The Missing Piece: Perfect Pairs

Published: April 27, 2013

Last year, I took a look at the top guys we could consider with our own pick and paired them with the ideal guy to match their skill set that figured to be available with the Timberwolves pick. As you can see from looking back at the piece, Dell and I appeared to be on the same page. This year it looks like Dell should be able to add two significant pieces once again by using a high draft pick and via free agency or trade. With Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis, and Ryan Anderson already in the fold, the Pelicans would be playoff contenders as early as next year if they hit a home run this offseason. That means not only getting good players, but good players that compliment each other and fill team needs. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some ideal combinations the New Orleans Pelicans can add to the roster this summer.

Ben McLemore, G, Kansas and Andre Iguodala, G/F, Denver Nuggets

People often say that if we take McLemore that we have to trade Eric Gordon. I go the other way. Not only should we keep Gordon, but we should add another guy who has primarily played shooting guard this season in Andre Iguodala. The fact is that Eric Gordon played a lot of point guard on both ends at the end of the season this year and looked fairly good doing it. He is best in the pick and roll and Andre Iguodala was 4th amongst all non-PG’s in assists this year behind only Lebron, Kobe, and James Harden. In fact, when Ty Lawson went down for an eight game stretch, Iguodala played nearly half of his minutes at point guard. Gordon and Iguodala can share the playmaking responsibilities while McLemore and Ryno give the team two elite spot-up shooters and Anthony Davis has a field day in a lane that should be wide open.

On the defensive end, the perimeter trio would give the Pelicans plenty of length and athleticism, along with the versatility to defend based on matchups. McLemore and Iguodala are both good rebounders, turnover creators, and shot blockers for their position, making up for areas where Gordon’s game is severely lacking. They also give the Pelicans two guys who can get out and finish on the break, which could make this an elite transition offense with Anthony Davis rim running and Ryan Anderson spotting up in transition. The bottom line is that a Gordon-McLemore-Iggy-Anderson-Davis unit could be devastating on both ends of the court.

Otto Porter, F, Georgetown and Eric Bledsoe, G, Los Angeles Clippers

The big worry with Eric Bledsoe is that he can not run an offense full-time like a traditional, ball dominant point guard. With Porter and Eric Gordon on the wings, he won’t have to. Georgetown ran a lot of offense through Porter, and not only was he able to create for himself and others, but he was able to keep his turnovers down as well despite his high usage rate. Porter is fantastic coming off the pick and roll or passing out of the high post, which matches up perfectly with Bledsoe, who was at his best in the half court this season on cuts. Porter played in the Princeton offense at Georgetown, which is a system predicated on back door cuts and lobs. With Eric Bledsoe and Antony Davis on the roster, Porter’s passing skills could make him a 4-5 assist guy on this team from day one.

On the defensive end, Porter and Bledsoe would give the Pelicans the length and rebounding ability that Eric Gordon sorely lacks. Although Bledsoe only measures out at 6’1.5″, his brute strength, freakish athleticism, and 6’8″ wingspan allows him to cover both backcourt positions. Meanwhile, Porter stands 6’9″ with nearly a seven-foot wingspan and has the quickness and intelligence to be a fantastic help defender on the perimeter. His defensive rebounding is phoenominal as well, as evidenced by the fact that his 19.0% defensive rebound rate was better than some of the elite big men prospects in this draft. Combined, those two could lock down the perimeter while simoultaneously helping Anthony Davis control the glass.

Victor Oladipo, G, Indiana and JJ Redick, G, Milwaukee Bucks

How’s this for a strange combo?  Again, I recommend two shooting guards to pair with Eric Gordon, but as I have said in the past- positions are dead, it’s all about skill sets. Victor Oladipo is an incredibly efficient offensive player, but that is in large part due to the fact that he knows his limits and he does not try to push the envelope. He is still limited offensively, although his recent growth gives plenty of reason to be optimistic. Like Eric Bledsoe, he is a terrific slasher in the halfcourt and a very good shooter when he can get his feet set. To help spread the floor for Oladipo’s drives, and to help Eric Gordon distribute, the Pelicans should bring in JJ Redick, a fantastic three-point shooter who is also averaging four assists per game this year.

Defensively, Oladipo can defend positions 1-3, while Eric Gordon can cover both guard positions. Despite his reputation coming out of college, Redick has actually turned himself into an above average defender, and he wouldn’t be asked to do much in this situation, as Monty can simply place him on the team’s worst perimeter scorer. Redick also would give the Pelicans an intelligent team leader to direct this young unit. He was beloved in Orlando for his unslfishness and candor with young players, and adding him and Oladipo to this team could help change the culture of the franchise overnight.

