Time is moving fast in ESPN's #NBARank world, as we’re already in the top 100. Ranking the top 50 players is tough, imagine adding another 50 players to that. On the other side, being a top 100 player is a pretty big distinction, as it shows a respect for one’s talents. Look no further than the 91-100 group.
Tony Allen is one of the best defensive wing players in the league, Roy Hibbert, looking to bounce back from a poor season in Indiana, is looking to move Los Angeles’ defense into the top half of the league. Nene is constantly underrated and sophomore point guard Elfrid Payton isn’t a good shooter, but strongly resembles Rajon Rondo for his ability to pass and defend.
Oh look, we see two Pelicans on the list. Both players, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, are expected to make large contributions for a New Orleans team looking to take a leap in the Western Conference.
99 -- Eric Gordon
After battling various injuries in his first few years in the Crescent City, Gordon had back-to-back seasons with 60 games played and impressed last season. He averaged 13.4 points, 3.8 assists, had a 54.4 TS% which included a 44.4% from beyond the arc. Gordon’s offensive versatility shined throughout the season, as he doubled as someone who can operate the pick and roll in stretches when need be, and serve as a floor spacing buoy alongside Tyreke Evans.
Where the injury bug has zapped Gordon the most is on the defensive end. Built like a bowling ball, Gordon was a becoming a stout, two-way player early in his career. However, he took a bit of hit and has become a solid team defender but a below average solo, man-to-man defender. Last season, Gordon finished 69th among shooting guards in defensive real plus-minus (DRPM) with a -1.88 and registered positively - which means negatively- in all defensive stats in NBA.com’s defensive stats.
Entering a contract season, Gordon is going to be able to showcase his entire skill set and enter free agency the same year the cap jumps. He’s the most interesting player for the most part: a floor spacing wing who can dabble as a ball-handler in the pick and roll and he’s still just 26 years old. For now, the Pelicans will need him to be the constant shooter like he was last season. A good Gordon season assumes similar production, a slight uptick in defense and about 10-15 more games played.
95 -- Ryan Anderson
If I were to pick one player to be most intrigued by for the Pelicans this season, it’s Ryan Anderson.
Last season, he just never got into a groove. Injuries are partially to blame, as he missed 20 games with various injuries. Still, Anderson never got into a flow and has a result, finished with one of his worst seasons. Overall, he finished with 13.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and a 52.4 TS%. The long ball was still there, though, as he finished with 34.0% from beyond the arc.
Despite his offensive issues, Anderson was one of the best offensive power forwards in the league, finishing with 2.05 offensive real plus-minus (ORPM). At his peak, he opens space for New Orleans slashers by pulling power forwards and centers out to the perimeter. Defensively, Anderson’s -3.75 DPRM ranks 94th among the 95 ranked power forwards. He’s never been a good defender, so the numbers aren’t too shocking.
Anderson comes in like Gordon -- looking to cash in on a big season. Entering free agency next year, he will have his own list of suitors, as his ability to space the floor will be valued. This season, he’s the one guy I’m curious to see. The Pelicans have the post players to put next to Anderson and protect the rim, and now, I think they have the defensive players on the perimeter to hide him as well.
Count me in as a member of the "Ryan Anderson will be good and the Pelicans will be better" club. I think every team needs a change-up: something the roster can change to when their typical lineup isn’t working a particular night. Rarely will we see Davis struggle, but if he does, I think Anderson will act as a fine change-up for him or another other Pelican big. There’s a chance that he will be mentioned as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate.
So, Anderson and Gordon are the next two Pelicans listed. Talk to me: What are your thoughts on their upcoming seasons, upcoming free agencies and are these guys ranked too high or too low? Personally, I think I would flip the two, but I can understand why Anderson is highly ranked.