Earlier this week, Kevin Pelton handed out offseason grades to all the Western Conference NBA teams. He rewarded the Pelicans with a B- despite the lack of any new and notable free agent signings. It appears he's fine with the Pelicans giving continuity a shot since a fresh coaching staff will be on the sidelines.
Unfortunately, three of the four other Southwest Division opponents received some type of an A. Dallas was the only team to finish below New Orleans, but it's not surprising considering they were embarrassed by DeAndre Jordan and are left hoping Wesley Matthews achilles injury will be fully healed.
Fox Sports also gave the Pelicans a B-citing largely the same reasoning.
Offseason review: The Pelicans had two priorities this summer: Find a coach who can help Anthony Davis on his quest for a title, and offering Davis a max extension. Mission accomplished on both fronts for New Orleans. Beyond that, the Pelicans chose continuity, bringing back the team's own free agents instead of shopping around the league.
2015-16 season outlook: New Orleans better hope that continuity leads to improvement across the board, because this team is essentially the same as it was last season. But Gentry should be a significant improvement on Monty Williams, leading the Pelicans from the pressure of vying for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference to a comfortable five- or six-seed.
Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report thought the Anthony Davis' extension and Alvin Gentry signing amounted to an A-.
As long as Davis is around, New Orleans is in good shape. He might be the league's best player right now and if he's not, he will be soon. Locking him in, especially in a small market, is critically important.
Just as vital: finding a head coach who'll maximize Davis' value going forward. Alvin Gentry might be that guy, and he's the man the Pellies picked to run the show.
Lastly, CBS Sports was torn. Matt Moore hated on New Orleans offseason (D-) for one reason alone: the Omer Asik signing. Meanwhile, Zach Harper didn't like this move neither but keeping Davis in Nola for the long term pushed the grade all the way up to an A-.
As for my grade, I'd probably hand out something close to a C+. Although it's great everyone is rewarding the Pelicans for getting Davis to sign an extension, it was all the work the franchise did prior to this offseason that made the continuity path a viable route; the Summer of 2015 was just the culmination of all previous efforts.
Spending big on Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans several years ago and then adding a number of role players along the way is likely the main reason why Davis is so happy today. Dell Demps wanted to surround AD with a core that he would want to grow with, both on and off the court, and the general manager seems to have accomplished just that.
Despite all their injuries, the team has maintained a continuous upward trajectory in the W/L column. This success combined with the team's talent level made New Orleans the number one coaching vacancy once Monty Williams was fired. It's no wonder Demps had the pick of the litter and was able to walk away with a coaching staff filled with nothing but promising minds.
While the news that Davis signed his extension at 12:01 am after the moratorium lifted or that the franchise was able to lure Alvin Gentry, Darren Erman, Robert Pack and Phil Weber to New Orleans was nice, it didn't require any special efforts this summer. All of the hard work had been done before hand, during times when most of the grades from these same outlets were below average to downright dismal.
It's kind of humorous that I'm now almost on the other side of the spectrum. Individually, I had no problems with all of this summer's signings. However, as a whole, I question the combination of Asik, Kendrick Perkins and Alexis Ajinca. For a team that will undoubtedly be uptempo, big and slow at the five is ridiculously redundant. If the plan is to give Davis meaningful minutes at the five, that's fine but it would have then made more sense to sign a reserve power forward, a better shooting and quicker big, instead of one of these centers.
Thus, I would wager Demps and his staff likely agree with this statement, but due to the salary cap, it was in the best interests to re-sign most of last season's roster. This offseason wasn't only about continuity but also maintaining the highest number of assets. So, let's not be surprised if the Pelicans make a deal or two before the next trade deadline.
For instance, I have no problem with the addition of Alonzo Gee, but I can't imagine that either he, Quincy Pondexter, Dante Cunningham or Evans are the long term answers at the starting small forward. Demps is hopefully aiming as high as Kevin Durant or some other option David mentioned earlier this month, but if another enticing avenue appears before the next free agency, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Pelicans future 3 sitting on this roster before the start of the 2016 playoffs. If there is one thing Demps has proven, it's that he doesn't like to wait.
For the time being, I believe a C+ is the fairest grade because nothing truly out of the ordinary occurred this offseason. Everything that happened was a logical progression of previous events. However, with an optimal coaching staff in place, a budding superstar and a few potential Robin's in tow, this grade should probably be changed if Demps is able to flip a few of the other assets into the next long term core piece.