You all know I am a big fan of Seth Curry and thought he would have made for a great backup point guard. On an offense-focused team, his defensive shortcomings would be masked by a run-and-gun system.
I would have liked to have seen the Pelicans pass on either Omer Asik or Alexis Ajinca to pursue Brandan Wright or a similar center who would thrive and excel in the open court.
Lastly, I would have loved for the Pelicans test the market for a veteran small forward possessing experience in a fast-paced system, such as Shawn Marion, to serve as a mentor if nothing else.
Alvin Gentry and the front office didn't see it my way. And his way should work just fine.
The Big KP
Aside from "mentoring" Anthony Davis (yes, that made me chuckle too), Kendrick Perkins brings a veteran who still can play minutes, averaging 18.1 per game over the past two seasons.
In those minutes, he set hard screens and talked some trash, and is reportedly a great teammate. Aside from that, he'll grab five rebounds a game and score an easy post bucket on occasion, while mixing it up in the post with other centers.
But snap out of the soporific state and wake up! The Pelicans missed the contentious, physical, combative teammate that all contenders have. The Pelicans had no player even pretend to play that role last year, and they missed it.
Watch that Vine of the Pellies against Gentry's Warriors and guess what happened to Marreese Speights after?
The answer: nothing.
Now I'm not condoning a firing-line execution, but the Pelicans needed someone to shove Speights out of their leader's face. Nobody did. Greivis Vasquez would've; Jason Smith would've. But they're long gone. Austin Rivers (yes, Austin Rivers) came the closest to filling that role, but he wasn't too good at playing enforcer (see Austin Rivers vs. Nick Collison).
Look at the superstars of the league, they all have that one warrior to go to battle with. KD had Collison/Perkins, Lebron had Udonis Haslem, Steph Curry had Draymond Green, and Kevin Garnett had Perk...well...Kevin Garnett.
Super nice guy Davis could use a bodyguard and the Pelicans just signed him. Welcome, KP.
New Orleans also seems to be targeting a specific species of center. Instead of having the 5's leak out and run, he is seeking a defensive anchor, someone to stay back while everyone else is galloping away on fast breaks.
The center's role is to box out and trail fast breaks, and then when a play develops (AKA the fast break breaks down), set screens. Since the Pelicans don't have a center with an all-around offensive skill set, expect a different look than what Marcin Gortat brought to the Suns.
If the Pelicans miss a fast break, the center's job will be to backpedal into the paint and prevent easy transition buckets the other way. For instance, whenever the Bulls chose to run, which was extremely rare, Joakim Noah often filled a similar role.
Moreover, Gentry recognizes that the offensive talent in the starting lineup is overabundant, to the point that a little more could lead to some friction in chemistry. The last thing Tyreke Evans, Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, and Jrue Holiday need is another player to ask for the ball. Asik will hide from the ball, which is perfect for the Pels. Their pace is targeted to neutralize his offensive incapabilities and maximize his defensive instincts and rebounding skill.
By now, you're probably thinking that Ajinca can' be a defensive anchor and can't run, but needs the ball to be productive, so where does he fit in? Coming off the bench, he would be more of a scoring threat in a second unit that would be a lot more likely to slow down a little. Although it's hard to imagine a Gentry team playing at a tempo other than a frenetic free-for-all festival of scoring, there's no way this second unit could keep at the same speed.
Quincy Pondexter is a decent athlete, but will hardly be running through ribbons. One of Ajinca's weaknesses is speed and Ryan Anderson is a sniper, not a quickdraw pistol. Norris Cole is a versatile point guard, and as free agency draws on, the likelihood of his return continues to grow---he would fit into any system. Dante Cunningham can run and so can Alonzo Gee, but neither could lead or provide too much of a threat on fast breaks besides a flashy finish.
All of this is assuming that Tyreke Evans serves as a starter, and that the Pelicans don't make any acquisitions that would shake the core of this roster, and the outlook of it. So slowing slightly seems the natural option for the Pelicans' bench. That's where Darren Erman fits in. After transforming the Warriors defense from bad to good, he will be looking to make the Pelicans run-and-gun work without sacrificing much defensively. Click that link for more on him, courtesy of Oleh.
Anyway, the Pelicans will be relying on the starters to sprint the opposition into sweaty exhaustion and a large deficit. With an underwhelming bench talent-wise, the Pelicans need to protect a lead, not risk it with stupid shots. The bench will play with intense ball pressure and try to force turnovers, but don't expect them to run like the starters. Scoring is great, but protecting a lead is better.
As I mentioned earlier, Cole's return looks likelier by the day and Evans seems like he'd get the nod at the small forward. This means that the race is on. In Gentry's system, Evans can play small forward. His size is not as much of an issue in a defense based off of forcing turnovers and catalyzing transition, and his guard-skills are invaluable.
The Pelicans will have four players who can dribble-drive at the opposition on the court at the same time, and in transition, there will be no clogging of talent. Whoever receives the outlet pass runs a simple, textbook fast break, while others will fill the void. Ball-sharing and distribution issues seem like antiquated agitators in this system. Although a player is nominally the point guard, everybody who can handle the ball and pass will share the job of point guard.
The player that receives the first outlet pass will attempt to initiate a quick score (whether in the form of a fast break or a simple halfcourt set). That means that Gordon, Holiday, and Evans can all be ball handlers and can all max out their abilities.
It won't be chucking up shots either, but sometimes as easy as one or two passes from an open shot. It's an intuitive system: if you have a lane or shot, go for it. Otherwise, quickly swing it.
- The power forward position isn't an enigma of any kind; Davis runs and Anderson shoots. Anderson will require a slightly slower system, but will also trail fast breaks to find his shot.
- Meanwhile, S/O to David Fisher for digging up this tweet:
ESPN sources say Pelicans and Seth Curry were deep in contract talks when Kings -- offering two-year guaranteed deal & more PT -- swooped in— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 22, 2015
I'm content that the Pelicans tried to get him, but you can't fault Curry for seeking out a place where he got a guaranteed deal. He would have been a great fit, but there are other fish in the sea for the Pelicans to swoop up (might want to get some salt and butter for that amount of corn).
- Lastly, I'm excited to see Davis' game expand into realms I never thought it could under the tutelage of Kendrick Perkins. With the addition of the nine-step hike and hiking the opening tip to his arsenal of moves and the expansion of facial expressions of ceaseless disgust to the already-amazing unibrow, Anthony Davis will now surely finish as one of the coolest cats to ever ball.