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Pelicans Scoop: Christmas Edition
Merry Christmas and happy holidays from all of us here at Bourbon Street Shots. There are five NBA games today for your enjoyment, but unfortunately none of them involve our birds.
Jonesing for a fix? No worries. We have you covered.
1. What are you expecting this season from Alexis Ajinca?
Chris Trew: Him to do enough to cause the opposition’s announcing team to scramble for their scouting reports because “where did this Alexis guy come from”. Whether it’s an impressive number of defensive rebounds snagged from put-back attempts like we saw in the Portland game or adding to the Block Party doesn’t matter to me. I’m on Team Alexis.
Michael McNamara: Another big who has his ups and downs trying to take on that 4th big role. Like Withey, Amundson, and Stiemsma, he has some strenghts, but more weaknesses. He seems to have more offensive skill than the other three options, so the upside is there. The Portland debut was nice, but I want to see how his body holds up through the NBA grind. Either way, it was a low risk, medium reward type of move.
Nick Lewellen: If you follow me on twitter, you know I was driving the Ajinca band wagon. But if I’m being reasonable, I have to agree with MM here. I think he makes his way into our rotation, because he does a couple of nice things on offense and defense. I expect him to take over that 4th big role, assuming he can stay out of foul trouble and use his length to change shots.
Joe Gerrity: I think he’ll make it clear that he’s an NBA caliber talent, albeit one who sits on the bench most of the time for a few years. Three or four years down the line I could see him as a fourth big man for a quality team, or maybe even an occasional starter for a bad one.
2. How does AD’s early return from injury impact the Pelicans’ playoff chances?
Trew: As much as it possibly can. All of it. 100%. I know I’m the optimist around these parts but I feel like the Pelicans could win any game that Anthony Davis is playing in. Unfortunately I think for playoff basketball to sweep into New Orleans, we’re gonna need some help from whoever is playing the Suns, Mavericks, T-Wolves and Nuggets for the next 4 months.
McNamara: If he doesn’t come back until mid-January, the Pelicans are out of the hunt. But with him returning early, it is very possible that the Pelicans can be over .500 by mid-January. And if this team stays healthy, you figure that they will get better as the season goes on and they continue to mesh. I would say that the chances of a playoff birth are about 35% right now. They would have been nonexistent if he would have missed the full six weeks.
Lewellen: I thought our playoff chances were pretty much dead, if he didn’t come back till mid January. If everyone else stays healthy and this team continues to grow, I put our chances at 20%. I know I’m coming in a bit lower than the guys before me, but I want to be conservative here. The Western Conference has a lot of good basketball teams. It’s a bit early for me to get too excited. Still, having him back helps so much more than I can describe.
Gerrity: Six weeks without AD would have been the nails in the coffin for this season. The quick return leaves the lid off and the coffin uncovered. We’re still in a hole, but at least we’ve got a fighting chance.
3. Fact or Fiction: Anthony Davis is already the best big man (pf/c) in the NBA?
CT: Fact. I Love Kevin Love is not only a catchy phrase, it’s also the truth. But taking into consideration how much better we all know he’s going to get and the contract he’s on and how young he is, I’m going with AD.
McNamara: Fiction. On any given night he could be, but the great players make a huge impact every single night. Davis is still inconsistent on the offensive end, mostly because he is so dependent on his teammates, and his teammates can’t see him for some reason on certain nights. That doesn’t happen to a guy like Love or Aldridge. But someday soon, AD will be atop the list of NBA bigs. Maybe even by the end of this year.
Lewellen: Fiction, but I think I’ll be saying fact by the end of the season. He still has nights when he is a bit too quiet on the offensive end. I think once his teammates start looking for him more in the pick and roll and in transition the guy will be a force on offense like he is on defense. He also does need to mature a tiny bit. He may be wise beyond his years, but he still makes mistakes and gets a bit too heated at times. Give him one more year, and no one will be close to him.
Gerrity: Fiction, but it’s closer than most NBA fans think. Dwight has played well, Love is an excellent offensive player and rebounder, and Aldridge is having yet another All-Star caliber year, yet I’m not sure any of them is in a different tier than Davis. Even at this point in his career and physical development, he’s already one of the elite big men in the game.
