There are a ton of questions surrounding this team (in a good way), but I think that all the new players have caused us to forget about Aminu and his potential development. I still think that he showed flashes last year of being a very solid rotational player. Besides schemes, rotations, coaching, injuries, young talent, etc., Aminu presents the biggest question mark out of the key contributors. What's the take/expectations for him??
Pelicans Scoop: Media Day Edition
1) Monty Williams said Tyreke Evans needs to be on the court with shooters to be most effective. What do you think will be Evans’ most standard lineup and how will he be used?
Michael Pellissier: Mason and I were actually tweeting about this earlier. My guess is that Ryno will be a staple of lineups with Evans. Given my assumption that Evans will be coming off of the bench, I think something like Rivers/Roberts, Evans, Miller/Morrow, Ryno, and Smith would be a very potent scoring unit. I have other concerns (rebounding, defense) with these Evans lineups, but I’m not sure how much they can be addressed with our personnel. I also imagine Evans finishing games with Ryno, Davis, Jrue, and Gordon.
Michael McNamara: I think that he plays more minutes with Anderson than any other single player on the roster (assuming relative health). What I don’t think we should read from Monty’s comments is that he will ONLY be on the court with shooters. Yes, that is ideal for his game, but Monty has to do what is best for the team, and that means that sometime Evans will be asked to be a decoy or a guy who operates in the post. Sometimes he might just come in for defensive purposes. A second unit of Rivers, Evans, Morrow, Anderson, and Stiemsma (Smitty starts) makes the most sense to me, but Evans will also be playing with Holiday and Gordon in key stretches.
Jason Calmes: I was talking with my Saints neighbors about this during the curb-stomp portion of last evenings card. From the jump at Cluckers when I’d heard the Pelicans traded those picks for Holiday, I was so pumped. As time has gone on, however, I find myself more and more intrigued by Evans. The dude has always interested me, but I was never sure how he’d fit on a traditional team. On the Pelicans, should the “super-sub” thing come to pass, I see Evans getting heavy minutes with Anderson and Smith, then a smattering of backcourt players to complement his best matchup. Basically, Tyreke does not just lead the second unit . . . the second unit bends to him. If the bad guys adjust, then the Pelicans counter, and highlight him, all the while having frontcourt players that can space. When he gets his minutes with the starters, he’ll play in swingman role relative to who else needs to be out there . . . replacing Aminu if Gordon is out there, in Gordon’s place otherwise.
Joe Gerrity: Ryan Anderson will be the primary guy that Tyreke plays with, with Tyreke daring anyone to leave their man to help contain him on penetration. I’d expect his backcourt mate will typically be Gordon, Anthony Morrow or Brian Roberts since they’re the best shooters of the bunch. There’s been a lot said on this, so I’ll keep it simple as to what he’ll be doing– driving, kicking, and acting as a decoy to allow the many other talented offensive players to work their magic.
Mason Ginsberg: As Michael said, this topic is one that we corresponded a bit about. The more space that he has to operate, the better he will perform, given his offensive skill set. Morrow and Anderson make the most sense, as they are the best two pure shooters on the team. Apart from that, Monty Williams will probably get creative and try a few different options. While most people agree that Holiday/Gordon/Evans/Anderson/Davis will be the most frequently used crunch time lineup, it will be fun to see how Monty uses him in other situations, as he will end up getting minutes as the primary ball handler as well as on the wings.
Jake Madison: I guess his most frequently used lineup will be the crunch time one of Holiday/Gordon/Evans/Anderson/Davis with Evans working off the ball or even on in order to setup everyone else. But given Monty’s comments I assume we’ll see him used as the primary ball handler off the bench with Anderson, Smith and Morrow spacing the court to give him lanes to drive through. Imagine not only the pick and pop with with those four guys but also the drive and kick game that could be run.
2) We’ve seen NBA coaches adapt strategies from other sports. Given the literal closeness of the Saints, what do you hope Monty could learn from Saints head coach Sean Payton?
Pellissier: I don’t know too much about football, so it’s hard to say. I’ve always enjoyed Payton’s aggressive play-calling, so that’s the closest thing I have to an answer. I think that Monty Williams is an underrated offensive coach, and New Orleans actually ran some pretty creative offensive sets last year. Now he has much better shot-creators, and I’m eager to see what he does with the new talent.
McNamara: To have the guts not to play it safe. I believe Coach Payton will always be remembered for that onside kick in the Super Bowl, and to win a championship in any sport, sometimes you have to go against conventional wisdom and take a bold risk.
