BourbonStreetShots.com http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com New Orleans Pelicans information, analysis and discussion Wed, 29 Jul 2015 15:16:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 What if New Orleans lost the Anthony Davis lottery? http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/29/what-if-new-orleans-lost-the-anthony-davis-lottery/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/29/what-if-new-orleans-lost-the-anthony-davis-lottery/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 15:16:37 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50425 Aside from a relocation or a rebrand to Angels, the worst case glad-that-didn’t-happen scenario for Crescent City basketball fans is that we didn’t get Anthony Davis. The good news is that Davis is here, in New Orleans, playing for the Pelicans.  But it’s the offseason and your body needs more Pelicans to digest. So we’ve got your back! This week’s Trew 2 the Game podcast answers the question – “What if New Orleans did not win the Anthony Davis lottery?” Special guest: Micheal McNamara.

Stream the podcast right here at Bourbon Street Shots (look to the right!), right here on It’s New Orleans, Stitcher, or subscribe on iTunes.

And if you like the podcast, leave us a review, yeah?

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BSS Pelicans Off-Season Recap: Google Hangout Video Chat http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/27/bss-pelicans-off-season-recap-google-hangout-video-chat/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/27/bss-pelicans-off-season-recap-google-hangout-video-chat/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 01:41:40 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50423 Jake joined me via Google Hangout to talk about the New Orleans Pelicans’ off-season, other fun NBA-related topics, and even Jake’s upcoming celebrity bartending gig at Tracey’s this Wednesday. Enjoy!

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On Conference Call With Anthony Davis http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/27/on-conference-call-with-anthony-davis/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/27/on-conference-call-with-anthony-davis/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 16:07:02 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50418 Anthony Davis took 30 minutes out of his day to answer any and all questions from the media on everything from his contract to Monty’s departure, Gentry’s hiring, recruiting future free agents, and more. He was forthright in his answers and really didn’t hold anything back. More than anything, he sounded excited about the upcoming season and was universally optimistic about the direction that the team was heading. Davis spoke at length about a variety of subjects, including:

The Organization

– AD spoke several times about how much confidence he had in the organization and the direction that they were heading. Said he trusts their vision and feels comfortable with their plan.

– Said Monty still has nothing but great things to say about the organization, and understands it was a business decision.

– Said he wouldn’t have signed the full 5 year deal if he didn’t believe in the organization. Obviously he does believe in them.

Running It Back

– AD said he was told early in the process by Gentry that he loved the team as currently constructed and wanted to bring most of the guys back. Gentry seems to believe that the same team can be better with just a few adjustments and better health.

– AD talked several times about how the team has been building good chemistry these past few years and expects that to continue to grow this season. Was glad that the chemistry wasn’t disrupted this summer.

– AD said he has talked to almost everyone and they are excited about the pace they are going to play at and the defensive philosophy they will implement. Specifically mentioned how excited Omer Asik was about the new systems.

Gentry and the Coaching Staff

– AD talked about the NBA Finals shout out that Gentry gave to him and said it was exciting. Said that when he finally spoke to Gentry about it, Gentry actually believes it too. Believes they can get there.

– AD talked several times about Kevin Hanson and how he is glad to have him back. Said bringing back Fred Vinson was huge too because those two have been working with all of the guys and it is big to keep that continuity.

– Anthony Davis could not stop talking about Darren Erman, it seemed like. Even when a question had nothing to do with Erman, AD seemed to bring him up and stated multiple times that he was one of the best defensive coaches in the league. Said he already feels like he has learned so much from Erman in a short period of time.

– Said that the pace with Gentry is going to be “unbelievable” and that he was a hug fan of Gentry in Phoenix with Nash and Amare, along with what he has done recently in LA and Golden State.

Offseason Improvements

– In addition to his three-point shot, Davis said he was working on his ball handling, post moves and passing. Specifically, he said he wants to be able to take the ball off the defensive glass and push it up the court at times, like Draymond Green did in Golden State. Also, he said he has been working on his playmaking skills and how to read defenses so he can get teammates open looks – specifically when he gets doubled. He has been working on making passes out of double teams and even dribbling out of double teams to make plays for teammates.

– Davis said he is spending “15 to 20 minutes” every session working on defense. He has been working a lot with Erman on that end and we can expect a big jump from him there.

– Davis said that Monty even talked to him after the video of him working out in the gym surfaced and told him he was leaning a little bit on his 3’s. Davis laughed that Monty is still coaching him.

AD the Recruiter

– Davis said that he is not going to go to Vegas (Team USA) with the intention of telling guys they should come to New Orleans. But he did say that when the team starts winning and guys start seeing that, he expects guys to get in touch with him or Alvin or Dell. He thinks that, more than anything, will get guys interested in New Orleans.

– Davis said he hasn’t talked to Cole much about his contract situation, and that he will leave that up to Dell, but he would love to have him back. Said Cole, along with DC and Pondexter, really helped bring their defense to a new level last season.

Other Tidbits and Takeaways

– AD said that he thinks adding Kendrick Perkins will be big for the team, as he gives them a veteran leader who has been through a lot.

– Davis seemed to think Monty really handled the whole situation with class, and he is glad to see Monty got another gig with a good organization. Everyone has moved on, and Davis trusts the organizations decision.

– I just can’t get over how much AD talked about Erman. It should come as no surprise, because other players have praised his work ethic and knowledge in the past too. It might not happen right away, but if those two get to work together for the next few years, I would expect AD to rack up multiple DPOY awards.

– AD was excited — as excited as we see/hear AD get. He spoke in long, extended paragraphs about everything that happened this summer; Very different from his typical short answers. He spoke about the pace they expect to play at, and how much he expects their defense to improve. He spoke about how great it was to bring the same guys back and how excited each of those guys were about the direction the team was heading in. He was excited about Gentry telling him that he was going to get the ball more, and equally as excited about being a playmaker that will help make the game easier for his teammates.

Already one of the best players in the world, AD is working hard, he is excited, and has a coaching staff making him better each and every day.

Look out world.

 

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Dancing with Anthony Davis http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/24/dancing-with-anthony-davis/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/24/dancing-with-anthony-davis/#comments Sat, 25 Jul 2015 00:49:12 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50414 The MVP of the Crescent City, the richest man in a New Orleans jersey, the future dominator of hung banners in Champions Square, Anthony Davis, could have added another trophy to his case this Summer. From TMZ Sports via the talented basketball stable over at DimeMag, we learned today that Anthony Davis turned down an offer to be on Dancing With The Stars for a very good reason which is, he cannot dance (the full DimeMag post is here). The video, here:

The borderline-awkward ambush interview had other interesting tidbits from the Big Easy Basketball God, including

  1. Anthony Davis does not blow any of his money (Are you sure? Because I’ve got this idea for a movie where a transcendent basketball player and one of his biggest fans go on a road trip together…)
  2. Anthony Davis wants to invest in technology (…okay, cool, what if in the movie they go on a road trip to a technology conference and end up playing in a basketball tournament and save technology from destroying the planet?)
  3. Sometimes Anthony Davis does things just to have fun (Perfect, we’ll call the movie “Anthony Just Wants to Have Fun”)

Chris Trew is a comedian and Pelicans season ticket holder. He contributes to Bourbon Street Shots, podcasts every Tuesday, and performs comedy weekly at The New Movement.

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Where should the Pelicans D-League team be based? http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/22/where-should-the-pelicans-d-league-team-be-based/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/22/where-should-the-pelicans-d-league-team-be-based/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 18:01:10 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50407 [Listen to the latest episode of the Trew 2 the Game podcast for a playful overreaction to the Kendrick Perkins signing plus more D-League chat]

The Fort Wayne Mad Ants are not only the D-League affiliate of the New Orleans Pelicans, they are also the affiliate for the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers, and ten other franchises. I’m no development league specialist, but I know that being one of thirteen is not special. The Austin Spurs? That’s special. What’s stopping the Pelicans from going all San Antonio (metaphorically) and establishing a D-League affiliate down the (literal) road? Dell Demps got his general manager feet wet just an hour north of San Antonio for those Austin Spurs (previously known as the Toros) so you know that he knows the value of a good affiliate.

In fact, on a recent episode of NBA Lockdown Demps said the next step for the Pelicans is getting a D-League team to call their own and that the only thing stopping them from doing so a few years back was how young the team was. So what’s stopping us from speculating on the location for said team?

There are currently no D-League teams in the Gulf South and that’s a natural spot on the map to place our baby birds. It’s also an obvious choice to increase recognition of the brand, as the black and gold fleur-de-lis already covers bars and beach houses all along the Gulf Coast. Why not the Pelicans?