Trey Burke, G, Michigan and JJ Hickson, F/C, Portland Trailblazers

Offensively, Trey Burke loves to play in the pick and roll and he loves to throw the lob pass. JJ Hickson, along with Anthony Davis, give him two incredible options to do both of this things with on a regular basis. Like Davis, Hickson can slip the screen, roll hard to the basket, or pop out to 17 feet, which would allow Burke to have a multitude of options will running the pick and roll in the half court. Hickson and Davis would also provide the Pelicans with one of the fastest frontcourts in the NBA, allowing Burke to get out into transition, where he is incredibly dangerous. Burke is also a good spot-up shooter with deep range, which would allow him to play off the ball when Gordon is in the pick and roll with those two, properly spacing the court for the Pelicans.

Defensively, a Hickson/Davis combo would be incredibly long and would dominate the defensive glass, which is what you need if Eric Gordon and Trey Burke are your starting backcourt. Hickson was sixth in the NBA last season with a defensive rebound rate of 28.5%, and Davis was a monster on the glass despite being just 220 pounds in his rookie year. Projecting forward, it wouldn’t be a surprise to anybody if this became the best defensive rebounding duo in the league if they were to join forces. Hickson and Davis both have the versatility to defend and contest on the perimeter as well, a skill that cannot be underestimated in this new NBA where we see more and more teams going with small ball lineups. Both of these guys can play with Ryan Anderson as well, who can stick to being a dangerous scorer off the bench who finishes games. Add a sharpshooting small forward like Martell Webster to that team, and you have a possible championship core that will terrorize opposing defenses and control the defensive glass.

Nerlens Noel, F/C, Kentucky and Brandon Jennings, G, Milwaukee Bucks

Nerlens Noel and Anthony Davis are two guys that can impact a game without ever having a play called for them on the offensive end, which is great for Brandon Jennings because he likes calling plays for himself. Noel took just under seven shots per game in his freshman year, scoring mostly off of lobs and offensive putbacks. Jennings, meanwhile, is a very good spot-up shooter who can create for himself, but struggles with finishing around the rim. Enter Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel, two of the most gifted offensive rebounders to enter the draft in the last five years. Much like Derrick Rose did in Chicago, Jennings can break down the defense and get to the rim at will. If he makes the shot, great. If not, Davis and Noel will clean it up like Boozer and Noah do in Chi-town. Also, Noel is a terrific passer for a big man, which would allow the Pelicans to run the offense through him at times, and that would mean that Jennings could play off the ball.

Defensively, a combination of Noel and Davis locking down the paint and flying out to shooters on the perimeter would allow Jennings to be ultra aggressive when he pressures the ball. Jennings is a guy that likes to pick up his man at half court and his quick hands result in a lot of steals. Davis and Noel also would give the Pelicans the ability to trap almost every pick and roll, as one big would trap with the guard and the other could lock down the paint. Once they put on weight and adapt to the NBA game, a Noel and Davis frontcourt would be terrifying on defense, and Jennings would benefit from the tipped passes and smaller passing lanes that those two would create. Throw in another athletic wing who could stretch the defense like Chase Budinger, and you would have the makings of one of the longest, quickest, and most fun to watch teams in the NBA.

Shabazz Muhammad, G/F, UCLA and Nikola Pekovic, C, Minnesota Timberwolves

As I wrote in my Shabazz profile a few weeks ago, Muhammad loves to come off of screens in the halfcourt. What better player to set those screens that Juggernaut himself, Nikola Pekovic? Imagine an offense that has Gordon up top with Davis in the pick and roll, Vasquez spotting up, and Shabazz coming off a screen on the weakside set by Pekovic. Then, even if somebody happens to miss, you have three elite offensive rebounders in Davis, Pekovic, and Muhammad to crash the boards. Not to mention that Pekovic was fantastic in the pick and roll this year as well, where he averaged 1.23 ppp as the roll man and shot over 62% in those situations. And when Davis comes out and Anderson comes in, the unit gets even more spacing, which allows Muhammad and Pekovic to post-up and score if they are not double teamed or kick it out to shooters if teams clamp down.

On the defensive end, a Muhammad-Davis-Pekovic frontcourt gives you everything that you need. Pekovic is a very good post defender, which allows Davis to roam and rack up steals and weakside blocks. Meanwhile, Muhammad is a very good on-ball defender and his inability to rebound or block shots is masked by Davis and Pekovic. Muhammad and Davis are both incredibly long and have the ability to get out to shooters on rotations, while Pekovic provides a brute in the paint that will discourage wings from attacking hard. If you can somehow add a point guard like Eric Bledoe, who can help Davis and Pekovic on the boards while also racking up blocks and steals, you would have a young foundation in place that could one day be labeled a dynasty.

The Missing Piece is a weekly feature that you can find every Saturday only on For past articles in the series, click here. 


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