 2nd unit could be mitigated by giving Jimmer Fredette some consistent time while Jrue Holiday remains out.
2) Should Nate Wolters be signed to a contract for the rest of the season? Why or why not?
KB: This is a tough question. He's had moments where he's looked solid, and moments where he's looked terrible. I would let his contract expire and see if there is a trade to be made to bolster the bench. However, if no move is made and/or we still have a roster spot I'd sign him after the trade deadline if he's still available.
CC: I have been pretty unimpressed with Nate. He is just a guy, much like Mekel was just a guy. I do not believe that he is the long term solution at backup point guard for the Pels and I would rather the team add a scoring threat at point rather than these players that can initiate the offense and that is about it. Nothing grinds my gears more than a player the opposing team can just leave open because they are not a threat to score from the outside. However, once Jrue comes back (if???), I would assume that the backup guard spot minutes will be gobbled up by Tyreke, which would send Nate to the bench barring foul trouble or injury. For the current year, I do not see Nate helping too much, but the question is who can the Pels add if they choose to not sign Wolters for the rest of the season? In a choice between Wolters and nothing, I choose Wolters. If no other move is imminent, then sign him for the rest of the season and see if the Pels can develop him into a serviceable PG.
JD: Maybe. If they can find a better alternative, then I would pursue that player. But if the only alternatives are similar enough in talent level, then I would err towards continuity.
QH: Yes. Wolters is a young point guard who needs stability in order to figure it out. As a rookie in Milwaukee, he wasn’t bad for being thrown into the rotation in his rookie campaign. For eight games, it hasn’t been pretty, but I don’t see a huge upgrade coming in the near future, so why not take a chance on Wolters for the next 35 games to see if he can get back to his role player status?
WH: I wouldn't be too upset if they did sign him, as he was pretty good as a rookie, but I'd personally rather they try out someone else, preferably someone who can provide some spacing.
OK: To echo those above me, I wouldn't mind Wolters remaining with the team for the rest of the season provided a noticeably better option doesn't come along. In college, he showed proficiency from their 3-point line in all but one of his seasons. If the organization could help him overcome his shooting woes, he'd immediately become valuable.
3) Are you concerned by the Pelicans steady decrease in 3-point attempts each month (20.1 --> 19.2 --> 17.1)? What do you recommend be done (ie. give Jimmer more playing time)?
KB: Not really. Threes are great when they are the right shot, but I'm all for taking the best shot. Anderson has really struggled and outside of him (and with Babbitt in Monty's doghouse), we don't have a lot of sharpshooters on the roster. I am totally fine with limited Jimmertime. If we are going to try to inject some three point shooting, I'd prefer a few minutes and plays run for Babbitt who has been a much more consistent 3pt shooter. We are generally in the mid-to-high 90s, so I don't think scoring is that big of a problem for us.
CC: The decrease in 3-point attempts can be attributed to the injuries to Jrue and EG and Ryno's inability to get an open shot from the outside. The injuries to two of the Pels better 3-point shooters have especially hurt because their replacements were Wolters (not a 3pt shooter) and Babbitt (who would take 1 or 2 a game). In theory, Jimmer should be able to shoot threes, but he has had the same problem as Ryno, he just cannot get open looks consistently from 3. I am not a big Jimmer apologist or fan boy. I recognize his limitations as defender and his shooting has not been good at all this season. I do think that he should be given some minutes each game to see if he can catch fire from 3.
JD: Not really. They have been shooting well from behind the arc as of late and I would expect the three point attempt number to tick back up towards 20 once Jrue Holiday returns. I know all the amateur statisticians want to take more three point shots at all times, but teams have to play to their strengths. The Pelicans are the best in the league at getting to the cup so that's what they do. There is more than one way to win in the NBA (See Memphis). I've always been a proponent of taking good open three point shots. Just jacking up three pointers for volume's sake looks good on a spreadsheet, but it can lead to long rebounds and fast breaks for your opponents in reality.