The Toronto Raptors are scoring their own D-League team that will simply be known as the “905 Raptors”, referring to the area code that covers a large swath of land in Ontario. The Pels could go a similar route, branding the team “Gulf Coast Pelicans” regardless of the exact location on the map. As far as exact locations go…

Lafayette
(2 hours west, hosted 2009 Training Camp for the New Orleans Hornets, has boudin)

Biloxi (90 minutes east, has a new minor league baseball team The Shuckers)

Gulf Shores (3 hours east, has beaches, every single person who grew up in New Orleans took at least one vacation to Gulf Shores)

Mobile (2 hours east, has New Orleans themed downtown, claims to have invented Mardi Gras which it kind of did but really Mobile, come on)

Baton Rouge (1 hour west or 6 hours west depending on traffic, people like Pistol Pete and Shaquille O’Neal and Bob Petti played there which is cool)

Lagniappe Choices 
Grand Isle 
(I want to see an arena built on big wooden logs stuck in the Gulf of Mexico)
Gulf of Mexico (just put the team in the middle of the Gulf and people can take cruises out to see them)
Mexico (The Pelican is the largest bird in Mexico so this is a No.Brainer.)

More Pelicans D-League speculation on the latest Trew 2 the Game podcast.

Chris Trew is a comedian and Pelicans season ticket holder. See him perform every Wednesday at 9:30p at the home for New Orleans comedy, The New Movement. Follow him on Instagram here.

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In the NO Podcast Ep. 223: Summer Time http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/19/in-the-no-podcast-ep-223-summer-time/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/19/in-the-no-podcast-ep-223-summer-time/#comments Mon, 20 Jul 2015 04:44:47 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50405 Summer league is done! Babbitt and Gee have been signed, Curry is a possibility, and most Non-Cole Summer moves seen over! Wait. That means no basketball stuff for 2 months?! It’s time for that Summer Time Sadness . . . Which is still better than Jimmer Time. Amiright or amiright?

Before we go for the summer, how does the Western Conference stack up now? Are the Pelicans a lock as a top 7 seed in the West? Will they feast on the Spurs and Grizzlies? Will I get any of the hip-hop questions Michael springs on me correct?

I’d say no. At least to the last question.

Enjoy the podcast!

Like the Show or the Blog?

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Trew 2 the Game: NBA Schedule Wish-List http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/15/trew-2-the-game-nba-schedule-wish-list/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/15/trew-2-the-game-nba-schedule-wish-list/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 15:00:46 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50377 While the NBA schedule release doesn’t hold the same weight in New Orleans like the NFL schedule release does, it’s becoming increasingly interesting to Crescent City residents as we prepare for life-with-a-super-duper-star. Do we have a shot at playing the Warriors in Oakland on opening night? Are we in the running for a Christmas Day home game? How many times will our Pels appear on National Television? Local comedian, actor, and storyteller James Hamilton joins me on the latest Trew 2 the Game to fantasize about the possibilities.

Listen to the podcast (subscribe on iTunes and/or Stitcher!)

trew2game_new

What are your schedule requests for the 2015-16 Pelicans season?

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The Marmoset as Anthony Davis http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/14/the-marmoset-as-anthony-davis/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/14/the-marmoset-as-anthony-davis/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 17:55:08 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50378 Anthony Davis is the future of the NBA and the future of the NBA can do whatever he wants, including keeping a marmoset as a pet.

They are, however, not supposed to be kept as pets. From MarmosetCare.com:

  • Marmosets are wild animals and have very particular requirements
  • It is impossible to provide an environment as complex as in the wild
  • To avoid common health issues like bone disease, essential requirements include specialist diets and outdoor access (UV light)

Sounds like the perfect fit for Anthony Davis.

  • Anthony Davis is a wild basketball player and has a very particular skill set
  • It is impossible to provide a defense to contain him
  • To avoid common issues like getting posterized, essential requirements include refusing to guard him

In this video, the marmoset is Anthony Davis and this poor little dog is the rest of the NBA:

The marmoset is in complete control as the dog hopelessly tries to keep up. A soft bark has no chance of penetrating the marmosets concentration. Explosive moves up the sofa and back around to the filmmaker’s leg prevent the tiny white dog from getting close to a bite, which is exactly what we’re all looking forward to this year from Anthony Davis (the marmoset) and the rest of the NBA (the tiny white dog trying its best). Also, did you know marmosets can hit corner 3’s?

Chris Trew is a comedian and Pelicans season ticket holder living in New Orleans. Follow him on Twitter here.

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Where Dell Demps Can Find Value in the Marketplace http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/14/where-dell-demps-can-find-value-in-the-marketplace/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/14/where-dell-demps-can-find-value-in-the-marketplace/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 13:03:38 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50360 On the surface, the signing of Alonzo Gee seemed like just another low risk move meant to improve depth at the end of the bench and maybe improve the locker room as well. And while it might turn out to be just that, it could also be an example of where Dell Demps can exploit the marketplace over the next couple of years, and where he can zig when others zag.

Shooting has become all the rage in the NBA, and rightfully so, as we have seen 3-point makes and takes trend upwards for nearly 20 years, and just this last postseason we saw the five top three-point shooting teams also become the last five left standing in the postseason. Because of that, shooters are getting drafted higher and paid more in free agency than they might have in past years, even if they don’t have many other skills to hang their hat on. Demure Carroll was the same defensive player 2 years ago, but the belief was that he couldn’t shoot a lick. He changed that perception in Atlanta. Two years ago, he signed a 2 year/6 million dollar deal to play with Atlanta. This offseason, he got 4 years and 60 million dollars from the Raptors.

The lesson here is that if you can get a guy who can shoot, do it. But those guys are getting paid, especially if they can do other things as well. If they can only shoot, you still have to pay them, but then you also have to make sure you have a roster that can cover up their weaknesses and/or lack of abilities. Dell Demps, however, is in a unique position where maybe he can pass on the high end shooters and concentrate on getting guys who are able to do other things well. Why can Demps afford to do that? Two reasons: Anthony Davis and Alvin Gentry.

In a fascinating piece published back in March, Stephen Shea proclaimed that Anthony Davis gets his teammates shots they don’t deserve. He found it puzzling that while most teams needed good ball movement to create open looks, New Orleans got open looks at a ridiculously high rate, and attributed that to one person – Anthony Davis. Shea shows several examples of Davis drawing an insane amount of attention, and his teammates reaping the benefits, and that again was with ball movement numbers (passes, time of possession per pace, etc) that was at the bottom of the league.

Davis got his teammates more open looks, and those looks are going to be converted more often – even by a below average shooter. Look no further than Quincy Pondexter, who had hit 28 of his previous 107 three-point attempts (26%) in the year and a half prior to joining the Pelicans. In the 45 games after joining the Pelicans, that percentage skyrocketed to 43% . In fact, Kirk Goldsberry had an interesting piece on Grantland this week in which he showcased another Grizzly, Vince Carter and the opposite effect joining Memphis had on him. Carter went from 40% on his spot-up 3’s in Dallas to 30% in Memphis. He didn’t learn how to shoot, he just had fewer open looks. Goldsberry goes on to say,

But here’s the thing about spot-up shooters: More than just about any other type of scorer, their performances depend on external factors. Even the best catch-and-shoot guys live and die by the ability of their teams to create the kinds of shots they thrive on; Tom Thibodeau’s Kyle Korver was a lot less scary than Mike Budenholzer’s version. Yet while there is no shortage of evidence to support this idea, there is a shortage of teams that are capable of generating wide-open catch-and-shoot looks beyond the arc on a regular basis. And every time a big-name spot-up guy switches uniforms, he and the team acquiring him are taking on all the risk that comes with changing a shooting environment.

What GM’s attempt to do is find a guy who was good at this skill before in another situation and hope that he does it as well in their situation. Often times, the results do not match from destination to destination. With Anthony Davis in tow, however, Dell Demps can afford to pluck below average or average shooters from a situation and has reason to believe they can perform better on his roster. Instead of going after the guys that everyone else wants, he can take the guys with other skills and assume that what others see as a weakness will be average at worst, and a strength at best in his system because of his once-in-a-generation talent.

And it is not just Davis who will get the Pelicans more open looks and more catch-and-shoot opportunities. With largely the same roster, the Warriors took 3 more catch-and-shoot three’s per game than they did the year before Gentry arrived. Their number of “wide open” three’s went up 11% according to NBA.com. It is no coincidence, then that the Warriors went from a team that shot 38% overall from deep to 40%. That seems minor, but when you take 25+ a game, that is a point and a half a game, and that makes a legitimate difference.

Now, let’s bring this all back to a guy like Alonzo Gee. Gee can be classified, at best, as an average three-point shooter. He has shot 33% on 509 attempts over his six year career. He takes a large portion from the corners (55% of his attempts, 75% in his last two seasons), and though it is a small sample size from last year, the data says he can make them when it is a catch-and-shoot (42%) and/or wide open (45%). The year before, both numbers were over 37%, despite his overall percentage being just 32.8%.