4. Will Pierre Jackson ever play a regular season game for the Pelicans?
Trew: Yes, and when he does I’m going to be ready for it. You should be, too. Follow him on Twitter (#theysleep, he doesn’t) and get in the habit of checking D-League box scores if you want to be overwhelmed with excitement over what could be. Anybody who wants to bring up how “lacking” the competition is in said league, try your best. You’re not going to ruin my Pierre Jackson anticipation party.
McNamara: This one is tough. I lean towards no, but if Austin Rivers continues to play this bad, he might be the best option next year. Pierre won’t play this year, and it is the smart move because it keeps his salary below $500,000 next season and it extends his rookie contract by a season. But in the offseason, Dell will either have to move him or sign him and let him compete with Rivers. If the trade offers are weak, Jackson could light it up in the summer and take the backup job in training camp.
Lewellen: I’m going to go with yes, but not this year. It doesn’t really make sense to bring him aboard right now, but I find it hard to believe that we don’t have a roster spot for him next season. I can’t imagine Dell is happy with the Rivers and Roberts combo, so I expect to see Pierre on this team for at least part of next season and one of those guys to not be on the team.
Gerrity: Nope. He’ll see time in the NBA, and as Mike mentioned he might even destroy Summer League next year for the Pelicans, but I just don’t see him getting any time on a Monty led squad, and as a result I don’t think they’ll ever put him on the active roster.
5. Who is the best team in the Western Conference?
Trew: It’s not the Clippers (phew) and that’s pretty much all that matters to me at this point. I still need another season for my CP3 bruise to completely heal but in the meantime I enjoy rooting against the other L.A.. OKC rubs me the wrong way and I’m not buying them in the postseason. Portland sure is fun but the answer is San Antonio.
McNamara: The Spurs are doing it again, and they are doing it without their key players getting big minutes. The Thunder, you can argue, are as good as the Spurs, but they play their starters nearly 6-8 more minutes each per game. The Spurs will shorten their rotation when they have to in the playoffs, and become even more dominant.
Lewellen: Well, since everyone else has said Spurs, I’ll go with the Thunder. Their bench has been more productive than I thought it would be, and I think Kevin Durant is going to be in “F you mode” this postseason. I love what the Spurs are doing, and it is hard to pick against them. If I had to pick against them though, I’d go with the Thunder.
Gerrity: The Spurs look excellent, but Durant simply won’t be beat by anyone in the West this year. I’ll take the Thunder over the Spurs in a seven game series, albeit it be a hair.
If bruising big guards Holiday and Evans start at PG and SG (and Gordon is gone), who is the best change of pace guard off of the bench: Jackson, Rivers, or Roberts? I say Jackson, and that tells me Jackson plays next year. (Imaging Jackson pushing the pace with a group like Morrow, Aminu, Smith, and Ajinca.)
Also, I don't see how Ajinca isn't our 4th big every night (unless he fouls out). But how many minutes will a 4th big get when the first three are DAVIS, ANDERSON, and Smith, and all healthy? 10/game in small bits?
@504ever You, sir, get the Ajinca situation.
Ryan Anderson averages 36 minutes a night. Davis averages 34, but I think that goes up. In any case, that is 70 minutes out of the 96 (48 minutes x 2 positions).
Now Smith has been averaging over 26 minutes a game due to the Anderson and Davis injuries. If all three are completely healthy, I think the minutes split is something like this.
Ryno - 35 minutes
Davis - 35 minutes
Smith - 15 - 26 minutes
Ajinca - 0 - 11 minutes
All of these guys are bigs, so there isn't a chance one moves out to play the wing. Line ups are a constrained optimization problem, and we aren't going to magically find an extra 10 minutes a game for another big. Unless, Ajinca shows he can better an improvement over Smith or that he has a couple of elite skills we need, he is going to be scrapping for minutes as our number 4 big. He is probably our best number 4 big, but when we are healthy, that ain't much.