What is Left to Watch For?

(Note: Graham McQueen was a big help on this and contributed a lot of valuable thoughts.) 

The All Star break has come and gone. The trade deadline passed with a whimper. 55 regular season games have happened, and the Pelicans are 22-33. The playoffs are a long shot and quickly approaching impossible. Considering this offseason some fans believed the Pelicans had a chance at home court advantage in the first round, things have been disappointing.

Yet, like most things in life, you can’t quit halfway. There are still 27 games to be played. Of course, that doesn’t mean any of us have to watch them, but we probably will. Yesterday, McNamara put out a piece saying that no game is pointless, and I tend to agree. So here are a couple of simple questions; what can the team gain from these last 27 games, and what should fans watch for?

Ryan Anderson’s Last Games

I know many of us were disappointed in the lack of activity at the trade deadline. Ryan Anderson was supposed to leave in a trade that netted us some bright, young assets for the future. It didn’t happen. Forget about that for a second. Pretend the Pelicans are a college team for just a moment.

Anderson is an incredible human being, who has been through a lot since he has come to New Orleans. In fact, here is a link in case you don’t remember. He’s also a pretty good player. He’s not having his best year, but he has still been pretty good. Now, I do think there is a chance that the Pelicans resign him this offseason. Though, if I had to make a bet today, I’d say he leaves. That means we are probably watching his last games as a Pelican.

In short, Ryan is probably a fourth year senior on a team that isn’t very good. We won’t seem him ride out of town in playoff glory, and I think that is fine. Or, I want that to be fine. As fans, we rarely get to cheer on guys we actually like as people. Enjoy it.

Jrue Holiday

We have a few things in the works about Jrue at BSS so I won’t go long, but I want this team to figure Jrue out. That is, I want some cognitive dissonance relieved. At the trade deadline, reports came out that Holiday was effectively untouchable. This implies that two players are part of the Pelicans longterm plans: Holiday and Davis. Great.

On the other hand, Holiday is still on the bench, which minimizes his playing time with the other franchise building block. Why? I understand and know the short term benefits, but the time horizon for this team is beyond these last few games. I’d like to see the team refocus its energy from winning today towards building a bond between its two best players. I think that starts with putting Holiday back in the starting line up and maximizing his time with AD, but it can be achieved through other means.

Of course, this is all dependent on Holiday finishing this season healthy, which is almost certainly the most important thing to keep an eye on as this season winds down.

Coach Gentry

I honestly don’t know if hiring Coach Gentry was a mistake. Part of me is sympathetic. I don’t think any coach could reasonably be expected to overcome our early season injury woes. Yet, some of his rotations and decisions have infuriated me, and are we sure we really want to construct his dream roster? Will the payoffs be worth the costs? Ultimately, it is hard to be too angry considering he doesn’t have the pieces he wants to play with.

So I want the team to spend the last quarter of the season monitoring Gentry for progress. Will the guards start to make better choices? Can he keep the team engaged? Will the defense defend anyone? It may be to early to turn back on a new coach after one year, but I think a lot can be learned about a coach and their system when there is little left to play for.

Anthony Davis

This season has been rough for him, but as the Detroit game reminded us, he has the potential to go supernova the last 27 games or so. Draft pick position be damned, I say. Let him go off. Frankly, I’d rather seem him respond to the adversity and pressure than see our pick move from 6 to 5, and I think that could benefit the team more long term than a top pick.

He is also playing for more than wins at this point. He needs to make an All NBA Team to qualify for a 25 million dollar bonus under the Rose rule. As a fan, that might not get you excited, but I think taking a larger role on offense could be huge for AD’s development. So this is a situation worth keeping an eye on beyond just cap finances and entertainment.

Bryce Dejean-Jones

For all intents and purposes, BDJ is the Pelicans draft pick from the 2015 NBA draft. Yes, he was un-drafted, but his contract situation is practically identical to a rookie’s. Now, I think it is a little disingenuous to call BDJ a “young player” or prospect considering he is over 6 months older than Anthony Davis. But, to be fair, he is still developing as an NBA player despite a whole bunch of experience in college.

Dejean-Jones hasn’t been perfected, but he has been solid. He makes mistakes, but he seems to have a high IQ. He looks experienced, though occasionally uncomfortable, when he is on the court. Some of his shortcomings may be alleviated with more playing time. That’s something we can find out before the end of the season.

Most importantly, the Pelicans need to find out where he can fit in their plans. Is he someone for the long haul? Can they pump his value up and use him as a sweetener for a trade? These types of questions can be answered over the last 27 games of the season.

The Draft

Figure out what you want to do with that pick. Historically, Dell has shown he doesn’t value the draft, unless he can get a top player. Generally, I’m okay with that, but I have two caveats. First, a lot of people are selling on what may be a weak draft. So a first rounder doesn’t have a lot of trade value. Second, there is nothing wrong with zigging while everyone zags. A lot of teams are going to ignore the draft and spend big in free agency. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Pelicans go the other direction and focusing on the draft and saving their money or focusing that cap space on a couple different diamond in the rough types.

If the Pelicans do focus on the draft, they need to spend this last 27 games evaluating their current roster. They need to determine which guys are in the long and short term plans. Then, identify the guys that can fill those games. Look, I’m not bullish on this draft outside of the top 3 or 4, but I think there are at least a couple of guys that could fit on the wing at a guard spot. The rest of the season is the team’s time to decide if they agree.

3 responses to “What is Left to Watch For?”

  1. Nice article! I actually really hope that Ryno gives the Pels just a tiny “home town” discount and stays. I really like the idea of AD, Jrue and Ryno as the core.
    Watching them all go nuts last night against the Thunder was great!
    Also, watching the game last night… C-Webb was speaking the TRUTH all night! AD needs to accept that he is going to be the modern NBA center and Jrue and Ryno should be starting along side him!

    • Easy for us to say sitting on the sideline. Also, easy for C-Webb to say, seeing that his best years were at Power Forward, with Divac and Pollard taking all the bumps and bruises down low. AD plays a good portion of his minutes at center, and always finishes games there. It would be better for the team in a vacuum, if AD could play center and stay healthy. But that has yet to happen, so for now, the Pelicans need to find some wings who can defend and hit an open shot. One step at a time

  2. Like the article. I would like to say that given AD’s seems to be hurt more than any otherworldly player in the NBA, the Pels have no choice but to keep Ryan. Sorry but AD averages about 15 missed games a year. That kills playoff chances on any team. I’ve been impressed with Bryce since his second game when he finally showed what he could do. I love his ability much more than Tyreke’s. He’s shown ability to get into lane and his range is greater.

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