QH: I’m not too concerned, but that is interesting that their three-point shooting has dropped. Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, and the acquisition of Quincy Pondexter should result in more, if anything. For a recommendation, just give those three solid playing time and tell them that they want more shots from beyond the arc and see what happens.
WH: I believe some of this has to do with Ryan Anderson's confidence being in the tank after a slump, as well as Wolters (who doesn't shoot 3s) playing significant minutes. I wouldn't mind Jimmer playing more, but I think it's pretty clear that Monty does not think very highly of him. Gordon has been great from three since his return, so if this continues, maybe run more sets to get him open looks there? I'm not overly concerned right now, but it is certainly worth keeping an eye on.
OK: Not overly concerned at the moment, considering in our January wins the Pelicans have averaged 15.8 3-point attempts, but they have still managed 101.6 points a game. However, with Holiday out currently, I don't see much harm in Fredette or Babbitt getting some burn. There were times last season where Babbitt's contributions off the bench were difference makers.
4) Give me your predictions on Anthony Davis 2015 All-Star game boxscore numbers.
KB: 32 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals and 7 blocks.
CC: 24 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 steals
JD: Points: Do Rebounds: Not Blocks: Care Steals: AT ALL
Just promote the Pelicans, shake hands, kiss babies and get out of there healthy.
QH: 28 minutes, 22 points, nine rebounds, three blocks, and two steals. ASG MVP.
WH: Oh man that's a tough one. Big guys are at the mercy of guards in games like this, but Kobe won't be playing, so Davis should get a few touches and probably over 30min now that he is a starter. I say he goes 12/16 for 25 points and 1 3PM (on 3 attempts) with around 7 boards, 1 block, 3 steals.
OK: In 30 minutes: 29 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, 5 steals. Comes in 2nd in MVP voting.
5) What percentage chance are you currently giving the Pelicans to make the post-season?
KB: 25%. We've lost too many winnable games in the very tough West and are already dealing with injury problems. We have finally seen a streak, but it ended tonight. Until we see multiple 4-5 game streaks happen, I don't hold out much hope for the post season.
CC: I am giving them a 30% chance because I believe in the Pels ability to crush the weaker teams from the East (which has not happened yet) and keep up their play against the better teams in the league. I feel they will end up with 46-48 wins, and I just hope that the stronger teams in the West start to cannibalize each other, thereby pushing that eighth seed required win total downwards.
JD: 80%. Most of the Pelicans chronically low confidence fan base probably thinks this is a bit high but the second half schedule is much softer than the first half. The Pelicans are gaining confidence and finally seem to be capable of beating teams they are suppose to beat. This team is maturing in front of our eyes. People forget the youth of the team and the fact that none of them have won anything. There was always going to be a learning curve. Quincy Pondexter seems to have added some much needed maturity and leadership to the squad. There may be an adjustment period when Doctor Jrue (lets make that a thing) returns, but his added defense and intelligence will only help the Pelicans continue to improve. The Phoenix Suns have a tougher second half schedule so that gives the Pels a shot to replace them in the standings. I also think the Spurs will miss the playoffs. The real team to worry about is OKC. They may eventually turn back into the old Thunder which could spell doom for the Pels if they don't take care of business.
WH: I'll put it at around 35% They are right there, but the schedule is about to get tougher (albeit home-heavy), and all it will take is one slip (or no slip from PHX) and this race is over. PHX's schedule is tougher, but OKC's is slightly weaker than the Pels'. Let's revisit this after the back to back match ups against OKC. Those will go a long way in figuring this out.
OK: 33%. Barring unforeseen tragic injury(ies) to the top 7 teams of the Western Conference, only one of PHX, OKC or NOP will make the playoffs. I've heard all sorts of arguments as to which team should be considered the favorite, but I'm not really impressed by any of them. There are just too many variables. Thus, we're keeping it simple stupid.