Can History Repeat Itself This Season for New Orleans?

Published: October 27, 2014

Prior to the 2007-08 season, all the experts made their predictions. Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were a title favorite, and the Spurs were poised for another Championship after winning the year before. In fact, according to the experts, the Southwest division as a whole was loaded. And while the Spurs, Grizzlies, Mavericks, and Rockets were all near playoff locks, the young upstart Pelicans were the team that the experts said would be fun to watch, but still a year or two away. We all remember that season, as Chris Paul took the final step towards superstardom and the Hornets had the top record in the West for the majority of the season before settling in as the No. 2 seed. Not one GM picked the Pelicans to win the division, and as you can see from the ESPN predictions below, most pundits had the Pelicans as either an 8th seed or on the outside looking in.



So, imagine how insane it would have looked to project that the Hornets as a #2 seed. Or what if you would have said they would make it to the second round and that they would take the defending champs to a 7th game? We all think we are so smart, and the prevailing theory is that this season will look a lot like last season, with a few small exceptions. But every year the ‘experts’ are really off on 4 or 5 teams. Why can’t one of those teams be the New Orleans Pelicans this year? Aren’t there too many similarities between the ’07-’08 Hornets and this years’ Pelicans to discount?  Let’s take a closer look to find out.

Getting Healthy

In 2006-07, the Pelicans Core Four of Chris Paul, David West, Peja Stojakovic, and Tyson Chandler missed a total of 126 games. In 2013-14, the Pelicans Core Five missed a total of 151 games. Both teams looked really good when they were healthy, but they each lost their floor stretcher for most of the season (Peja played 13 games, Ryno played 22), and heart-and-soul guys for large stretches as well (David West missed 30 games and Jrue missed 48). Both teams played in an extremely tough Western Conference, and the injuries were just something that they could not overcome.

Flash forward to 2007-08, and the Pelicans Core Four only missed a combined 16 games. An average of 4 games missed each after averaging over 31 the year before. That, more than anything, helped them increase their win total by 17 the following year. Imagine a scenario in which the Pelicans five guys from last year miss just 20 games this year, as opposed to 151. Wouldn’t the sky be the limit for this team? The Blazers starting five missed just 9 games combined last year, so it’s possible. Just need to get a little lucky, because the talent is obviously already here.

The Addition of a Missing Piece

Now, don’t get me wrong – I do not want to compare Omer Asik to Morris Peterson. Asik is the far superior player, and while Peterson’s contract eventually became a dead weight, he was a fantastic addition for the 2007-08 Pelicans. Consider that they played Desmond Mason at shooting guard the year before, which ate up the space that Paul and West had in the lane. For those who don’t remember Desmond Mason, he was basically the Al-Farouq Aminu of shooting guards. Great athlete and a solid defender, but teams didn’t even pretend to defend him on the perimeter.  Peterson, meanwhile hit 39.4% of his three’s, taking nearly 60% of them from the corner, which really helped create all that space for CP3, West, and Chandler to run the pick and roll/pop.

Omer Asik is a similar ideal addition for this current Pelicans team. More than anything, this team needed to improve its interior defense, and Asik should help that as Jason Calmes chronicled yesterday. Also, Omer Asik lets the Pelicans shift Anthony Davis to power forward, giving New Orelans the ability to have two elite defenders in the paint. Asik also helps the team on the defensive glass, and will set devastating screens on the offensive end – two more things the Pelicans did not have last season. Going from Greg Stiemsma to Omer Asik is perhaps the biggest upgrade any team made this season when you consider fit and need.

The Evolution of a Superstar

Last week, I asked if Anthony Davis was the league’s next superstar. The 2007-08 Hornets took off because Chris Paul made that leap in his third season, and if Anthony Davis does the same thing, you won’t be able to keep this team out of the playoffs. Paul became far more effective on both sides of the ball, as he took a huge leap as a perimeter shooter and went from a good creator to the best in the league. On defense, he made a big step forward as well, making his first All-Defensive team after leading the league in steals.

Davis is looking to make a similar jump forward, as he too has been working on his perimeter game. On the defensive end, Davis already makes the big plays, as he led the league in blocks last season. But it is his defensive awareness and IQ that is most likely to take a huge leap forward this season. From the preseason, it looks like Monty has tweaked the defensive system a little bit, and its more conservative nature when defending pick and rolls should really help Davis wreak havoc on the defensive end. If he does, the Pelicans can realistically move from a bottom 5 defense to a top 10-12 defense this season, and if that happens, the sky truly is the limit for this team.


Should we say that it is likely that the Pelicans will get a top 4 seed this season? No. But is it possible? Of course it is, and we need look no further than to that magical 2007-08 season. If this team stays healthy and Davis takes that next step, history could very well repeat itself. The Western Conference was no joke that season either, as it took 50 games to make the playoffs that year. Three teams in the Southwest won 55 or more games, and four teams won at least 51. We fully expect that this could be the case again this year. So, is it a given that this year’s Pelicans team will mirror the 2007 New Orleans squad? No, but there are just too many similarities for me to ignore.


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