Coming into the season the Pelicans had some big question marks over their heads. How would DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis complement each other in the front court? Is Jrue Holiday a good enough starting PG? Do they have any depth? Well, we’re now into April and the Pelicans look like a lock for the playoffs, despite losing Cousins for almost half the season and being in the super-competitive west. Anthony Davis is just that good at basketball. His near MVP stats of 28.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.5 blocks and 1.5 steals are pretty ridiculous, he’s shooting 53.5, 34.4 and 83.4 percent across FG, 3PT and FT attempts. Nikola Mirotic was a great addition at the Trade Deadline and gives them another big man who is an outside shooter and can stretch the floor, while the emergence of E’Twaun Moore into a starting calibre shooting guard has really helped.
Their offense puts up 111.6 points per contest, good for fourth best in the NBA. Behind the dominance of AD, this team is really clicking on this end of the floor, even without Cousins. After Davis, their points are nicely distributed between Holiday, Mirotic and Moore giving them a balanced attack which moves the ball well. Surprisingly the Pels are second in the league in the assists, behind only the Golden State Warriors and ahead of notoriously good passing teams such as the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors..
A team that can put up 111 per game can occasionally rely on their offense, but when you give up 110 points it’s difficult. That’s going to result in a lot of close games. The New Orleans defense gives up the second highest points per game in the NBA, only the 21 win Suns give up more points! Despite having the league-leader in blocks, this defense has been terrible, which is surprising because they contest shots well, hustle for loose balls and are about league average for deflections and drawing charges. They just seem to give up points and if they manage to get past the first round, giving up points against the Rockets or Warriors is going to result in a sweep.
How has the DeMarcus Cousins experiment worked? Does he come back next season? Does a run into the second round give him the confidence that he wants to partner with Anthony Davis long term? The question marks around this combination of ball-dominant frontcourt big men has significant implications for the franchise for the next couple of seasons. Outside of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, does Cousins believe that the Pelicans really have the parts to contend with the Warriors over the next few years? This off-season is going to be an interesting one, that’s for sure.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER?
Surely Anthony Davis is the only guy I can name here? Don’t forget, in 2015 this guy averaged 31.5 points and 11 rebounds against the Golden State Warriors, with little help from anyone else on his team, in what was his first playoff experience. Seriously, in game one, Quincy Pondexter was the second highest scorer for the Pelicans! Davis should at least get the Pelicans a couple of wins in whatever match-up they face this postseason.
THE ONE TO WATCH?
This season has been possibly the best season of Jrue Holiday’s career, putting up career highs in points, rebounds, blocks and 2PT FG’s. Let’s hope for the Pelicans sake that he can continue to produce those numbers, because the last time New Orleans made the playoffs (2014-15) his regular season averages of 14.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists dropped down to 6.3 points, 1 rebound and 4.3 assists, thanks to a stress reaction in his right leg. Injuries aside, if that happens again these Pelicans are going home early.
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