Again, maybe Gee takes off like Pondexter did or maybe he is just an end of bench guy who never really makes an impact. What he represents, however, is the type of player Dell Demps should be on the lookout for. And they don’t have to just be bargain basement guys, either. There are several wing players who are elite in a few areas but don’t get th top end contractss because they lack the one skill the whole league seems to covet. Dell should continue to be on the lookout for guys who are undervalued because of their lack of high level shooting.

Because the Pelicans have two components in place that can turn that weakness into a strength.

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A View from the Outside — Truehoop http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/13/a-view-from-the-outside-truehoop/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/13/a-view-from-the-outside-truehoop/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 16:00:44 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50364 ((In order to give some perspective on the franchise from the outside, I had a short discussion with Eric Goldwein of Hoop 76. Eric is Hoop76’s founder and editor-in-chief. You can follow him on Twitter @ericgoldwein. His work has been featured on TrueHoop, the Slate/Deadspin NFL roundtable and Yahoo’s ThePostGame.))

Jason: Eric, our teams have some similarities. Relatively new ownership, recent rebuilding, some interesting talent. They are in different places on their rebuilding timelines, and the methods chosen are kind of opposed. The Pelicans trade picks, including to you, and you collect picks. The Pelicans are rebuilding quickly, the Sixes are exercising patience.

I’d like your thoughts on the Pelicans’ approach since they drafted Anthony Davis. Don’t be shy.

Eric: I understand the approach. New Orleans had to start winning to keep ownership happy, and make sure that Anthony Davis didn’t bolt. And that kinda worked! They made the playoffs in the Western Conference which is freakin’ hard. More importantly, they just signed Brow to a five-year extension. That’s a HUGE accomplishment.

Was spending big money on free agents, and coughing up future draft picks for borderline starters (and, gulp, damaged goods) the best way to get to this point? I don’t know. I’m not suggesting the Sixers “screw today, save for tomorrow” model. That wouldn’t have been feasible. But maybe when a talent like Nerlens Noel falls on your lap, you don’t trade him and a first-round pick for an average starting point guard on a not team-friendly deal? Or instead of giving up a 1st for a year of Omer Asik (and then signing him for $60M!), you try to find the next Omer Asik for a fraction of the price? Or perhaps, not trade for a pricey guard like Tyreke Evans?

I don’t know if it’s because of what management has done, or in spite of it, but Davis remains in New Orleans. As long as he’s there, the Pelicans will be in a good place. He’s that dominant. Think LeBron-Cleveland, Part I.

But there’s a reason LeBron left for Miami, and it’s because the Cavs were never able to get him the supporting cast that he needed to win a title. I worry that the Pelicans are headed in that same direction. Thanks to their moves of yesterday, they’re short on assets and cap space, hurting their chances of acquiring a second star. With a rising cap, there’s a good shot they can get a big name down the line, and keep Davis happy. (Recruiting pitch: come play with the best player on the planet. Sign here.) But had they been a little more patient, they’d have a lot more flexibility — right now and in the future.

Jason: I think you see a little more hope than some writers, at least in terms of supporting cast. That gives me a little encouragement.

Speaking of trading picks, we traded 2 to you for Jrue. Let’s ignore the nondisclosure thing, we don’t know enough about it. Assuming he’s of average NBA health going forward, based on your knowledge of him in Philly, how do you see him fitting with Davis and Gentry? Any other Jrue tidbits are welcome.

Eric: Well that’s the first I’m hearing about the stress frac– I mean, non-disclosure thing.

Anyways, if reasonably healthy — and that’s a big if — I see Jrue being a decent fit next to AD, in part because AD will make anyone look good. He’s a plus-defender and he’s smart enough offensively that he won’t hurt you.

That said, he’s not a good 3-point shooter and he doesn’t get to the line. If you’re a guard and you’re lacking in both of those areas, you better be damn good at other things. I’m not sure Jrue is. But the good news is he just turned 25 in June. He’s still got time to develop. Give Jrue a consistent 3-point shot and things will run a lot smoother. (And, he’ll demand a big raise as a free agent in 2017).

Jason: I’m a little higher on him than you, but I’ve got a soft spot for the scrappy, all-around types. David West is miles away my favorite player. At any rate, guards… Boy, do we have a few. Evans, Gordon, Holiday. Each has some issues, and it’s a glut of imperfect talent out of the wings. Does it seem to you the mix works, the Pelicans are hoarding assets, they are deluded, what?

Eric: “A glut of imperfect talent” is a perfect description, but there’s certainly enough there that it can work. Anderson is as good a big man shooter as there is. Davis might extend out to the 3-point line. Evans, Gordon, and Holiday have all shown flashes of all-star potential. Alvin Gentry has plenty to work with. Last year he helped turn Golden State’s offense into a juggernaut and it wouldn’t shock me if he did the same with this crew.

Jason: Thanks, Eric. I appreciate your candor. The NBA is watching both of these teams with interest. Win or lose, we’ve got something to talk about. I’ll check back in another time. Also, let us know when you come to town, we have some legit Philly places for you take shelter at, Tasteykake and all, like Stein’s Deli.

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Darren’s Detailed Defense http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/08/darrens-detailed-defense/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/08/darrens-detailed-defense/#comments Wed, 08 Jul 2015 16:31:05 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50120 The Pelicans had offense in mind when they hired Alvin Gentry. However, offense was not Gentry’s main concern when answering questions at his introductory press conference. When asked about what he needed to do in New Orleans to get a Pelicans Parade down Canal St. Gentry answered:

We have to become better from a defensive standpoint. We have to be … a very good defensive team that happens to be good offensively. That’s gonna be Darren [Erman] and his crew

That defense would be the main concern this offseason should be no surprise: the Pels finished the season in the bottom third of the league in defensive efficiency; and they might not have made the playoffs at all if not for the improvements on D in the 2nd half of the season that came with the additions of Cunningham, Pondexter, and Cole. Going forward the major improvements this team needs to make are on the defensive side of the ball. Just to illustrate, look at the competition:

contenders defensive improvement (ranking)

contenders defensive improvements (rtg)

(I threw out this past season for OKC as they didn’t make the playoffs for injury related reasons).

These teams all made the jump to home court advantage in the West by becoming good defensive teams. It is a must to be at the very least consistently capable on that end. The Pels could not say that this past season, and for them to contend they must improve on that side of the court.

The Pelicans don’t have all the defensive versatility of the Warriors, but they have a start. Holiday, Pondexter, Cunningham, Asik, and Davis are all plus defenders, bring back Cole and that’s one more, but there still is some depth issues on the wing. One problem is that Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon, who played 34 and 33 minutes a game on the wings this past season, have both been subpar defensively for the Pels. This is not for lack of trying by Gordon and not for Evans’ lack of physical capability. Getting the most out of both should be a top priority (obviously).

As McNamara wrote in his season review of Tyreke Evans, on the ball Tyreke is a good defender. In isolation, he only gave up 0.53 points per play, with opponents shooting 22.7% in those situations; that is fantastic. He has all the physical tools to be a good defender, strength and length and athleticism, so it isn’t surprising he bothered players 1 on 1. Off the ball is another story. He gets lost on rotations and was often late closing out on shooters.

Gordon’s issues are basically the opposite as they stem from a loss of athleticism due to injuries and surgeries. That, coupled with already being undersized, can’t really be fixed. Gordon will not be a great defender unless he can somehow manage to get some of that athleticism back, but Gordon isn’t a low IQ player and this past season he showed a real willingness to work on that side of the floor, which is normally enough to be at least an average defender.

In steps 40-year-old Darren Erman, ex-attorney with no playing experience turned basketball coach. Erman is very well respected around the league: any time his name comes up, so do the phrases “work ethic” and “detail oriented.” Rajon Rondo likened him to a “baby Thibodeau,” while claiming he’s certain to be a future head coach, a sentiment echoed by LA native Brandon Bass:

“It takes a special person to be focused all the time on defense, and it’s an offensive game. I think one day he will be a head coach.”

Erman is credited with the defensive improvements of players like Stephen Curry, who Mark Jackson used to hide on defense, Harrison Barnes, and specifically Klay Thompson, who is now considered one of the best two-way two-guards in the NBA.

Celtics Coach Brad Stevens couldn’t stop raving about him and how he works with players:

“[He’s] really excited to help these guys get better. And he spends a lot of time … with the individuals. That’s as big of a key right now as anything else. Darren’s really a great defensive coach, he’s more than that. I think sometimes we pigeon-hole guys because he’s obviously specialized in that. But he is detail-oriented as detail-oriented gets. If your hands aren’t in the right place as you’re guarding in a pick-and-roll, or if your body positioning is not at the right angle, or you don’t guard the post in the exact right way, he’ll stop it and he’ll correct it.”

If Erman can get both these guys to improve, specifically get Evans to at least average off the ball, the perimeter defense of this team should see dramatic improvement. Things are already trending up on the defensive end:

'13-'14 Pre-Allstar'13-'14 Post-Allstar'14-'15 Pre-Allstar'14-'15 Post-Allstar
Defensive Rating106109.5105.8102.8
League Rank26th26th25th18th

If that trend continues, look for the Pelicans to make a little more noise this season in the crowded West.