Jason: That coaching is not all education and playcalling. It’s not all about finding the right triggers to get players to follow the right path, develop their game, and play the game at the highest level they can. Coaching involves gamesmanship in the game theory sense. It involves inspiring in a number of ways, not just by providing honorable examples and pointing out rational rewards. Love of the game and greatness is not enough. Emotion plays a tremendous role, and it has to be harnessed. I was there when Gleason blocked that punt, and from that moment, all doubt of the real power of passion in game left my mind. Coach Payton referred to this moment and similar ones a few times later, including when he hoisted the Halas trophy.
Joe: I’d like to see Monty bucking conventional wisdom and trying things that some might deem as amateurish, when the opportunity arises of course. Here’s an example– last year the Lakers ran a play where they came out a timeout pretending to head toward one basket when really they were shooting on the other. The Hornets never saw it coming, and it was one of the easiest buckets I’ve seen in basketball. Payton is the type of guy who would try a play like that. Monty is the guy who would see it as unnecessary and perhaps even beneath an NBA head coach. I’m not saying his team will fall for it again, but I still can’t see Monty trying it himself.
Mason: Monty can learn the importance of creativity from Sean Payton. Look at the difference so far between last season and this season for the Saints. Sure, “coaching” in the sense of leading a team makes a difference, but potentially more important is the innovative play calling. Go into a game with a plan, but if the opponent is making that plan difficult to execute, then improvisation is necessary to succeed. Sometimes, your team’s top option isn’t always the best course of action; there are often secondary methods that can attack your opponent’s weaknesses better.
Jake: If last night’s game is anything to go by Monty needs to start working out to CrossFit. I agree with McNamara on this on this one. Take some massive chances, especially with a young team. The NBA season is 82 games long; if you gamble big and it doesn’t work out it doesn’t wreck your season.
3) Anthony Davis finished last season around 212 pounds. This year he’s up to 230 of “natural weight.” How will this impact his game and do you want him to bulk up any further?
Pellissier: I actually felt that Davis was learning to hold his position better as the season progressed despite his weight disadvantage. 18 pounds is a substantial gain, and if he can maintain that weight throughout the season, it should help him on the block, setting screens, and fighting for rebounding position. Ultimately, I’m guessing that 240 would be a good weight for him.
McNamara: I expect Davis to be even more of a force on the defensive boards. Last season, he got pushed under the basket too often on that end and he lost position. I am not as afraid of the “great low post presence” that some still believe exists in the NBA, so I don’t think it will make a huge difference in his low post defense. If anything, I hope that it has an effect on Monty, and that he now leaves Davis in against guys like Dwight Howard, rather than replacing him at the center position with a vastly inferior player.
Jason: I expect that he’ll gain more weight and that this will be necessary for him to reach his full potential. Davis’ game improved throughout last season, so I’d expect this to happen regardless. The increased weight should give him more options near the basket, both on offense and defense. Thus, I expect not only increased skill and virtuosity but also more versatility and confidence, especially on defense.
Joe: The increased muscle should allow him to play more minutes and more games. While not a big issue last year, he wasn’t exactly bulletproof. As he’s used more and more on the offensive side he should expect to take beatings more regularly, which the muscle should help with. Davis still looks to me like he could still put on 10-15 pounds without much problem, but that’s not really my area of expertise.
Mason: I’m excited to see how this added weight will allow him to compete defensively. Last season, Monty did whatever he could to keep Davis from guarding opposing centers in order to protect him. Things should be quite different this season, as we may finally be able to get a glimpse of how versatile he really is. As for whether or not I want Davis to bulk up any more, it’s hard for me to answer this question before seeing him on the court, especially since different players handle added weight so differently. More than likely, though, he is going to need to keep putting on weight to be able to defend in the post consistently.
Jake: The key word to this is “natural.” What I inferred is that this was more of a 20 year old filling out his massively tall frame. Davis’ game is based on his athleticism and freakish length. Packing on too much muscle could also negatively impact that, however “natural” weight should help him improve almost all around–especially on the boards and playing against the league’s true centers.
4) Dell Demps and Monty both said that the team will be fully healthy for the start of the season, however Eric Gordon was just fully cleared to practice until last week. How worried are you about his health and how does it affect the Pelicans’ season?
Pellissier: Given his injury history, I think it’s hard not to be worried. He wasn’t himself last year and it showed on the court. I have covered Gordon extensively and his health has always been my biggest concern. At 100%, he is a special player, and a healthy Gordon for a good portion of the season would make a playoff push considerably more feasible.
