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New Orleans Pelicans defensive woes witnessed in preseason are just matter of perspective

Just how worried should we be?

NBA: Preseason-New Orleans Pelicans at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the New Orleans Pelicans finished with a middle of the tier defense — 14th; however, the defensive rating plummeted in the preseason, finishing lower than every team in the league but for the Timberwolves and Kings. On a scale of 1-10, how worried are you about the Pelicans and specifically their defense here at the start of the 2018-19 campaign?

Jason: 7

I would say that I am 7/10 worried about the Pelicans this season — but not because of the defense. With anchors in Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, who are each at the top of their positions defensively, the team will invariably settle in as the season moves along.

What should concern everyone, however, is that the Western Conference is as strong as ever, and if the Pelicans hope to keep Davis in town, they are going to have to give him a good reason to stay. I am just not sure that this roster has the star power or potential that other destinations can offer. Let’s hope that after the season starts the Pelicans are able to give Davis the support and happiness he seeks.

Kevin: 3

I don’t know. Obviously, I would have enjoyed seeing a dominant or even a semi-inspiring level of defense on the court in the preseason, but I’m not ready to panic.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It was clear that Anthony Davis did not go all out on either end, Jrue was more engaged but still playing loose, and Mirotic was slightly hobbled and rusty. Randle was pretty much all in, but once you get engaged play from Holiday and Davis combined with an unencumbered Mirotic, you’ll start to see flashes of the defense we saw to close the season. No one else needs to be great, but the addition of Randle with those other three playing their real games will provide a new level of sturdiness. I mean, just not having Cheick Diallo on the floor will make things better. Elfrid Payton is still a question mark, but if he is a worse fit defensively than Rondo — which isn’t very likely — the addition of Randle will more than offset that step back.

Sure, it would have been nice to see a better effort, but we have seen it and that’s why I’m not too concerned. You just have to expect the lackadaisical efforts don’t linger. However, a match up with Houston right off of the bat should have them eager and prepared.

Chris: 5

I’d say a five because the “problems” the Pelicans faced were consistent in each game. However, while there are some observations we can gather from the preseason, defense is normally the hardest to gauge. Several players take more mental naps than physical risks in meaningless basketball.

A year ago we did see lousy defense spill into the regular season, but a lot of that appeared to be about inconsistent effort — even into the month of December. I don’t get the feeling that this team is wired that way. The turnovers are an issue to keep an eye on, but personally I’m of the mind we should watch the team in the regular season before worrying too much.

Jamile: 0

During one of the preseason games, I saw Golden State Warriors big man Kevon Looney clear out to isolate his defender, before crossing over and driving to basket for a dunk. If you’ve ever watched Looney play a regular season game, you know Warriors coach Steve Kerr would probably cut Looney on the spot if he ever attempted such a move in a game that counts.

My point: the NBA preseason is a silly, silly time. Most of the league’s stars aren’t playing at max effort, let alone trying to lead their respected teams to victory.

Sure, it would be nice to see the Pelicans come out and put together a well polished performance or two, however in a week’s time, nobody will remember these games and I don’t really think you can draw much real analysis from the exhibition season. After all, do you remember what New Orleans did last preseason?

I didn’t think so.

Preston: 8

“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” — Vince Lombardi

The New Orleans Pelicans didn’t seem to care about the 2018-19 NBA preseason. And why should they? After all, we’re talking about practice. It’s an opportunity to stretch the collective muscles throughout the body, build cohesion and execute the best intentions of the coaching staff in what really equates to a well attended scrimmage at the YMCA.

It doesn’t ultimately matter, so why should we care?

We know what to expect from Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis when the clock starts winding down on Wednesday, October 17th. What we don’t know is how Nola’s two superstars will fuse with the newest additions to the roster, players who will ultimately have a part to play in what could be a franchise defining year, for better or worse.

NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

From a certain perspective, one could argue the Pelicans already miss Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins, two vocal leaders who were unafraid to call attention to the moments that matter. There is no time to learn on the fly as the regular season begins, and consider the Houston Rockets don’t have anything to figure out. Their largest shakeup involved replacing Trevor Ariza with James Ennis and Carmelo Anthony. The Pelicans may have overhauled 40% of their starting lineup, entrusted the offense to a former 10th overall draft pick who hasn’t panned out yet, and their depth is reconstituted with a rookie and a fourth year player on his third team in such time.

Can the Pelicans reverse the narrative by winning on Wednesday night? Of course. Will they after going through the motions for over the past few weeks? Probably not.

Charlie: 6

I’m only a bit worried as at the end of day it’s still preseason, but there were countless of warm fuzzies that we were rightfully excited about heading into training camp. Those have mostly faded outside AD and Jrue, who have clearly demonstrated they’re All-NBA talents.

The exhibition schedule didn’t answer any outstanding questions, and mostly created new ones about the defensive side of the ball and slightly about the teams commitment to stopping opponents. It was concerning to see how often easy buckets were given up along with the manner in which they were and against the teams they played, too.

Oleh: 2

As I’ve written, preseason isn’t the best of predictors, and yes, the lack of care, effort and hustle left a knot in our stomachs, but anything can happen this coming Wednesday and in the games thereafter. Truly. It’s what you choose to believe in leading up to opening night — just like with anything in life.

New Orleans, who has one of the best rim protectors in the game in Anthony Davis, gave up an average of 65.2 points in the paint — no team gave up more than 50 per game in the last regular season. The Pelicans surrendered over 25 points off turnovers to opponents — no team gave up more than 19 in 2017-18.

Sense a pattern?

Despite witnessing the same five exhibitions of basketball atrocities, I maintain belief in the Pelicans final 37 contests of 2017-18 (28 regular + 9 playoff) and the personnel moves made over the summer. Logic should reign supreme over players who admitted that the usual energy was missing in preseason.

Hey y’all, just please be sure to turn on the lights before walking out onto the court inside the Toyota Center.

Travis: 7

I’ll be one of the reactionaries in our group: very worried!

The defense needs to come together as a unit; having two All-NBA Defensive 1st teamers apparently isn’t enough for the Pels to give up anything less than 125 points or so. The team’s defensive rating in the preseason trailed just the Timberwolves and Kings, sitting 28th among NBA teams. Maybe opponents just had hot shooting nights in October, but we didn’t exactly play a murderer’s row of offensively talented squads. Can we defend the Nuggets, Trail Blazers, Lakers and other Western Conference playoff hopefuls? Don’t even bring up the Warriors or Rockets...

Oh, my heart is starting to palpitate in a hurry!