Every Pelican has now been ranked according to ESPN’s yearly NBA Rank series. In case you missed it, out own Michael Pellissier did a terrific piece where he looked at where each Pelican ranked and how the team as a whole stacked up against teams from last season. Now that we have the entire list in front of us, we asked five of our writers to answer some questions to follow-up the list.
1. Which Pelican player was the most underrated by NBA Rank this year?
Michael Pellissier: Jason Smith. Assuming an equal talent distribution among all teams, his 243 rank is saying that he’s on the border of the worst 8th man/best 9th man, and I think that’s too low.
James Grayson: Anthony Davis. If you think Andre Iguodala or Pau Gasol are better than him then you are a madman (or woman). If he can stay healthy he can be a Top-15 player, this season.
Michael McNamara: At #316, NBA Rank essentially said that Brian Roberts is an average 11th man in the NBA. I think he is better than that. On most teams, where there are three guards who make eight figures a year and another who was the tenth overall pick, Roberts would be a lock for an 8 or 9 man rotation. Eric Maynor and DJ Augustin rank 226 and 227, respectively, and I wouldn’t hesitate to take Roberts over either of those guys. Looking at the list, Roberts should be about 100 spots higher.
Joe Gerrity: Eric Gordon. The instructions changed this year in only one way: We were “predicting the overall level of play for each player for the upcoming NBA season.” That emphasis isn’t mine. A healthy Gordon is a top 30 NBA player on offense and roughly the same defensively, Overall that ranks him a hell of a lot higher than 71, right?
Prays to Żywie…
Jake Madison: It’s tempting to pick Davis, but going into this season 33 sounds about right for him. I’ll go with Jrue Holiday. Defensively, I think he could bring about a massive improvement from the Pelicans and I expect his assist numbers to look even better playing under a competent coach.
2. Which Pelican player was the most overrated according to NBA Rank this year?
Pellissier: This sounds like a cop-out, but I don’t think any of our players were ranked too high. Given how little attention New Orleans has had in recent years, I don’t think that’s such a crazy idea. Role players are often interchangeable. Know the biggest difference between guys like Jason Smith (243) and Chris Andersen (155)? Playoff exposure. I’d take Smith in a heartbeat.
JG: Has to be Austin Rivers. He had the worst season of any rookie and was an absolute liability on the court. Now, we’ve seen progress, but last season Brian Roberts was by far and away better and yet he fell significantly behind Rivers.
Joe: Jrue Holiday. A panel of adamant NBA followers thinks that this guy is the second player or better on more than half the teams in the league, yet there’s a legitimate argument to be made he’s not even the third (or fourth, if you wanna get weird) best player on the Pelicans.
McNamara: Al-Farouq Aminu came in at 170, but as I look down the list, I see a bunch of guys that placed behind him that I would rather have this year. Guys like Caron Butler, John Henson, Chris Copeland, Tayshaun Prince, Dorrell Wright, and Thabo Sefolosha have all shown me they can be key contributors in the NBA. Meanwhile, Aminu is still all “potential” and very little production.
Jake: I’m going to agree with James. Austin Rivers, while showing lots of potential at the end of the year, should probably still be ranked behind Brian Roberts. However, I’m expecting a lot of improvement from him
3. Which Pelican player do you expect to make the biggest leap from this year to next year on the list?
Pellissier: Davis is highly unlikely to make the highest leap in terms of magnitude, but I think the leap he’s poised to make is the most significant. Superstars are a rare commodity, and the transition from very good player to superstar is always fun to see. I think Davis’s leap will be very similar to the one that James Harden made last year.
JG: I will say Tyreke Evans. I don’t know why, but I get this weird vibe that he’s going to jump up on the list. I always had this feeling he wasn’t that good, but I’m drinking the cool-aid and I think he fits perfectly with what the Pels are trying to do.
Joe: Percentage-wise, it might very well be Davis. He could catapult himself in to the top 15, or even 10, if he can lead the Pelicans to a playoff berth. I’m not sure anyone else on the list has a chance of making such a drastic leap. In terms of total spots it’s gotta be either Austin Rivers, Jeff Withey or Jason Smith, with the likelihood of them doing so in that order.
