Pelicans Head Coach Tournament Round Two: Kenny Atkinson vs. Ime Udoka

Published: May 27, 2015

The Case for Kenny Atkinson

By: Michael McNamara

Atkinson is going to get this team running and he is going to have the three-ball flying all over the pace. He will make every guard on this roster better and he is going to spread the court, and that means AD behind the line too. On top of that, he will want every guy to be a good passer that can move the ball around the perimeter and that includes big men. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a realistic idea of what Atkinson will want to build roster wise:

Starters: Jrue, Tyreke, W.Chandler, AD, Monroe

Bench: Cole, K. Bazemore, Q-Pon, Bargnani, Ajinca

The main move sees Eric Gordon and Omer Asik go out and Wilson Chandler and Greg Monroe come in. Chandler and Monroe are both high IQ players that can move the ball on offense and score in a multitude of ways. If Atkinson can do with Davis what the Hawks have done with Milsap, they could be amongst the top 3-point shooting teams in the NBA.

Defensively, they have three very good to great on ball defenders not he perimeter starting, with three more coming off the bench. AD and Monroe could have some issues, but they will be better than Milsap and Horford and they both can play the pick and roll in a multitude of ways.They can trap or hedge, play aggressive or lay back, and they will be able to turn defensive stops and steals into instant offense on the other end.

On offense, the lane will be wide open for Davis and the guards regardless of who is in the game. The Pelicans will have three big men who can hit from deep if Davis develops and, without a rim protector, Evans will be impossible to stop without major help coming from the strong side. Once that happens, he can kick to any number of shooters, and once teams try to take that away, we get AD lobs.

If Davis continues to develop and Atkinson gets the maximum output from he guards, it is entirely possible that the Pelicans join the Clippers and Warriors as one of the best offenses in the NBA.

The Case for Ime Udoka

By: Ryan Schwan

Udoka is going to go with what he knows.  He’s learned from Popovich and Budenholzer the last three years, and what they constructed in San Antonio will be what he’ll be aiming for here in New Orleans.  The Spurs have created the modern NBA offense, keeping two ballhandling edge players on the floor at all times, a single capable big man in the pick and roll, and a plethora of shooting options of all sizes.  To combat teams with defensive specialist big men, they keep a large wing or smallish big who can play power forward, draw that guy from the basket, and create plays for himself or others.

The Pelicans have some of those options.  In Jrue and Evans, they have a couple ballhandling attackers to approximate the first part of the assault.  In Davis, they have both shooting and a pick and roll player.  In Anderson and Gordon, they have two of the necessary shooters.  What they don’t have is a competent pick and roll big man to give Davis a rest. (Splitter in current Spurs world)  They also don’t have a multi-dimensional big wing who could guard a power forward in a pinch.

With those priorities this means Asik will probably be jettisoned and a pick and roll big man will be brought in on the cheap to provide 12 minutes a game – like Ayres and Baynes have by the Spurs.(or Kosta Koufus if the team decides to splurge a little here for longer minutes)  Then Dell will be asked to put his creative touch into grabbing someone like Jae Crowder, Wilson Chandler, Mike Dunleavy, or Thad Young to acquire a tweener forward with some playmaking skills.  Top off with some cheapish shooters(And Cole may have to be sacrificed to this need) and we’d end with a lineup something like:

Starters: Holiday, Gordon, Dunleavy, Anthony Davis, Koufus

Bench: Evans, Gerald Green/CJ Watson, Q-Pon, Anderson, Ajinca

That lets Udoka keep at least one, and probably two attacking wings on the court at all time.  Anderson, Q-Pon, Dunleavy and Watson or Green would provide the matchup-specific shooting necessary, and Koufus and Ajinca are both adequately talented offensive players they can’t just be left alone.

This team would probably take a lateral step defensively until Gordon and Evans could be moved for two-way players, but its offense would be nigh unstoppable.

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