McNamara: No more worried than I would be if I had never even heard of Gordon, but rather just knew the data. The data says that Gordon will play 51 games this season, based on the fact that he has played 63% of all possible games since entering the league. He is supposedly 100%, though likely out of game shape due to his inability to play 5-on-5 for the last few months. The objective data says he will miss 30+ games, regardless of when he was cleared.
Jason: I really could not care less about his basketball health. The team will be fine in the long run with or without him. Davis is the future, and if he’s not, the team is just supposed to be fun to watch because there’s no hope for a title in the next 10 years in that case. I’ll have fun watching my team with or without him. If the team does start to sniff contention, then Gordon’s salary could be an issue, but if Rashard Lewis’ deal can be traded, so can Gordon’s in a season or two if he’s gimpy between now and then.
Joe: I don’t spend much time thinking about it anymore, but of course I’m concerned. Gordon’s health could easily be the difference between playoffs and the lottery. Games are more fun to watch when he’s out there, and if he can stay healthy he’ll be a part of the future, either as a trade asset or as a player.
Mason: I’m worried. I don’t see how you couldn’t be, given his injury history. It is strange to me that he was only “fully cleared” within the past week. I know he had ankle surgery during the offseason, but that was considered to be a relatively minor procedure. That being said, everything is relative, as I am more comfortable now than I have been basically since he was traded to New Orleans. His health will obviously have a major impact on the Pelicans’ season; the drop-off from a “healthy” Gordon to the Pelicans’ backup guards is tremendous.
Jake: That was a bit of a surprise answer from Monty, but I’m not going to be concerned until he starts missing regular season games. The Pelicans are a cautious organization when it comes to injuries and this could just be part of that. But if he does miss significant time it will severely hurt the Pelicans’ depth which could be key to a playoff push.
5) Greg Stiemsma said he’d like his nickname to be the “Silky Steamer.” What should his nickname really be?
Pellissier: I’m terrible at giving nicknames. I like the Steam-Cleaner. I’ve always thought those things were really efficient.
McNamara: The Sundance Short, because ideally, he plays for 15 minutes or less.
Jason: Sandpaper. Dude should be roughing up anyone he rubs up against.
Joe: I’ll defer to the big man since the idea of referring to him as The Silky Steamer makes me smile.
Mason: I’m glad you asked! Two seasons ago, Stiemsma had his NBA debut in New Orleans while playing for the Celtics, recording 6 blocks. Immediately after the game, I entered his name into Google to find out where this Stiemsma guy came from. His Wikipedia page, while entirely inaccurate, was quite entertaining, and actually suggested some rather humorous nicknames. My favorite of the bunch is very similar to the nickname he prefers – The Siberian Steamer.
Jake: I’ll go with the Steam Punk. You could almost turn him into a wrestling character with a name like that. Imagine all the awesome outfits and costumes he could wear!
@mazonmafia Aminu is a quagmire. The man plays a position that's usually a 3/D or scoring role.
He's a great rebounder for his position, but that's a skill you'd usually want your PF/C taking care of.
Having a great rebounding SF is like having a shot-blocking PG. I'd rather have a wing that has a great wing skillset.
He's great at finishing. (not in traffic)
I just hope he develops a shot and becomes consistent at what he DOES do well, otherwise I don't see him on the roster next year.
I love the idea of the bench being formed around Tyreke. This guy is a monster in isolation and will get many open shots for teammates. Also, who on the opposing team's bench will cover him?
They'll have to leave their quickest defender from the starting 5 on the court. Even then he'll just bulldoze through them with his strength. He's going to run them ragged.
I've always been worried about opinions of Brow's weight. I don't want him to gain too much. He may be more susceptible to injury.
People worry about Dwight in the post. Dwight's too mentally fragile to worry about in June and yet people say, "We've got to get bigger to compete w/Dwight!"
I say, "Bring him away from the basket on defense. (Brow's NEW & IMPROVED jumpshot) Foul him on offense."
Problem solved. (James Harden is a different story)
Also: Remember when you guys were calling #23 "Skynet"?
I believe Monty has already taken something from Coach Payton. He's already stated that positions don't matter. It's about having the best guys out there on the court.
Think about it. How many times has Payton thrown out an offense with ALL RECEIVERS?
If Dell could take something from the Saints, It'd be the ability to pull unknown players out of THIN AIR and develop them into productive ballers.