The Cavalry

Published: November 7, 2016

Significant injury has again beset the New Orleans Pelicans, this time striking Lance Stephenson. Stephenson suffered a groin injury in the Suns game, or possibly after, but was diagnosed as an injury where surgery was the best option. The Pelicans have waived Lance, whose contract is both partially guaranteed not terribly high in terms of salary, waived or not, and signed Archie Goodwin.

Archie Goodwin

Goodwin is a shooting guard from Little Rock who played at Kentucky. He is in danger of becoming a young journeyman, as the NBA seems a little split on just what is value is. He just turned 22 prior to this season. He was late pick by the Thunder, and he was traded to the Warriors before landing in Phoenix by the end of draft night.

He’s not an outside threat, but half of his shots were layups and he had a few dunks, and not a ton were assisted. That kind of “get yours” play and attitude is good in the right measure. He’s a fair defensive rebounder for a guard. He might be hungry, we’ll see.

The deal is likely a 2 year minimum deal, at the end of which, if he’s still around, the Pelicans will have Early Bird Rights, which will likely be enough to keep him if he progresses reasonably as a nice backup. He’s younger than Hield, and is an investment in youth. Another move that, perhaps, there is some patience from the organization. There is certainly dispute on what Goodwin’s ceiling is, though it is clear that he’s nowhere near an NBA-average level player today. He’s played for 3 seasons, getting 20mpg last season in Phoenix across 57 games, but he was also the youngest American player ever drafted. As such, one can read his lack of progression as growing pains on a bad team. However, I’m not sure the Pelicans, who are bad, will then be the place for him to blossom. However, one can simply hope its time and that something will spark the growth. Nevertheless, he may get minutes, but for my sanity, I’m looking at this as picking up a late first for cash, and saying good job, Demps, now get back to the big problems.

It’s not clear how much he’ll soak up some of Lance’s minutes, as opposed to Buddy, Galloway, and others. It’ll be interesting to see.

Lance Stephenson

Tying this back to Lance, I was in no uncertain terms a proponent of Lance coming to New Orleans. He has problems, which every player does, but he showed his talent that justified his signing, and there was never an indication that he was anything but normal NBA player in terms of behavior. I’m glad he got the opportunity to show that. I’m also glad that Lance got some time with the players so they could see some of the unaccounted for things Lance does. Lance has passion and confidence. Lance is fun to watch and exciting. Sure, he screws up, but in League where you expect about 2 of 3 long shots not to go in, about 1 of 2 close shots not to go in, and about 1 of 4 free throws not to go in, then perfection is nowhere near the standard.

Lance was never all bad, so hopefully some of the best parts of him influence the team, particular some pride and willingness of defense.

Happy trails, Lance. I enjoyed it.

Jrue Holiday

With waiving Lance and signing Goodwin, the Pelicans are punting on a hardship exception, even if one was possible.

If it was not possible, it could be for 2 reasons. One is that Jrue’s inability to play does not meet the standard for the exception. This is up to interpretation by NBA officials (read: lawyers). The other possibility is that Jrue is not expected to be out that much longer. Of the two, the latter seems more plausible to me.

If this was possible, then waiving Lance and signing Goodwin could be taken a number of ways. The best ways include a nod to development and a way to get a body in now in case it’s needed.

Either way, Archie is in, Lance is out, and Jrue may be coming soon, may not be.

Gentry went on record saying the Jrue coming back is not the cavalry arriving to fix all the problems. He’s right, and he’s very right to say it. Setting aside any other evaluation of Gentry you have made, this is the right thing to say. The available guys have to feel the pressure themselves, and so does Gentry.

The truth is that Jrue returning will be a big deal. He will not only add solid play to the team, he’ll put Frazier in with the backups and with Buddy. With Lance gone and Good win added, the Pelicans will have to play really slowly, or it will lock in small ball like never before. I’d hesitate to leap to the conclusion that this means Asik is “out of the rotation,” because I think that is unsupported, but I think it very much defines what we’ll be rolling out on the wings.

Darren Erman

Since we’ll be with guards, these guys will be undersized guarding many wings. This puts pressure squarely on Erman. My position has been clear so far this season. This defense has played well. This defense has played better than last season. This two things in no way predict future performance.

What does influence future performance is continuing to work on the defense, which is Erman’s job. This is his forte, and now the rubber meets the road. Last season, he was roasted by fans and writers, at least indirectly, because of the team’s horrible defense. Good reasons were present, above the injury issues, to take a wait and see approach with Erman, which I have.

To me, this had paid off, as I see improvement. What I do not see yet is enough improvement to think the defense is “rolling along” so much as “a work in progress.” For me, that’s enough, at least for today. As time moves on, the very real extenuating circumstances carry less weight, so he needs to outpace those. The ability is there, and I see the defense playing very well in bursts and some long stretches. Those bursts and long stretches are sometimes against bad teams, but we’ve seen that low competition is sometimes played down to. It has been this season, on offense and on defense. So, while there is good reason to doubt the progress, there is also good reason to keep watching, as opposed to dismissing it.

I really don’t know what Lance leaving is going to do to the defense, though. Aside from his turnovers (while on offense, they statistically influence the defense, too), he helped the defense in a number of ways. Jrue may help, but not as much as both of them might have together.


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