Who was the most pleasant surprise on the roster?
Oleh Kosel: All the contributions from so called after-thought pieces: Dante Cunningham, Quincy Pondexter and Norris Cole. Before they arrived in New Orleans, none of them were making an impact (Dante didn't even have a job!) They immediately stepped into significant roles and were one of the biggest reasons for the 2015 postseason berth.
David Fisher: Anthony Davis blew my mind. The step from star to superstar is the hardest one to make and Davis made it look easy. He increased his efficiency and usage for the third straight year. After the All-Star Break he decided being an excellent passer was a dish he would like to try. Mission accomplished. I thought he would continue to get better this year but suffer some hiccups as the team looked to isolate him more. AD just keeps defying the most optimistic expectations.
Quentin Haynes: Norris Cole? Yes, Norris Cole. I think Cole’s stock hit rock bottom when LeBron James left and he was dreadful for Miami. He was never great, but his career was teetering in Miami. When Dell Demps acquired him, he fit in perfectly as an energy defender and someone who can excel at the catch and shoot at the point guard position. He isn’t anything special, but with Holiday coming back and soaking up the most of the minutes, I envision a scenario where the Pelicans can still use Cole’s production.
Zachary Junda: Quincy Pondexter rediscovering himself was an absolute delight and changed the Pelicans' season. Before being traded from Memphis, Pondexter was shooting 36/23/70 percent to start 2014-15. He would shoot 45/43/76 percent in the 45 games he played for the Pelicans. He wasn't great defensively so you can't say he quite filled the "three-and-d" role the Pelicans were desperate for this season, but he was definitely an upgrade over what was currently on the roster. I wrote about Pondexter after the trade and what New Orleans could realistically expect from him saying he's "a solid bench guy; he longs anywhere from 16-21 minutes, plays some solid defense, makes a couple of threes and maybe starts a few games. In a word he's serviceable." How's 28 starts and a new career high in three point percentage sound?
Kevin Barrios: This is pretty tough. It'd be easy to say Anthony Davis' constant improvement or even Eric Gordon's development into a catch-and-shoot phenom, but I'm going to go with Dell Demps' ability to dumpster dive in-season and bring in three really solid contributors that had way more of an impact than I had expected — Dante Cunningham, Quincy Pondexter and Norris Cole at basically no cost.
Isaac Constans: Dante Cunningham's addition was a huge addition for the Pelicans. Cunningham had several amazing games, but more than anything, he provided the team a spark from the sidelines. His mid-range jump shot was a consistent threat, he came up with big rebounds and defensive stops, and he would chase after loose balls dependably. The addition of mid-season free agents who work out is always such a plus for teams, and Dante Cunningham fit that description. Small forward was such a weakness, Cunningham held the team together until the acquisition of Q-Pon.
Chris Cucchiara: This is a tougher question than it seems because AD making the leap to a top 3 player in the league was a nice surprise. Outside of AD, I would say Quincy Pondexter and his three point shooting were my most pleasant surprise because he had shot well one season from three and not so well in the others. So, the Pels did not really know what kind of player they were getting, especially coming off an injury. Q-Pon shot 43% from three once joining the Pels and I don't think Q-Pon's mom even thought he would do that!
Nico Baguio: Outside of Davis, Quincy Pondexter and Eric Gordon without a doubt. Q-Pon was one of the main reasons why we made a run towards the end. He stabilized what was a disaster of a position (wing) and provided what we needed: copious amounts of spacing (thru his shooting), a dash of defense (he wasn't perfect, by any means) and a leader who understood what needed to be done. From the limited huddles that we've seen and in the little moments throughout games, you could see him trying to push his team to be more accountable, more responsible and better.
Gordon had a solid 2013-14 season that was cut short due to injury. His 2014-15 season didn't start out well as he was awful in the first 7 games, but rebounded well over the next 4 before a shoulder injury (WHAT ELSE) sidelined him. In the following 49 games upon his return, he became one of the best 3-point shooters in the league -- something he would carry INTO the playoffs, where he averaged 3.3 3PT makes on 8.1 attempts (40.6 percent).
Matt Robinson: Dante Cunningham, I thought the Pels was going to use him wrong, play him in line-ups with little spacing and ruin our offence. I was wrong, Monty used him well and Dante has been great all year. That long 2 is money, but his role could have been larger if he could have been able to take 2 more steps back to behind the three-point line.
Jamile Dunn: I'm sure plenty will talk about Q-Pon and rightfully so, but for me it was Alexis Ajinca. He was able to get his fouling issue under control. Although there is still some more improving to do there, he proved he can be a legit scoring threat off the bench. He was vital to the Pels staying afloat when AD missed games so hopefully the Pels can bring him back at a reasonable price. If he continues to improve, he'll be dynamite off the bench in certain match ups.
Kyle Gahagan: The most pleasant surprise on the roster, due to his age and expectations, was Dante Cunningham. When we signed him, I thought he'd be another one of those veterans that makes a quick pass through for the season, but is never heard from again (a la Lou Amundson). However, he was able to come in and contribute right away with unexpected consistency. His defense was his strength, and it'd be great to keep him long term when his services are required against a Western Conference brimming with talent on offense.