From 2007 to 2011 Darren Erman worked with the Boston Celtics under Doc Rivers and alongside Tom Thibodeau and Lawrence Frank, all great defensive minds. Boston had a 234-94 record (.713 W%) over those 4 seasons with defenses ranked 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 2nd in the league. His work ethic in game planning really paid dividends for Boston, as high IQ defenders Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo were able to identify opponents’ plays on a regular basis and shut them down. The defense was known for aggressive hedging, helping, and switching (similar to the Heat’s defense in the Lebron era). They wore down opponents physically and mentally and are remembered as a historically great defense.

In 2011 Mark Jackson hired him as an assistant for the Golden State Warriors.

“This guy gets it, really a great guy who wants to be a great coach. I pretty much hired him on the spot” – Mark Jackson

In Golden State he took a 26th ranked defense and improved it to above league average in one year, and then to 3rd in the league the next. Like Boston the team is known for aggressive switching and an aggressive pursuit of the ball, and the team is built perfectly for it: Thompson, Igoudala, Livingston, Green, Barnes, and even Holiday are all within the 6’6” – 6’8” size and can guard every wing position, and Green specifically can guard 1-4. Switching can stall offenses because it doesn’t give opponents the space to work with that is typically created by not switching and having guards fight over, under, and through screens. Golden State switches so fluidly on ball that they don’t give teams space, and so well off the ball that they avoid bad mismatches. Even though they do it a ton, Golden State almost never messes up a switch or misses a rotation, a testament to how much that team has grown together.

One thing that carried over from the Celtics to the Warriors was the impact of Erman’s game planning. Kent Bazemore credited Erman with their defensive improvement:

“We’re running other team’s prime plays and getting into certain spots and making sure they can’t have a fluid offense.”

Erman also knows how to work with the strengths of his team. Instead of an aggressive hedging style as was seen in Boston, where the bigs would “show” to stop dribble penetration and allow the small to recover, Erman convinced Jackson to change the defensive strategy all together in Golden State to where the bigs would sink, dropping in to protect the rim and contain the ball handler. This played to Center Andrew Bogut’s strengths, and the results speak for themselves.

After being fired in Golden State amid a controversy where he undermined his head coach, he was hired within a month back at Boston, where he spent this past season.

“Darren Erman got fired for secretly recording Mark Jackson, and teams are fighting over him. Think about that.” – Zach Lowe

Boston, with a very lackluster roster, improved from 18th in the league in defensive efficiency, to 12th, and was 9th for the 2nd half of the season. They improved 17 wins and won the 8th seed in the East. Everywhere this guy goes, major improvements follow, especially on the defensive side of the ball; that is a FACT. That’s why the Pelicans made sure he would come here before they even hired Gentry. For those questioning how much a coaching change can actually improve a team just look at this past season’s NBA Champions. Golden State was basically the same team as ’13-’14, but with a new entire coaching staff they improved 16 wins. If the Pelicans improve by half as much they’d be at 53 wins, which would have tied them with Cleveland for 7th best in the league last year.

This is the NBA. Offense can get you to the big show, but you need defense to win it. Darren Erman and the other assistants have their work cut out, but they do have some talent to work with.

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In the NO Podcast Ep. 222: Free Agency Wrap Up http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/06/in-the-no-podcast-ep-222-free-agency-wrap-up/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/06/in-the-no-podcast-ep-222-free-agency-wrap-up/#comments Mon, 06 Jul 2015 05:30:41 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50339 With most of the big moves already completed, Michael and I talk about what this off-season means to the team. Will Asik, Ajinca and Cunningham live up to their deals? Can we squee with joy over Anthony Davis resigning? What is a squee? What teams got better or worse in the conference? Plus, we answer some listener questions.

Enjoy the Cast!

Like the Show or the Blog?

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New Orleans Pelicans Round Out Gentry’s Coaching Staff With Addition of Phil Weber http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/05/new-orleans-pelicans-round-out-gentrys-coaching-staff-with-addition-of-phil-weber/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/05/new-orleans-pelicans-round-out-gentrys-coaching-staff-with-addition-of-phil-weber/#comments Sun, 05 Jul 2015 19:02:19 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50326 The staff was already looking tremendous with the additions of Darren Erman and Robert Pack to Alvin Gentry’s crew, but it got even stronger today with the reported addition of Phil Weber. Weber was one of the guys I profiled as a possible assistant right before Gentry got hired, and like I said in that piece, he is a high energy guy who is a tremendous shooting coach. He also works with guys on balance and fundamentals – two key building blocks for a young team. Want to get a sense of Weber the person and his philosophies? This video basically sums it all up.

Weber is known as a positive guy (as you can see from the video) that will bring a lot of energy to the team. He played under the legendary Jim Valvano, who delivered a similar positive messages, including perhaps the most legendary sports related speech ever. He went on to coach in college before moving on to an assistant job with Phoenix, where he worked with D’Antoni and Gentry. From there, he moved on to New York with D’Antoni for four years before moving on to Miami.

Weber has done both player development and X-and-O coaching, so he can bounce between both roles. He also has some connections with some Pelicans summer league players, as he coached both Khem Birch and Larry Drew in the D-League last year. It will be interesting to see how involved he is with Summer League, which starts next week, but it can’t hurt to have a guy who is familiar with D-League players as Dell tries to round out the bottom of the roster with minimum players that have some upside.

The hiring of Weber likely means that the staff is set, as the Pelicans also kept player development coaches Kevin Hanson and Fred Vinson, along with bringing in video coordinator Elvis Valcarel. This staff is intelligent and energetic and has already been getting to work with Anthony Davis and others. While the roster has stayed essentially the same, there is reason for optimism because of the tremendous staff that Demps and Gentry have put together.

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New Orleans Pelicans Free Agency and the Tax http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/05/new-orleans-pelicans-free-agency-and-the-tax/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/05/new-orleans-pelicans-free-agency-and-the-tax/#comments Sun, 05 Jul 2015 08:25:57 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50319 The New Orleans Pelicans have had a busy start to the new season without creating much of a new look. The team replaced Monty Williams and at least some of his staff with Alvin Gentry and new assistants, but thee have not placed any players under contract yet who were not under contract last season with the team.

The Pelicans and Anthony Davis have agreed on a 5-year contract extension that starts in 2016-2017. While not directly affecting this season’s roster, it was a hugely important move. Davis will be playing on the final term of his rookie deal this season.

In actual free agency (in the moratorium period before signings are allowed), the Pelicans have agreed to terms with Alexis Ajinca, Omer Asik, and now Dante Cunningham (3 years, $9m total). They have extended a qualifying offer to now-restricted-free-agent Norris Cole, and they did the same to Jeff Withey before rescinding it, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Value of a Stable Roster

With no new faces from the recent draft and mechanisms to add pieces running out, the team is set to “run it back,” as McNamara (and seemingly others) like to say. As Graham later showed, there is some good support behind this idea given the level of player available to the Pelicans.

Beyond this, the coaching change is not something be ignored. Coach Williams and Coach Gentry are very different people and very different coaches. The idea that you can pop one out, slide the other in, and just be “better” is misguided. Adjustments take time for a number of reasons. Talking with some writers from The Bird Writes and Pelican Debrief, I said that I have no idea what to expect to start the season, then it’ll get worse, then come January I’ll start really buying what I see. By that time, there will have been adjustments, re-adjustments, etc.

Moreover, Dell Demps is the architect of this team. While others have had some input, this is Dell’s vision, right or wrong. He’s not afraid to take a risk or clean it up when possible in the cases it does not work. Given the differences in the coaching styles from last season to this coming season, it may be best to see how the coaching change affected his evaluation of the main roster pieces. Given the team’s limited mechanisms for growth this season, taking some time to see what you have before making an uninformed move seems justified.

Hidden Flexibility

I spent some time before 2015-2016 started laying out how life over the cap differs from line under it. This offseason is a taste of that, if a bit extreme.

  • Moves So Far
    • Anthony Davis Extension via Bird Rights
    • Omer Asik 5-year deal via Bird Rights
    • Alexis Ajinca 4-year deal via Early Bird Rights
    • Dante Cunningham 3-year deal via Mid-Level Exception
  • Remaining Tools
    • Bird Rights: Norris Cole, can be used for any salary
    • Early Bird Rights: Jeff Withey, Luke Babbitt, worth about $5,750,000 each (TBD post-moratorium)
    • Non-Bird Rights: Jimmer Fredette, about $1.1m
    • Minimum Salary Exception
    • Remaining Mid-Level Exception, about $2.5m depending on Cunningham’s deal
    • Bi-Annual Exception, $2,139,000
    • Traded Player Exception

As you can see, the team’s best options involve signing Norris Cole, which they seem to be planning to do once the market sets his value, bring back players they had last season, or sign a player or two in the sub-$3m range. Then, they can fill out the roster with minimum contract players. We are told that Withey and Babbitt are likely to return, which fits with the above, and the above makes sense of those moves.

