Pelicans Scoop: Evaluating the Season

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Published: April 14, 2017

As we hit the offseason for the New Orleans Pelicans many are going to want to grade and judge the season. However, it is much more complicated than that. A few of our writers share their insight into what they are looking at.

With the season over for the Pelicans the offseason first shifts to evaluation. What are your thoughts on this season for New Orleans? Was it a success? Failure? Something else?

Jake Madison: It’s incredibly difficult to answer this, and for that reason I break the season down into different segments. You have pre-Jrue Holiday, With Jrue Holiday, and With Cousins. You kind of have to throw out the pre-Holiday time period as there isn’t much to gain from that.

With Holiday is a disappointment. The Pelicans truly thought they’d be a playoff team last year if it wasn’t for all the injuries. But when they were healthy and had everyone they were still a sub-500 team. That isn’t a good look.

With Cousins, and after the adjustment period, the Pelicans looked incredible finishing with a top 5 net rating. More importantly they were scoring on offense while maintaining their top 10 defense. It’s also the most predictive period for the Pelicans next season. This should be considered a big success.

Overall, the season will be considered a bit of a disappointment. The Pelicans put themselves in a hole early and were just never able to get out of it. But now the outlook is much brighter after the Cousins trade. It’s a far cry from where anyone thought their future may lie. That has to be considered a success.

Like I said, it’s difficult.

Jason Calmes: I’d call it a success and something else, actually. I said before the season that the season would be a success if they were top 5 in defense. They are in that clump from 5-10 that are narrowly separated, so I’ll take that as something close to a success. They showed that they can play a season without introducing crippling injuries, which is something that others were concerned about . . . I never really bought into that as a systemic issue with the organization so much as they players they chose. Davis put up massive numbers and show his value across the NBA. Those are all successes. They grabbed some around-the-edges guys, found some value, got some better play from Hill. Successes.

Then there is Cousins. That’s something else. It’s all different now.

I could point to some bad stuff, but it’s obvious, and you’ll get that from people who live for attention. I see a net positive overall.

Shamit Dua: A “success”. Before the season started, I said Dell brought in a “control group”. He brought in group of lower variance players than Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson that could be used as a baseline to evaluate this offseason. They wouldn’t give you spectacular offensive outputs, but they would play within their role and play solid defense. They did exactly that. The Pelicans now know exactly what it looks like when you place a bunch of defense first guys around AD. The result is a top 7-5 defense, and a bottom 5 offense. This is important because for years we’ve seen what the result is when you put some offensive guys around AD but sacrifice defense. Now we have a more complete evaluation – we know what it takes for a great defense, and what it takes for a great offense. It’s time to use that knowledge to put together a more complete roster. Obviously acquiring Boogie is a giant step in that direction. The Pelicans went into the season with a group of players that scared no one. They walk out with the best front court in the NBA. I call that a success

Mason Ginsberg: To me, there are two parts to this question – the first is all about the team’s performance relative to expectations regarding their finish within the NBA standings. Before the season, I put the Pelicans at 9th in the Western Conference, and that was before we learned that Jrue would miss the start of the season to support his wife after her surgery. They finished a pretty distant 10th, so with that context, this season was a moderate disappointment.

That being said, the second part of this question is more important – how do the events of this season (outside of the win/loss column) impact the Pelicans’ future? Well, first of all, Dell Demps added a major piece to the franchise at a cost that no one imagined possible given the team’s lack of substantial assets. This move alone flips the overall assessment of this season from  disappointment to success. Add to it the fact that after this mid-season acquisition, the Pelicans were easily a top-10 NBA team – if you back out their first 3 games (call it a “Boogie adjustment period”) and their last 4 games (AD/Boogie didn’t play), their net rating of +5.1 was tied with the Rockets for the 5th best in the NBA during that period. Furthermore, they were able perform at this level against pretty solid competition, as 12 of the 18 games in this stretch were against opponents that ranked in the top half of the league in Net Rating after the All Star Break.

Long story short – it took a few games to start figuring things out, but the Pelicans were a very good team after the Cousins trade, which is what matters most heading into the summer. There are some important decisions to be made in short order, but at this point, it’s hard not to look at the Pelicans and feel better about where they are right now than where they were back on opening night. Therefore, with all elements considered, this season was a success.

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