Searching for Pieces

Published: October 26, 2016

Offseason always feels like an eternity to me. After the adrenaline rush of free agency, we are exposed to the horrors of Summer League.. then we wait a few months and are rewarded with preseason pickup basketball.. I mean, NBA preseason games.

There are a lot of projection models that are not, erm, high on the Pelicans this year. Bovada has the Pelicans at 37 wins and many models have them somewhere in the mid to high 30s. While this would be an improvement upon last year, Pelicans fans are thirsting for the playoffs.

But here’s the good news — many of these projection models use multi-year blends of RPM to compute these win estimates, and I assume these blends weight the most recent season of data (last season) the most heavily. This matters because RPM said great things about Anthony Davis 2 years ago, but indicated much more modest things about his last season.  So if the predictive models are weighing last season the most heavily, they are probably underestimating the impact AD will have upon this year’s win total. This, of course, assumes that the “real” Davis is the one we saw 2 years ago, the player who was shattering productivity records for young bigs. I believe that Davis is the transcendent player we saw 2 years ago.

Fans may want the playoffs, but Murphy’s Law has become the default expectation for the present and future. And though the circumstances differ, this season feels a lot more like 3 or 4 years ago — where there are things to look forward to, but with the caveat that the gains are more likely to be seen over time than right away.

And I think this lowered expectation is unequivocally good, because it sets a practical tone for evaluation. The brass brought in a bunch of new players for a reason. This year is about a fundamental organizational shift to players who are better at defense, harder-working, and perhaps more malleable than previous ones. It is no secret that everything with this franchise begins and ends with Anthony Davis; it is of upmost importance, then, to add players that fit well around him. This is the season where we see which kinds of players fit around Anthony Davis. I said in the most recent Pelicans Scoop that playoffs are possible if Jrue and AD stay healthy and play 70 games, but the focus of this season should be which players whose talents are complementary to AD’s. And each player has questions to answer. I have listed some players and their questions below.

The Questions

  • If a player has shown that he can do something at an NBA level, I marked “yes.”
  • If a player has shown that he cannot do something at an NBA level, I marked “No.”
  • If a player has not shown that he can do something, but I believe it to be feasible that he could do it at some point, I marked “?”
  • If I didn’t know enough to offer a good opinion, I marked it as a “?” as well.


You’ll note that I left Tyreke Evans off this list. I’ll note that it’s intentional. Tyreke is a good primary option on a bad team. I don’t want a bad team.

Some quick notes regarding these players:

  • I liked the Terrence Jones pickup, because he’s long, strong, and has some NBA skills. That does not mean that I will pretend that his outside shot has been respectable or that his defense has been adequate. I doubt he ever becomes a good shooter, and there has been no evidence that his defense is good. However, he has the tools to be a good defender and he is a very mobile big, not to mention that he has been able to score both efficiently and with good volume as a pro. He could be good, but he has to improve his defense.
  • I have a bazillion question marks for Buddy Hield because the NBA is a different game from the college one and the only thing we can say at this point is that he is the shooter he is billed to be. I like Hield’s game a lot and was pleasantly surprised at his ability to pass this offseason. However, accepting any of the other categories as a given is premature.


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