Who Will Be the Pelicans Second All-Star?

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Published: October 2, 2015

As progressive and forward thinking as most of us think we are, when we project forward, we tend to predict a future very similar to the past. How do most of the experts think the West will shake out this year? Well, pretty much like it did last year. The East? Um, Cavs again. And if people were to make their All-Star picks, I bet they would look a lot like last years team. But you know what? Things change, and there is almost always a team that unexpectedly plummets (Thunder last year), rises (Hawks), and there are always new All-Star players. Hard to imagine now, but the thought of Klay Thompson being an All-Star this time last year would have been borderline crazy, and Draymond Green being in the discussion would seem absurd.

Simiarly, no Pelican outside of Anthony Davis is projected to be an All-Star for the 2015-16 season, but if the team takes the jump some of us expect and produce the offensive numbers the team expects internally, several players could be in the discussion. It is not uncommon for top-tier teams with MVP candidates to get a 2nd player added to the team if they exceed expectations. Mo Williams, Cleveland – need I say more?

Nine of the last 12 seasons Gentry has coached (assistant or HC), his teams have had 2 or more All-Stars. His offensive scheme and tempo helps his teams put up a ton of points and that gets rewarded when it comes to individual awards and All-Star births. He has set a lofty goal of 100 FGA’s this season, and even if AD gets 20-25 of those and the Pels only get to 85 or so FGA’s, that still leaves a ton of shots and possessions for other players. Maybe it gets spread around evenly, or maybe somebody surges ahead of the pack and becomes the clear number 2. And if somebody does, and the Pelicans race to the front of the Western Conference early, that guy could be an All-Star. But who will it be?

Let’s take a look at the odds.

Jrue Holiday

Odds: 50 to 1

Holiday would probably be the favorite if not for the minutes restriction that the Pelicans are going to put on him. Gentry unofficially said that the plan is to play him 15 minutes a game until January. But, what if he was just setting expectations low or being conservative with the number? What if it is closer to 20 to start the year, gets bumped up to 25, and then the restriction is removed January 1st?

That would be 32 games with restriction, and 21 without leading up to the break. Say he averages 22 on restriction and 34 off restriction – that would mean he is averaging about 27 a game pre All-Star break. Ginobli made All-Star teams in years he averaged 29 minutes, largely because he had a big impact in the games when he played and because the Spurs were winning at an incredible level and deserved to be rewarded.

Holiday had a carer high PER (18.8) last season in just 40 games, playing in pain most of that time. He has recently said he is pain free, and he is entering an age right now where most guards hit their physical peak. His 3-point rate was a career high last year and should only increase in Gentry’s system, not to mention he is clearly the best perimeter player on this team. In an era where advanced stats are all the rage, coaches could be swayed by Holiday’s on-off splits when it is time to choose an All-Star. Also, a fringe All-Star like Lillard could lose his spot with the team no longer being relevant. Continued injuries for Westbrook and CP3 could open a spot too, as could the decline in Tony Parker’s numbers (and ironically, minutes).

It’s a long shot, but if he can somehow get enough minutes, it’s possible.

Ryan Anderson

Odds: 25 to 1

To find a reserve, big man who is one-dimensional on the All-Star team, you probably have to go all the way back to Detlef Schrempf who did that in ’92-93, but put up insane numbers (19-9-6) in that role with Indiana. But what if Ryno gets even 60% of the open looks that Draymond Green got in Gentry’s system last year? Last year, 92% of Green’s three-point attempts were either open or wide open per NBA.com stats. Give those same looks to Anderson, but then readjust for the volume and it would not be crazy to see him eclipse the 19.8 ppg he put up in 2013-14 when playing for a slow-paced, Monty Williams offense.

What if Ryan Anderson can become Sacramento Peja Stojakovic – a three-time All-Star? An outside scoring threat on a fast paced offense, next to a stud big man who draws all kind of attention from the opposition. Like Peja, Anderson can get red hot and put up points in bunches, he hits his free throws, and he can go to the post when opponents put a smaller guy on him. Peja didn’t bring anything to the table defensively, but he put up big offensive numbers on a team that won a bunch of games and that led to All-Star births.

It will come down to Pelicans wins and minutes for Anderson. Peja made it one year playing just 34 minutes, and it wouldn’t be crazy to see Ryno get 32-34 minutes, even if he is coming off the bench. If he is dangerous as he could be, he would definitely finish games, and he could be even more efficient than Peja was. Even in those All-Star years, Peja was only launching six 3’s per 36 minutes, but Ryno has hoisted 8+ per 36 since coming to New Orleans, and again, that was with Monty.

Eric Gordon

Odds: 15 to 1

Eric Gordon was one of the two best catch-and shoot players in the NBA last season (with Kyle Korver) and was actually the best once he returned from injury. Gentry’s system is going to get him even more looks, not to mention, more opportunities in the open court. On top of that, he has had the healthiest offseason since he has been here and will have more space in the half court than he ever had in a Monty Williams offense. One byproduct of that space could be more free throw attempts from Gordon and other guards, as he himself surmised that refs see contacts easier when there are less bodies to block their views. And we all know there is plenty of contact when he and Tyreke go to the hole, but refs have somehow missed it. Perhaps no longer.

For anybody who saw the Pelicans open scrimmage, Gordon looked a lot closer to the guy who played in Los Angeles than the one we have seen here the last few seasons. He seems as excited as anybody about Gentry’s system, and is in a contract year. Like it or not, yes that motivates athletes and if he can add to what we saw in the second half of last season, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see him becoming a 20+ point scorer.

For him to crack the AS roster, however, he will have to become the defender that he was pre-injury. Gordon was physical enough to defend most SG’s and quick enough to defend point guards. The last few seasons, he couldn’t slow down either position. With Jrue on minutes restriction, and Tyreke likely starting, Gordon will have to check opposing point guards on most nights. If he gets embarrassed, he has no shot at making the All-Star team, but if he can slow them down AND put up big offensive numbers, he has a legit chance.

Tyreke Evans

Odds: 7 to 1

With Holiday on minutes restriction, Tyreke has a chance to put up monster numbers in this uptempo system. Gentry has called Tyreke a point guard this entire offseason, and he will likely have the ball in his hands more than anybody for the Pelicans. With Holiday out last year, Tyreke was basically a 16-8-5 guy in just 33 minutes per game, and again, in a slow-paced Monty Williams offense. With more space, Gentry putting Evans in the post more often, and an increase in possessions, it would not be crazy to see Tyreke sitting in the top 3 in assists come All-Star break. Couple that with increased scoring efficiency due to clearer paths to the basket and more free throw attempts, and he could be a headache for opposing coaches, and those are the guys who decide the reserves.

Prior to Evans coming to New Orleans, I studied his performance in the post in Sacramento, and he was fouled on 40% of his post possessions. He was impossible to defend down there, yet Monty did not see a need to put him in that position very often. From the sounds of it, Gentry will put Tyreke down there more often. Teams will either double him, which will lead to assist opportunities, or try to guard him one-on-one and that will lead to points for Tyreke – one way or another.

The 20-5-5 numbers that Tyreke produced as a rookie are likely a thing of the past, mostly because these Pelicans have so much more talent than that Kings team. But 18-9-6 is not out of the question, and no player put up those numbers last season. The closest? Chris Paul, John Wall, and Lebron James – all All-Stars.

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