Jake: Based off the number of spots, I think Rivers can easily climb up 40 or so if he plays like he did last season before his injury and during summer league this year. In terms of impact, it is Davis who can easily jump into the top 15.
McNamara: I expect Rivers to crack the top 200 next year. He will play well in his backup role, and then increase his numbers when guys go down with injuries. He can’t help but improve his numbers offensively, and I think NBA fans and writers will really notice how good he is defensively as well.
4. If you could trade any Pelican player for a guy within five spots of his rank on the list, who would you trade and for whom?
Pellissier: Ryan Anderson for Andre Drummond. As much as I’d hate to let go of Ryno, Andre Drummond is going to be a game-changing rebounder and defender who would match up very well with Davis in the frontcourt. Finishing a close second is Tyreke Evans for Jonas Valanciunas. One of the rarest commodities in this league is a big who can create the majority of his offense while still remaining efficient. JV created almost half of his made field goals and registered a 61.3 TS% as a rookie.
JG: Eric Gordon for Bradley Beal. I called Beal out last year for being as bad as Rivers, but I was wrong. Very wrong. Imagine the hype around this team if we had another top-5 pick around Anthony Davis. Plus we know Beal doesn’t have injury issues like our other buddy.
Joe: Anthony Davis for Brook Lopez, of course. In all seriousness I’d probably deal Jrue Holiday for Greg Monroe. Guards are a dime a dozen. Big men who can pass like Monroe are hard to find, let alone lock up long term.
McNamara: I would trade Al-Farouq Aminu for Thabo Sefolosha in a millisecond. Sefolosha, who is one spot below Aminu on NBA Rank, is already everything we want Aminu to be; He is a lock-down defender who can make teams pay if you leave him alone at the three-point arc. He is the closest thing we have in the league to Bruce Bowen, and that is exactly what this Pelicans team needs.
Jake: I’m upset I’m listed below James because I’m going to agree with him again. I loved Beal coming into the league and still think he has an incredibly high ceiling. Adding another court spacing shooter like that to this Pelicans roster would be fantastic.
5. More likely for the 2014 NBA Rank: Eric Gordon returns to the Top 50 or Anthony Davis cracks the Top 10?
Pellissier: Cracking the top 10 is so hard, and while I think Davis is very capable of doing so, I think it might require the Pelicans making a bigger impact in the playoffs than they are prepared to make right now. Gordon, however, merely has to stay healthy. Although he has been unable to stay healthy, I feel there are more factors in play that would have to break right for Davis to crack the top 10.. so my answer is Eric Gordon returning to the top 50.
JG: Anthony Davis cracking the top-10. Aside from the injuries, Gordon didn’t even play that well last year. He tried to do too much and just wasn’t prolific in any facet of the game. With more time maybe that changes, but I can’t see it happening. Davis on the other hand looks to of improved already. I hope he too stays healthy because if he does he has a chance to be special.
Joe: Eric Gordon cracks the top 50. As I said before, he’s a top 30 player on each end of the floor when healthy. Nobody wants Eric Gordon to be healthy more than Eric Gordon does, and until I hear that he’s out 1-2 weeks with a pale knee I’ll continue to believe that this is the year he stays on the floor and delivers an All-Star season. Helping the case for Davis as top 10 is that next year’s rankings may very well also predict future quality as opposed to ranking the player’s past. In the summer of 2014 I expect expectations to be sky-high for Davis, whereas Gordon’s ceiling will likely have already been identified.
McNamara: I think Anthony Davis comes in at #8 in next year’s NBA Rank. After this year, the only big man that fans and experts would say that they would take over Davis will be Dwight Howard, and Davis will pass him by 2015. Wade and Kobe are on the decline, while we have no idea when Westbrook returns and how he will look. After a magical season, only Lebron, Durant, CP3, Dwight, Rose, Harden, and Melo will be ranked ahead of The Brow.
Jake: The most likely thing here is that Gordon misses significant games for the Pelicans which would hurt his chances of jumping into the top 50. However, the top 10 players in the league are really, really, really good. I don’t see Davis joining the likes of LeBron, Durant, Harden, etc just yet. It’s certainly coming soon, but for now the more realistic option is Gordon cracking the top 50. Or neither.