If they were to use these tools to their fullest now or during the season, the Pelicans would find themselves at the tax line or above, depending on where it falls, likely between $80m and $82m. Above the tax there is what is called the apron, which is $4m above the tax. Once a team crosses the tax line, the team’s financial picture changes as they start to pay the NBA’s “Luxury Tax” rather than receive benefits from it. (This is not a government-imposed tax; this is a part of the soft cap system the NBA uses, and it is part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, as well). Additionally, some transactions becomes less flexible. The apron levies even more hardship on a team by restricting transactions further than being a tax team does.

Most teams try to avoid the tax. Assuming Asik’s deal is $10m its first year, Ajinca’s is $4.75m, Cole ends up a $4m, and Cunningham’s deal starts at $3m, the team’s salary at that point is around $80m. Plus, they’ll had to add a player or two, waive Douglas, and hope Cole’s deal is that low. Staying below the tax line would give next to no room to make major changes.

Hidden Flexibility

So, maybe the team in the position that they may need to go into the tax to make the right move. Many a writer here and elsewhere are assuming the team will not pay the tax. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Dell was trading picks when people did not expect them to because they were thought to be so valuable. As it turns out, maybe they were not so valuable. Dell traded for the contracts of Rashard Lewis and Omer Asik under Benson’s ownership, incurring financial obligations that did not appear directly on the court or in the salary figure. So, who’s to say they would not become a tax team if it were worth it to do so?

At this point, not only are they positioned to become a tax team, but they are actually able to go over the apron, as well.

  • Teams can not go over the apron if they have received a player in sign-and-trade who is being signed-and-traded. The Pelicans have not received a player in this manner, so they are able to go over the apron.
  • Teams can not go over the apron if they use the Bi-Annual Exception. The Pelicans have not used the exception yet, so they are able to go over the apron.
  • Teams can not use more than the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception in signing players using the Non-Taxpayer Midlevel Exception and go over the apron. The amount of the Taxpayer MLE is $3,376,000. Cunningham’s deal, as reported, is below this number in the first year. This could be me taking the reports too literally, but I checked a few reports and the deal seems no higher than $3m in starting salary. Also, Cunningham’s deal is for 3 seasons, which is allowed by the Taxpayer MLE. A 4-season deal is not, though it is by the Non-Taxpayer MLE.

In order to go over the apron, the team would have to not use sign any more free agents other than those who were on their roster last season and minimum contract players. This leaves trading, Dell’s specialty, as the means for growth. As noted, the team has an array of contract values that allow a number of trades, and even moreso once the free agent signings are eligible to be traded on December 15. Alternatively, they can send a player out in sign-and-trade if all parties agree.

Of course, not all trades increase salary, but teams trying to build will often take on inflated salaries or even bad contracts to try to become an elite team. At that point, some players will take discounts to play with that team whose options to pay are limited. So, in this case, we cam assume the Pelicans will take back salary exceeding what is sent out. In order to go over the apron when a team is at the tax line, this excess needs to be at least $4m. If it is a single player leaving in trade, Gordon is the only player that fits the bill; his contract would allow a tax team to take back about $19.5m, or about $4m more than he makes this season. Any two of Anderson, Evans, Holiday, Gordon, and Asik (when eligible) would do the trick, too. The team could nickel and dime its way up the salary scale, but it’s not clear that it’s with the financial problems caused by the tax to nickel and time up the talent. Rather, a big swing is necessary. Also, with the jump in the cap next season, the danger of being a tax team for two seasons in a row is quite low, which lowers the risk of such a move.

I have long said that Evans and Anderson were perhaps signed in part to be good trade chips, and we all know Gordon has some value as a player now. Anderson and Gordon are also expiring contracts. While expiring deals are not pure gold, as teams prepare for next offseason’s free agency, some may try to clear space for maximum salary offers and fall just a bit shy. An expiring to such a team could have good value, even if the player received back had a sizable cap hold; the devil is in the details.

I’m not suggesting a major deal is pending. I’m suggesting that the team has left this option open at this time. The situation may not be as I describe, and the situation could change, as maintaining the option will require some austerity. They will not be able to receive a signed-and-traded player and will basically only be able to sign “new” free agents to minimum contracts. However, positioning themselves in this way could be very valuable. As the trade deadline nears, there may not be may teams who are ready, willing, and able to add major salary, even for a good asset. Being a team in that position and with good assets to send back in trade could lead to something major.

So, as the team brings back what they had last year, if things go according to plan, the level of play will improve, the Pelicans players will look better than last season, and some of their contracts will be shorter. Also, the team will determine just what the core of the team is in the new regime and what the team is missing. If they can’t add what they need in the manner in which they have before, they are positioned to make another unexpected move to improve, and perhaps in the most substantial pay possible this season: going into the tax and above the apron.

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Transitioning into the new NBA Salary Cap Environment http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/02/transitioning-into-the-new-nba-salary-cap-environment/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/02/transitioning-into-the-new-nba-salary-cap-environment/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 01:15:38 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50307 This week, the Pelicans have verbally agreed to extend three of their four most important big men to long-term deals: Anthony Davis, Omer Asik, and Alexis Ajinca. From a financial perspective, each player’s average annual salary is in line with what most of us here at Bourbon Street Shots expected them to get: $29 million for Davis, $11 million for Asik, $5 million for Ajinca (I actually nailed Ajinca’s $4.5 million salary for year 1 of his contract with my salary cap post back in early May, though I did not expect the Pelicans to be the team giving it to him). That being said, some of us (myself included) are not thrilled with the length of Asik and Ajinca’s signed contracts, mainly due to salary cap and roster flexibility concerns.

My goal in this column is not to say Dell Demps made the right move in locking Asik and Ajinca in for the next 4 years; in my opinion, they’re both one guaranteed year too long. What I aim to do here is to show you that these contracts are by no means worth panicking over. I know many of you have heard “the cap is going way up” so many times that you’re numb to it by now, so allow me to present my case visually instead of verbally.

Salary Commitments

Screenshot 2015-07-02 at 7.09.52 PM

This chart shows the salary commitments for the Pelicans after their verbal agreements on July 1st. The projected extensions are based off of reported totals and 7.5% annual raises, but there has not yet been confirmation on the exact annual salaries.

Salary Cap Occupancy

Screenshot 2015-07-02 at 7.09.36 PM

This table shows what percentage each player’s salary makes up of the entire salary cap for that year. It is important to note that the 2016-17 season and beyond uses the cap projections that the NBA sent out, but because the collective bargaining agreement contains a mutual opt-out clause after the 2016-17 season, those numbers will likely end up changing.

Takeaways

1) After this upcoming season, Omer Asik will never account for a higher percentage of the salary cap than any of the years of his prior 3-year contract. That’s not usually how this works! As successful players age, they typically account for more and more of the cap until they get into their 30s, when their salaries plummet. Asik is going to be 32 by the end of his last guaranteed year, which basically takes him up until you can reasonably expect to see a decline. Getting better value on a player in his late-20s than his mid-20s just doesn’t happen very often. Would it have been nicer to shorten the deal by a year? Sure, but there is absolutely no reason to panic.

2) Ajinca’s cap hit post-“cap spike” is similar to what Pondexter’s hit is pre-“cap spike”. Many people have been calling Pondexter’s contract a “steal” even before the salary cap jump. Well guess what? As a percentage of the cap, Ajinca will account for about the same percentage in the final three seasons of his deal that Pondexter does for last season or this season.

3) Anthony Davis will be one of the best bargains in the NBA for the duration of his contract. While it doesn’t excuse overspending, the Pelicans have a security blanket who goes by the name of Anthony Davis. Pretty soon (and probably already), his true worth will be at least 60% of the salary cap, if not more. The Pelicans have him locked in for 10% next year, and around 25-30% for the subsequent four seasons. That kind of value gives a team much more flexibility with roster construction (just ask the Spurs or either LeBron James title team, whose stars have consistently taken less than market value for the good of the team).

BONUS: The Pelicans can still easily make space for a max contract in 2016. While it’s not in either of the tables above, the 7-9 year player max contract will start around $25 million. Provided the team doesn’t sign Cole and Cunningham (or whoever they use part or all of the MLE on) to outlandish extensions, all it would take is unloading a contract like Tyreke Evans – one whose $10 million salary in 2016-17 will be great value – to once again have the requisite space to bring in a max contract caliber player. If you’re worried about not being able to do that, you can put those concerns to rest.

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Summer Is Coming! http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/02/summer-is-coming/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/02/summer-is-coming/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 16:58:25 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50302 Summer league is coming for the New Orleans Pelicans. The team will host a mini-camp from July 6-9th, with their first game in Las Vegas, NV, being on July 10th against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Pelicans also have games scheduled against the Dallas Mavericks and the Brooklyn Nets. After that, summer league turns into a single-elimination style tournament, with each team playing at least five games.

