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Can They Be Giants?
We can’t be silent
‘Cause they might be giants
And what are we going to do unless they are?
— They Might Be Giants, They Might Be Giants
New Orleans Pelicans News
The New Orleans Pelicans went 2-1 in the final 3 games to end the preseason at 7-1. They defeated the Wizards in Kentucky, lost to the Heat in New Orleans, then defeated the Magic for the second time this preseason, this time in Orlando.
Eric Gordon continued to play with no signs being slowed, and Tyreke Evans returned to action against the Magic, leaving Darius Miller as the team’s lone injured player. He’s on a timetable to return in a few weeks.
Off the court, the Pelicans launched their Junior Training Camp program, which is aimed at youth fitness and health. This round of Arena upgrades was shown off prior to the Heat game, as well. Aside from small things, the bulk of the remaining changes are to take place in the coming offseason.
Fans could see both the team and the upgrades up close at their open practice and scrimmage at the Arena this past Saturday. At the practice, Jason smith confirmed that he’s scheduled to be the starting the Center on opening night.
Around Bourbon Street Shots
We’ve had four installments of In the NO come out since the last update, and one with Gerry V will be coming soon. In addition to the two-part season preview of the Western Conference (part 1, part 2), Ryan and Michael had Amin Elhassan on the podcast to discuss the team and the obstacles it may face internally. Also, they guys just look at the team in itself.
In gearing up for the season, some preview articles came out. 5 writers answer 10 questions in a two-part Q&A piece (part 1, part 2). Michael McNamara added a piece on how Anthony Davis may be able to secure a place in history in his second NBA season. Michael Pellissier took a look at the schedule while Mason Ginsberg did some statistical analysis, both trying to get a feel for what sort of win total Pelicans fans can expect.
Several writers also did a video chat that previewed the season and more.
Lastly, Trew to the Game addressed the excitement over the input John Besh had on the Arena’s fare the coming season. Look for more on that, by the way.
`Voices’ of the People
Loved the podcast and can’t wait for the season to start. Think Amin is right on with his comments that the Pelicans must play uptempo to be successful. With Jrue at PG, they have the guy to make it happen. Hank’s earlier comment is right on, Jrue gets them in their offense now and has the speed to succeed in the open court. Gordon and Tyreke are also best in an uptempo, open court type of game.
Game #1 will be a great test for NO. The Pacers are a beat you up, slow tempo, top rebounding team. The Pelicans will have the best chance of winning only by making it uptempo. If NO goes big to match Pacer bigs, they will lose. Let’s see which team imposes it will on the other.
I think we’ll have a few more upsets than people think. I like our odds to get 40-45 wins. I really think this team is gonna come together especially if we start Jason at Center. I’m not sure about production at that spot off of the bench but he think he definitely gives us more ability.
I think Evans would have made a big difference last night. The Heat were jumping all of the passing lanes because they had no fear of any of our guys beating them off the dribble. Roberts had a bad game tonight, and Steimsma struggled when asked to pass out of the high post area. I think we need more practice. .
Though the news that Jason Smith will start the season as the starting Center, the depth chart shuffle does not plug the hole in the teams’ 15-man roster. The Pelicans’ big men are Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Jason Smith, Jeff Withey, Arinze Onuaku, and Greg Stiemsma. The last two guys are older journeymen with different small levels of NBA experience, while Withey is fresh off his fourth year of college. The issues of the team’s fourth big man, or committee as it may turn out, is an issue at this point. First, Smith is an energy guy that fouls at too high a rate to play over 30 minutes a game. If he can change gears, great, but there is no reason to expect an abrupt change from a guy entering his seventh season. While Davis and Anderson are talented, they have not shown strength as a defensive tandem.
Here are the compiled statistics for the preseason for the six players. Nota bene these are raw stats, so accounting for minutes played is necessary.
|Onuaku, Stiemsma, Withey||234||18||34||52||11||6||9||13||44||38|
The rebounding for the group of three looks ok until you realize they are not always competing with Davis, Smith, and Anderson for rebounds. Since they get 2 shots as unit at times, this statistic is a little inflated, but it’s ok that they provide less rebounding, as long as they provide some. The issue is that rebounding is weak on the team overall. The assist totals are fine, and one expects Davis to outshine the others with steals and blocks. The unit of three has fewer steals than one might expect, and their block total is about right, as it should be higher than Smith and Anderson together on a per minute basis given where they play, etc. The turnovers (and check out Davis!) and points are the real issue.
This really does not address defense (other than rebounding, and they aren’t solving the team’s issue at this time), but that is also an issue.
As you can see, there are some weaknesses in the frontcourt. Each of Onuaku, Stiemsma, and Withey have their strengths. Withey has the most upside and offensive prowess, but he played around 30 total minutes in the preseason. That’s it. In those 30ish minutes, he looked good overall on paper, but did make some boneheaded errors. Given his low playing time, look for him to be nursed along. Best case scenario is that he’s the answer. I’m not sold that he will be the answer come February, however. If the play does not improve, will the guards be able to cover the hole? If not, will there be a move?