Every season there is usually a player or two who flies a little too far under the radar. This is often more true of smaller markets and involve either unheralded players or those primed to make a comeback of sorts. Following a whirlwind of an offseason, that witnessed both significant roster turnover and plenty of injury news, there are probably a handful of New Orleans Pelicans who are worthy of mention in today’s discussion.
Name one Pelicans player who will far exceed normal expectations and why.
Jason: Jrue Holiday
Jrue Holiday has fallen out of the ranks of point guards in the NBA after several injuries, and the fact that there are so many good point guards in the NBA now-a-days. However, Holiday is in a contract year and after he returns (keep praying for Lauren Holiday) he will be both healthy and rested. Add that to an already competitive roster and we could see him return to an All-Star level.
Kevin: E’Twaun Moore
I've already spoken about him with Oleh and Mike Prada on a Limited upside podcast, which you can listen to here and I've also gone into deeper depth in my preview of his season — but, I firmly believe that E'Twaun Moore will cement himself as the Pelicans' second best player this season.
He's already made me look good on this proclamation early in the preseason by shooting 61% from the floor — including a scorching 67% from deep in our first three games. He has yet to dominate defensively, but once he's comfortable in the scheme along with his teammates, I expect to see him using those skills and physical tools outlined in my preview in a more dominating manner.
David: Omer Asik
Omer Asik gives the appearance of being able to exceed expectations largely because the bar he has to clear is so low. He’s looked healthy and spry in the preseason games I’ve caught, so a return to his 2014-15 form, with the added bonus of some improved free throw shooting, may be in the cards.
He will still be the goat (not G.O.A.T.) thanks to a preponderance of his lowlight reel which will still include frustrating bobbled passes and misses from point blank range. But, the important thing is he'll outperform last season by a substantial degree.
Oleh: E’Twaun Moore
I’ve been in love with Moore since he first arrived: “By this time next year, I wouldn't be surprised to see Moore routinely mentioned as one of the top-3 free agent steals of 2016.”
As Kevin stated above, Moore’s preseason has gone well. The scoring and accuracy has been nice, but what has me tickled from head to toe is the fact he appears ready to be the team’s starting shooting guard thanks in part to a new aggressive mindset. Anthony Davis needs another teammate in the starting lineup to consistently look for his shot until either Tyreke Evans or Holiday return and Moore has done that. Through 4 exhibition games, he is averaged over 20 field goal attempts per 100 possessions — last season with the Bulls, that mark was 5 shots less.
Fernando: Solomon Hill
By default, Solomon Hill is the best small forward the New Orleans Pelicans have rostered in quite some time. His ability to defend multiple positions, knock down enough perimeter shots and set up teammates with timely passing will be a huge boost to the starting lineup. Come season’s end, everyone is going to know his name and value.
Travis: Cheick Diallo
Cheick Diallo seems like the obvious answer here; although he was a highly-rated player in high school, his one year at Kansas didn’t show much and he turned into a second round pick. Those skills can now be fine-tuned during every practice, shootaround workout with assistants, and game time. I think by the time the post-All Star break comes around, Diallo will be featured more often, especially if either Asik or Ajinca is traded. This guy might be Davis’ running mate in the very near future if he can become a dynamic, athletic, defensive-minded center.