All 67 games will be aired on NBA TV, with the championship game being on July 20th at 8 PM CT. The games will also be made available via NBA.com and the NBA Game Time App.

Without any picks in this year’s NBA Draft, the Pelicans roster will mostly consist of journeymen. Some notables are two players part of the NBA sorority via family in Larry Drew II (via his father) and Seth Curry (via his MVP and NBA champion brother, Steph Curry.) Jarvis Varnado, of Mississippi State (and who was drafted in the second round by the Miami Heat in 2010), is another player who can potentially make the roster, due to his wingspan and timing when blocking shots.

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Pelicans Scoop: Davis, Ajinca, Asik, and Free Agency http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/02/pelicans-scoop-davis-ajinca-asik-and-free-agency/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/02/pelicans-scoop-davis-ajinca-asik-and-free-agency/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 15:54:45 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50299 With big Pelicans news coming out in the first 24 hours of free agency, BSS writers give their opinions on five pressing questions. 

1. What was your reaction when you saw AD had signed his extension?

Michael McNamara: Instant relief. I knew that AD would sign it at some point this summer, but having him do it at the first possible moment showed that he had no hesitations in his commitment to this franchise and this city. He could have played hardball or pulled a Lebron and used his power to get some things done, but instead he put his faith in Demps and Gentry and signed on the dotted line as soon as he could, and that was a relief.

Graham McQueen: Reassurance. I didn’t really have doubts about this deal getting done, but for avid fans who talk sports all day you come across those select few who seem so confident in their beliefs of players “coming home” or “going to big markets” that it puts that little twinge in the back of your head. The first thing I saw in the morning was Davis resigning, then the first thing I read about it is about how he’s already in the gym focused on basketball. If that doesn’t make you feel good his and the franchise’s future I don’t know what will.

James Grayson: Excitement. I was over the moon as evident by my tweet. In fact I actually thought it was a fake twitter account so I paused for a little bit, thinking, “Nah, this has to be fake Woj. It’s JUST turned 12.01am – there’s no way!” Then I saw it was actually happening and I did a quick couple of fist-pumps and sat with glee. I had a discussion a while back with one of my good friends who said, “Well Thibs isn’t going to be your coach because he doesn’t think Davis will sign on long term.” Ha! Guess Gentry is laughing at that notion.

Jason Calmes: Other than “Already?” . . . not much. It was a no-brainer. The sun came up . . . nice, awesome in fact, but expected.

Michael Pellissier: A sigh of relief.  The extension was always going to happen, but getting it done as early as possible will probably go a long way in calming the nerves of Pelicans fans.  As long as AD’s around, we will have a very entertaining team to watch.

Jake Madison: I went to bed somewhat early Tuesday night expecting everything to be quiet on the Pelicans’ front. When I saw the news the next morning I honestly was about as surprised as possible. It was an inevitability that he would sign the extension, but the statement he made by signing it the minute he could shows AD’s belief in this team and vision going forward. For a city that still feels burned by Chris Paul forcing his way out, it’s a cathartic moment of sorts. And one worth celebrating—as I did that night.

2. Grade the Alexis Ajinca signing (4 Years/ 20.2 million)

MM: C+. It is a great contract for a 3rd big and a solid one for a 4th big in this new NBA economy. I trust that Gentry sees something that he likes with Ajinca and both Marresse Speights and Festus Ezili took huge steps forward in Gentry’s system last year. Like Speights, Ajinca is a versatile scorer and he also played very well with AD last year. I don’t love the number of years, but if the coaching staff can work on his screen setting and fouling it could be a bargain down the line.

GM: B-. Good contract for a fairly decent 3rd/4th big who has visibly improved every season. Ajinca was a pleasant surprise for the Pelicans this season when injuries forced him into a bigger role. He deserved a pay raise, and you can’t teach height. 4 years is awhile, but if he keeps improving it could turn out to be a steal. As long he doesn’t regress this is a fine deal.

JG: B. It’s a decent contract, but not overly great. Ajinca has been a foul-machine, but his offensive capabilities are good and he provides the depth needed for the bench. My issue is with the role. It’s my understanding that Ajinca wants to be the third big – where does this put Ryno? Outside of Asik and Davis there’s absolutely no defense along the front line. Davis or Asik get in foul trouble… and boom! There’s a problem because the Pels need to improve defensively if they ever want to contend.

JC: B. This seems to be a little bit better than the trade for Lopez, at the time, but the standards were lower, and Lopez was coming off of injury. Ajinca’s biggest issue has been his fouling, as I have pointed out often, but he has improved his foul rate to the best of his career. In fact, his season average, a pretty high 5.7 / 36 minutes, actually makes his stead improvement through the season. A smart guy like Ajinca who can pass and score from more than one area of the floor may have a little extra value in Gentry’s offense. If so, or if those fouls keep coming down, this goes to a B+.

MP: C+.  Ajinca is a serviceable backup big and made some gigantic strides as an offensive weapon last year, but he still fouls too often and is a liability on defense.  However, considering the contracts that are being handed out and the skyrocketing cap, I think the Pelicans made the right move. If the Pelicans can surround Ajinca with some good perimeter defenders and feed him the ball in the post, he will be a very valuable weapon off of the bench.  In sum, a good player on a reasonable contract.. so I’ll count this as a small win.

JM: Rather than give it a letter grade I’m just going to say, “Eh.” Under the old cap I wouldn’t like it. But most deals given out in free agency have been focused around when the cap will rise. Ajinca is a decent backup big who has potential to breakout into a solid rotation player under Gentry. 4 years may be a little long, but he should be tradeable on the tail end of it. My biggest question is did they need to get this done day one or could they have waited to see if there was a market for him?

3. Grade the Omer Asik signing (5 Years/58 million; 5th year non-guaranteed)

MM:C -. It is essentailly a 4 year/44 million dollar deal that allows the Pelicans to use Asik as a major trade piece in year 5, and while I don’t hate it, I would have loved it if it were one year shorter. The average salary per year is right where we expected, but it is impossible for me to imagine some other team offering him similar years and money. In some ways, it feels like we bid against ourselves, and so I say it is a below average deal based on the fact I think playing hardball could have gotten him back cheaper.

GM: C-. Don’t hate it, don’t like it, just…meh. I am totally fine resigning Asik, though just looking at the total money and years it seems too much. It is Dell’s little workings that make this a much more tolerable signing. Basically only $44 million guaranteed, incentive based, unguaranteed last year (lined up as a trade chip before Davis’ last year under contract) all make up for the fact that this contract seems just a little bit too much and just a little bit too long. However, if the Pels get the Asik they originally thought they were getting when they traded for him, it’ll look a lot better this time next year.

JG: D+. I’m not overly thrilled with it mainly because of the length of time and amount of money. Now, with the new salary cap after 2016 it’ll look a little better but you’re committing a significant amount of money to a position that really only requires 20-25 minutes from it per game. Davis will be playing the 5 (I dislike to concept of traditional positions) for most of the fourth quarter. I always love to find silver linings in any deal and there is some good news. Asik was top-10 in the NBA in TREB% last season and provides solid interior defense. If he can stop being the fumbling mess on offense that he was last season perhaps it won’t be as bad.

JC: B-. This contract is really not so bad. Measured in units reflecting today’s market, it’s about 1.5 Aminus, or about 0.85 Chandlers, which is good for a big man, especially a talented rebounder like Asik. Asik is 4 years younger than Chandler . . . 29 compared to 33 when the season starts. He’s underrated, in my opinion, which is a statement about his ratings, not about him. This contract scales with the cap to be as good as or better value than his last contract, on average. No issues. I do discount the quality due to Asik’s low minutes last season. If that’s the way it will continue to be, the grade has to reflect that; it does for not, at least. This signing also allows use of the MLE. If that signing is a good one, I bump this move to a B.

MP: C. Before Asik stepped onto the floor as a New Orleans Pelican, I noted how Asik looks different as an offensive player in a lineup that doesn’t force him to catch the ball in traffic.  There are some issues with the Tyreke/Asik pairing, though Gentry giving Tyreke the green light in transition and in early offense may mitigate some of these concerns.  But Asik still rebounds at an elite level, is a very good defender, a very good screener, and most importantly, protects Anthony Davis.  His price tag isn’t nearly as steep if you consider the skyrocketing cap, but I certainly wouldn’t argue that Asik is being underpaid.  Overall, I’m meh–not particularly excited, not particularly concerned.

JM: I grade it with a shrug. The Pelicans’ conference has a ton of big, bruising centers; Asik has his place on the roster if for nothing else than during the regular season. He may be situational in the playoffs but if the team doesn’t make it there then what does it matter? Asik will help in that regard. More than that he is a tradeable asset—something Demps likes to have. The Pelicans can’t bring in someone from a trade without sending something out. For that reason alone he’d be worth it to me.

