The Pelicans announced this morning that Omer Asik will miss the next three weeks due to a right calf strain. With news earlier this week that Alexis Ajinca will miss the next 4-6 weeks, New Orleans will be without their top two center options for probably the rest of October. Considering opening night falls on the 27th of this month, there is a strong possibility the Pelicans starting center will be either Anthony Davis or Kendrick Perkins at the Oracle.
Depending on who you ask, today's news will be considered either par for the course or just a small glitch in what is a very long NBA season. If Asik misses exactly 3 weeks, he would miss the first two games of the season and be available to play in the Pelicans home opener October 31st against the Golden State Warriors. On the other hand, the Pelicans have often been snake-bitten by the injury bug the last several seasons so losing two key contributors during the preseason is ominous when it was already expected Jrue Holiday is going to be under a heavy minutes restriction for a lengthy period and Quincy Pondexter will not be unavailable at the start of the season.
Tom Haberstroh of ESPN had an interesting take on the injury news.
This feels a lot like David Lee getting hurt last season and unlocking the Draymond Green effect. https://t.co/NdCgg1M9bG— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) October 8, 2015
Potentially, he believes the Pelicans might strike oil by starting Anthony Davis at center. This move would probably entail starting Ryan Anderson alongside of him and it would allow the Pelicans to starts games with their best offensive floor-spacing group. (And perhaps allow Luke Babbitt to slide into the backup power forward role?) Similar to how Draymond Green unlocked the Golden State Warriors attack, Asik's injury could be a blessing in disguise as it gives Alvin Gentry a chance to start what many consider to be the Pelicans best lineup.
Although I understand the comparison, realize it is not as straightforward. First, Davis and the Pelicans organization have stated for years he is not interested in playing the center position on a full-time basis. Davis could become the best player in the league this season, so what he's says and believes, goes.
Second, Asik was signed to a new contract this off-season. David Lee only had two remaining seasons on his current 6-year deal. Even though I believe Dell Demps is the type of general manager who would set aside his pride for the good of the team, I find it unlikely the Pelicans would quickly abandon starting Asik. For purposes of the rotation, it makes little sense to have or play legitimate NBA centers against reserves, players which tend to be smaller than their starting counterparts.
If I'm a betting man, Gentry has a wonderful chance to give his small-ball lineups more opportunities together for the rest of the preseason, better learning their strengths and weaknesses. However, once Asik or Ajinca are ready to re-enter the lineup, expect them to move ahead of Anthony Davis on the center totem pole.
Lost amid the shuffle, Jeff Adrien has the best opportunity of his career to earn a rotation spot on a team suited to his strengths. If he fails to impress, look for the Pelicans to perhaps take a look at another big man for the rest of what is quickly becoming a long preseason.