4. Assuming Cole signs his QO, what would you do to round out this roster with the resources the Pelicans have?

MM: I want a couple of guys on 1 year deals, with Dante Cunningham being one of those guys. Bring back DC so that we have our top 10 all back next year, Then, go get a vet who can provide some help on the court and in the locker room (like Richard Jefferson) and maybe one project to see if you can develop. A 5th big wouldn’t hurt either.

GM: A little bit more wing depth. Guys like the ones the team has already been linked with (Dante Cunningham, Richard Jefferson, even Quincy Acy) who come to work, won’t cost much, and can effectively guard on the wing. Defensive versatility is key. Last season Pondexter and Cunningham were adequate, but the Pels need more than adequate. There isn’t a ton of space to work with but there is room to bring in a vet or two who can help in the locker room and still contribute on the court. Think Jared Dudley, who has been a big help to a young Bucks team and is staying there for less than 5 mil.

JG: This team needs wing help – especially on the defensive side of the ball. Outside of Jrue Holiday it really is a turnstile. Get guys on shorter deals – 1 year if possible. The Pels still have some sort of flexibility with the MLE and BAE up their sleeve. I’d love to look at Gerald Green or Corey Brewer too.

JC: In an effort to shore up the locker room, I’d try for Tayshaun Prince, then maybe Richard Jefferson. Both have experience and would likely help the young vets and new coaches. Additionally, while either could be valued on a contender for the same reason, neither will command more than the MLE. A one-year deal that can be traded in-season to add an over-MLE player would be nice, and other teams can sell the name to their fanbases. Other than that, fun min contract guys, keep some space for a waiver claim or somesuch.

MP: Shooting wings. Several of the guys have already mentioned Richard Jefferson and he’s a feasible option.  I’m not a big fan of Gerald Green, so I’d prefer not to go there.  KJ McDaniels is a guy I’d love to bring along slowly (certainly not known for his shooting), so if there’s a way to pry him from the Rockets, I would love that.  We don’t have that much money, so options are limited–but I think getting a couple of wings before or during this season is a necessity.

JM: I think they still need to add another deep-shooting swingman with the MLE. Target someone who can fill the role that Anthony Morrow did two seasons ago. With Pondexter potentially out until the start of the season adding some depth there is important.

5. Assuming the Pelicans are running back practically the same roster, what would the ceiling be for this team in 2015-16?

MM: 56 wins and/or a 2nd round playoff birth. I think anything short of 50 wins would be a disappointment, and continuity combined with health and a better system could easily lead to the Pelicans winning 10 or 11 more games. Whether they win or not in the first round will likely come down to matchup and/or health, but advancing beyond that would be tough in the Western Conference. This year, at least.

GM: When talking projections with this team there are two very frustrating words that always come up: “if healthy.” 50 wins should be the bottom line, but if everyone can stay healthy there is no reason this team can’t win ~55 games. A full season of Holiday (instead of a half), a full season of good Gordon (instead of 3/4’s), and a full season of good Anderson (instead of 3/4’s of inconsistent Anderson) with improved team defense under a new coaching staff could definitely increase the win total by 10. But more than that the Pels need post-season success. The West is so deep that you’ll have a tough matchup first round no matter what seed (see Clippers v Spurs) so I won’t put the burden of winning a series on them this year, but they should at least win a couple games. Stephen Curry and his Warriors’ second playoff appearance was a first round loss, but then this year happened.

JG: 52 wins and 2nd round playoff exit – more or less falls in line with McNamara’s prediction. My only thing is that the West is so damn good I feel like teams will cannibalise each other win totals. Some of their lesser teams will start to compete more strongly. They definitely will evolve and my belief is that it’s all dependent on health. This team needs to stay healthy – it’s so frustrating. It’s a positive time to be a Pelicans fan, with a healthier Anderson and Holiday there’s no telling how badly the Pelicans can make my prediction look. On either side of the spectrum.

JC: I’m not getting into wins, but I’d say the reasonable ceiling is 4 seed with a shot of luck. With a few shots, Conference Finals participation ribbon..
MP: 54 wins.  Realistically speaking, this team isn’t going to be ready to win a championship this season–the road is too long and too hard.. but I feel confident in saying that the Pelicans could certainly be in the 50-54 win range. This was a different team once it acquired Cunningham, Pondexter, and Cole last season. Assuming AD’s continued development and a boost from continuity, I think the Pelicans have a chance to make a real mark this season.  And if Darren Erman can help the team make gains on defense, watch out.

JM: Obviously it is higher than last season—especially if the team stays healthy. But the problem is the nuclear arms race occurring in the West. The Spurs look to be reloading. The Warriors are still the Warriors. The Mavs look like they will be improved. So will Memphis. While the Clippers and Portland will take a step back that is still some tough competition. But the Pelicans showed they can compete with anyone last season, and I think they’d like their chances if they were seeded 6th.

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New Orleans Pelicans Reportedly Bringing Back Omer Asik http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/02/new-orleans-pelicans-reportedly-bringing-back-omer-asik/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/02/new-orleans-pelicans-reportedly-bringing-back-omer-asik/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 12:00:26 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50288 The New Orleans Pelicans have reportedly agreed to terms with unrestricted free agent center, Omer Asik. The contract is for 5 years with an aggregate total value of around $58,000,000, along with incentives throughout and some non-guaranteed money in the final year.

General Notes

  • Asik was acquired by the Pelicans for a first round pick in the recent draft (18) and some filler contracts. He had just one year left on his deal. There was worry at the time by some that he would not re-sign with the team, but the team felt confident in bringing the center back.
  • Asik turns 29 on July 4th. His age each season through the contract will be 29, 30, 31, 32, 33. Since the final year is not fully guaranteed, one can view the contract as doubly expiring starting after the third season, at age 31. For reference, Tyson Chandler, a more complete center on the free agent market, commanded a 4-year deal at age 33 (when the season starts) worth about $13m per season. This is about $2m more per season for the older center.
  • Asik was acquired to both keep Davis from playing center against the biggest men in the game and also freeing up Davis to roam more on offense and defense. Additionally, Asik’s main role is on defense. He protects the paint well, even against guards, rebounds extremely well, and is savvy. He is by no means fleet-of-foot or graceful in a scoring or general ball-handling capacity, but the team has those skills in abundance. There are more complete centers, but they come with higher financial, and other, costs, as noted above. He also brings skills missing from the rest of this team.
  • The Southwest Division is loaded with talented big men, and that number is set to climb. The formula that we hear about the new NBA may have something to it, but the Cavaliers spent most of the season trying to get their big man, the Warriors have theirs, and the entire Southwest Division . . . and their big men . . . made the playoffs. There is a need for this team at this time to be able to battle against very good big men to make the progress they want to make.

More Detail

  • Asik was signed using Bird Rights, which the Pelicans were able to maintain since he spent 2 seasons in Houston who traded him to New Orleans prior to his lone season as a Pelican. This allows them to preserve their salary cap exceptions to sign role players from the market. In other words, the value of this signing is partially yet-to-be-determined. Signing another center off the market would have to have been done by trading an asset or using the Mid-Level Exception. The MLE has not done much to grab good big men so far this offseason (1 day), and this fact is historically true. As only Asik could have been signed using his Bird Exception, the choice is a sub-$6m center or Asik and whoever you get for the MLE. So . . . patience on fully evaluating the deal.
  • The deal seems to have the following structure: $10m, $10.75m, $11.5m, $12.25m, $13m (not fully guaranteed). This structure leads to a total of $44.5m in the first 4 seasons, $57.5m total. Incentives of $250,000 – $500,000 could be included, along with a couple million of guaranteed money in the final season. The details should come to light in the next few days or following the moratorium through leaks.
  • Asik is justifiably criticized for his short-comings, but he is unjustifiably ignored for what he does well.
    • He is an excellent rebounder. His Offensive Rebound Rate last season was 14.0, good for 8th in the NBA among players logging at least 1000 minutes. His Defensive Rebounding Rate is 28.8, good for 6th in the NBA in the same pool. In terms of total rebounding, the rate is 21.4, good for 4th in the NBA in that 1000+ minute pool. The only available player with better total rebounding rate is Deandre Jordan, who is choosing from a number of max deals.
    • His PER, which favors scoring to a degree, is 15.5, which is a little above average. Among players who are poorer scorers, this is a little above a little above average. His WS/48 is 0.12 which is above average, as well. While there are clear deficiencies in his play, what he does well more than overturns those by high-level metrics, all while excelling as a rebounder.
    • His Offensive Rating – Defensive Rating, an important statistic in evaluating effectiveness of play, was 7, which was second highest on the team among players with at least 1000 minutes. Ajinca as his 957 minutes had a difference of 10, Babbitt 7 in 830 minutes, and Withey 11 in 283 minutes. See a pattern? For reference, Davis led the team at 22. Jrue and Quincy were the only other players with positive differences, 2 and 4 respectively.
  • This contract puts his non-guaranteed season as the last season prior to Davis’ option season. Therefore, the team has the option to dump him if they feel forced to trade Davis early (see: Chris Paul) or to try to make a last ditch effort to change directions in that final year non-option year. Dell has used non-guaranteed contract to great advantage (see: acquiring Lopez, Asik).
  • Considering the first 4 seasons of the deal as that is the only real commitment he got from the team or all 5, Asik’s new contract is worth about what his prior contract was, on average, once the anticipated jump in the salary cap is taken into account. In both cases, his deal is worth about an eighth of the projected salary cap. This is not true this season (worth a larger share), and it will be untrue in the opposite direction (better value) after the ballooning of the cap. In other words, adjusting for NBA-inflation, his new deal is on average at least as good as his old deal. This deal like likely fairly tradeable, provided Asik is healthy, and maybe heatlth is not even required as the deal approaches the final season (see: Rashard Lewis contract).
  • There is worry that a player like Asik will not fit with Gentry. There are also natural comparisons to the Golden State team of the past season, with Asik paralleling Bogut, but with worse offense. I take such parallels with a grain of salt, because Steph Curry needs a way different supporting cast than Davis. Gentry got the job in part based on his pitch about how to use Davis, particularly on offense. I find it very unlikely that they signed Asik without reasonable expectations of being able to use him according to Gentry’s plan or to trade him. Keeping Davis farther from thr basket on defense more often will lead to more and better offense.
  • The deal can not be formally signed unitl July 9th due to the moratorium. This is standard across the NBA. The verbal agreements are effectively binding.

Earlier in the day, the Pelicans inked Anthony Davis to a massive contract extension. Later, they gave the recently married Alexis Ajinca a new contract, rounding out their front court for the season, as Ryan Anderson is under contract for his fourth and final season. The qualifying to Jeff Withey was rescinded, and he is an unrestricted free agent. The Pelicans can still go over the cap to sign him to a larger-than-minimum contract using Early Bird Rights.

The Pelicans still have some of their own free agents they can sign, plus the MLE and Bi-Annual Exception to work with before they are left only with trades and minimum salaries to improve the team.

Be sure to check out the open thread and @BourbonStShots for updates and analysis.

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Pels Bring Back Alexis Ajinca http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/01/pels-bring-back-alexis-ajinca/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/01/pels-bring-back-alexis-ajinca/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 23:30:27 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50278 Alexis Ajinca and the Pelicans reached an agreement on a four-year deal worth $20.2 million. Here is what a rounded yearly breakdown might look like:

2015-16 – $4,540,000

2016-17 – $4,880,000

2017-18 – $5,220,000

2018-19 – $5,560,000

The 27 year old will be entering his 6th year in the league. This past season was a good one for the 7 foot center, averaging a career high 6.5 points a game to go along with 4.6 rebounds in a reserve role.

Ajinca really showed his worth over a two-month period from February through March where he was asked to step into a bigger role with fellow big men Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson both missing extended time to injury. Over those 26 games Ajinca averaged a very productive 9.5 points and 6 rebounds, shooting 53.7% from the field in about 19 minutes a night.

Ajinca has gotten better every year he has been in the league and this year really proved he could be relied upon to be in the regular rotation. In previous seasons he would get in foul trouble too quickly to be put on the floor, but this season he made the most of his limited minutes. He really made strides in using his length on both ends of the floor, bothering opponents on defense and using his touch to punish bigs on offense. He posted a career high offensive rating of 113 and tied a career low 103 defensive rating.

He still gets himself into some foul trouble, averaging just under 6 fouls per 36 minutes (5.7), but he showed major improvements in that area. He should only continue to see improvement now that he can work with an extremely detail oriented guy in Darren Erman. It is yet to be seen how he would fit in the up-tempo offense expected to be implemented under Alvin Gentry, as Ajinca gets a lot of his offense from back-to-the-basket work. However, he does possess a fairly reliable mid-range shot and has gotten better in the pick and roll game, averaging 1.08 points per possession as the roll man.

Ajinca was resigned using Early Bird Rights so the Pels still have Bird Rights to Omer Asik, the MLE, and the Bi-Annual Exception as they operate over the cap. Ajinca’s deal won’t even account for 5% of the cap over the course of the deal with the expected jump in the salary cap looming, so this was not a very expensive signing and Ajinca got the pay raise he deserved. Good deal for both sides, especially if Ajinca continues to get better.

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Anthony Davis And The New Orleans Pelicans Agree To Contract Extension http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/01/anthony-davis-and-the-new-orleans-pelicans-agree-to-contract-extension/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/01/anthony-davis-and-the-new-orleans-pelicans-agree-to-contract-extension/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 13:15:55 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=50254 As the clock struck 11:01pm CST General Manager of the New Orleans Pelicans, Dell Demps, promptly offered Anthony Davis and his agency a 5-year/$145 million contract extension. The terms we’re accepted almost immediately as Davis formally becomes the centrepiece for the Pelicans for the next six years.

The move solidifies an assumption many have felt around the organisation that the deal would eventually get done. Davis, it appears is more than happy to continue his upward trajectory alongside new head coach Alvin Gentry who was also in attendance when terms were verbally agreed upon.

Michael McNamara discussed this back in July, 2014 to great detail, about the possibilities of signing Davis to an extension.

Contract Information

Anthony Davis extension structure

 

Red = Player option

The extension will officially start after the 2015-16 season in which Davis makes $7.07m, and the numbers above are an approximation based on a projected $89 million cap next year. He will have a player option after the fourth year meaning he can opt-out and become an unrestricted free-agent.

The deal makes Davis the Pelicans designated player, meaning that New Orleans could extend Davis on a five-year deal after his rookie contract as opposed to a four-year deal. They can only do this for one player on their roster (they could acquire another player on a designated contract via trade).

In order to receive the total amount of money included in the deal Davis must satisfy one of the three following conditions next season:

  1. Be named to an All-NBA 1st, 2nd or 3rd team
  2. Be voted to start in an All-Star game
  3. Win the MVP

In the unlikely event that he does not, he will not meet the Rose Rule qualifications and the deal will be approximately $20 million smaller over the five years.

The Pelicans Updated Salary Cap Situation

Pelicans current salary cap situaion

Red = player option
Purple = Qualifying Offer
Yellow = Non-Guaranteed

With the extension, the New Orleans Pelicans cap situation for this season does not change with nearly $6m in room (not including cap-holds of Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca etc.)

For 2016-17 the Pelicans will have just over $50m in total guaranteed salaries committed with Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson becoming free-agents. The salary cap is due to go up significantly so they will likely have enough room to operate (depending on what they do this free-agency) to bring in another sizable contract.

Pelicans 2015 Free Agency Resources

New Orleans still has all of their free-agent flexibility for this off-season. Should they re-sign Asik/Ajinca/Cunningham and go over the salary cap – the Pelicans will still have their MLE or BAE at their disposal.

The Future is bright, but the pressure is on to win

It’s been a long time since New Orleans basketball was in this position. They are back to having the sole focus on winning, and the goal is to win it all. Dell Demps and his staff deserve a tonne of credit for getting this done so quickly. After getting Gentry signed, turning this around is highly commendable.

Davis’ intention to stay with the club beyond 2016 means that the Pelicans now become one of the more attractive destinations for free-agents looking to sign long-term. AD’s ascension can only go further with All-Star appearances, All-Team NBA and MVP’s set in his sights.

Demps has assembled a cast of young-veterans all with plenty of room left to grow. The belief is that if the team can remain healthy that their progression can only go up.

The key will be playing together and the only way that can be done is if New Orleans can remain healthy. Holiday, Gordon, Anderson and even Davis have all missed a large amount of games over the past three seasons. Continuity will be a key (despite what others may perceive it as) and luckily that will exist after last seasons playoff appearance.

The roster turnover will be minimal with the Pelicans likely adding only another role player or two. They also will likely look to retain Asik, Cole and Withey who provide much needed depth.

Just as continuity is important, so too is understanding the pressure that is on to produce a winner. The Pelicans and their staff have a big task ahead of them. They need to take lessons from Chris Paul’s time in New Orleans as well as Lebron’s first stint with the Cavaliers. Not winning championships will be intolerable. The Pelicans will have until 2019 to build a sustainable championship contending roster around Davis, and if they fail to do that, Davis will have the power to threaten to opt out the following year, which could force the Pelicans to trade him before they lose him for nothing.

Having said that it is a very exciting time for New Orleans basketball – they will be the talk of the town. After losing Chris Paul, being in financial disrepair, having rumors that they could be moved; the organisation has completely transformed.

They now have a team in the hands of a local owner, have a world class practice facility, have renovated the New Orleans Arena, signed a sponsorship deal for the naming rights for said arena (now Smoothie King Center), hosted another All-Star game, made the playoffs and finally they now have their superstar locked up for the long-term future.

Bright times are ahead for the crescent city.

For more Pelicans free-agency news head to the open-thread which will be updated LIVE for any new information. 

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