Pelicans Scoop: Recapping the Off-Season

Published: September 28, 2016

With preseason right around the corner it’s time to start prepping for the season. But before we do that our writers recap and give their thoughts on the Pelicans’ off-season.


Which new member of the Pelicans do you think will have the biggest impact this coming season?

Jake Madison: I see the Pelicans defense as having the biggest improvement to make and the player most likely to help is Solomon Hill. With Pondexter being out to start the season, Hill is expected to be the team’s main perimeter defender. He can guard nearly 4 positions and will be key to the Pelicans switching scheme working on defense. If he hits a few threes that’ll cement this easily.

Jason Calmes: I’ll take Solomon Hill, and the main reason, and what should be the mainest most reason, is perimeter defense. I have to hold myself back because of this format in part because of Hill himself, but mostly because of vacuum he fills. Perimeter defense is where you get the most bang-for-buck on this team, and Hill brings it; the need, however, can not be overstated. Dude’s got some beef on him, too. He’s not this graceful, slick (shout out) cutter, but he’ll get to the basket and move without the ball in his hand. If I had to bet one way or the other, I’d say he’s moving up, and he’s got a little fire, which I like. I’ve been waiting for a guy who’ll sit there sharpening his tusks when he’s not on the court.

Nick Lewellen: I’ll take E’Twaun Moore to be different, and because our guards are currently in an undetermined, ambiguous state. Frankly, I don’t know about Jrue, Tyreke or Quincy this season, but I know Moore can play defense and shoot (at least a little). So if we’re talking straight value over the possible next option on the roster, I think Moore will bring the most to the table.

Shamit Dua: Langston Galloway. There is someone on the bench that will need to take shots. Who better than a 6’2” combo guard who will have the ball in his hands a ton? With Anderson gone, there is a desperate need for fire power from the bench, and I think Galloway is best suited to bring it. We saw Jrue look to gun while he came off the bench this year. Galloway will do the same. Thank god there isn’t Norris Cole to take the ball away from him.

Graham McQueen: For me it is Solomon Hill. He got the biggest contract of the new members for a reason. First real small forward that we’ve given a decent contract to in years. I wrote about it at the time of the signing but Demps is betting on Hill being a starting caliber player for us, and he hasn’t been that for the majority of his NBA career so far. But what Hill does bring is exactly what the team set out to get this offseason. If he continues to add that 3pt shot to his arsenal, he will be a big + for the Pels.


Of the less heralded guys, who has the potential to make the team and become a contributor?

JM: Chris Copeland seems to make the most sense. The guy can help space with the second unit which will help make life for Tim Frazier and company a little easier.

JC: I’ll take Jones here but only because I can’t call Stephenson unheralded. Jones is someone who was expected to be heralded at this point, but that didn’t pan out. He’s had issues in Houston, but he’s also a player with the kid of skills that can unlock a gear in this offense that has been hidden. He’s a capable ball handler who can do a few other things. Having a big, or big-ish, player with the credible ability to shoot, pass, or dribble . . . you know, the very basic so-called triple threat . . . is new, at least in terms of one to play with Davis.

NL: I’m not sure Jones or Stephenson count. To me, unheralded means the guy doesn’t have a great shot at making the roster without playing way above their abilities or help from an unfortunate event. We’re talking: Jordan Hamilton, Quinn Cook, Robert Sacre and below. Having said that, give me Jordan Hamilton, I guess, because he’s 6’ 7” and a “wing”, which is the trend right now.

SD: I agree with the other two that Stephenson doesn’t really count. I pick Chris Copeland. Someone needs to fill Babbitt’s shoes, and Copeland has the resume. A sharpshooting tweener forward, Copeland has the opportunity to give the Pels some spacing they sorely need. You know Gentry loves his shooters.

GM: As much as I want to pick a big (Jones doesn’t count), I don’t think the team will take another one on the roster. Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca, despite all the talk of competition for a starting spot, have been god awful for long stretches of their Pelican careers. Both at some point will be shown the door, but not just yet I think. So I’ll have to take Quinn Cook because he has the “tools” to fit under Alvin Gentry (plus go Duke).


Give us your prediction for the type of season Buddy Hield will have?

JM: Rookies tend to struggle in the NBA and I don’t expect Hield to buck the trend. He’ll get plenty of minutes and a chance to contribute, but expect to see a mixed bag. The Pelicans injuries to Evans, Pondexter and Holiday being out don’t help either, and if the Pelicans struggle, Hield may not find the open looks he needs to get in a shooting rhythm. Midseason I think you’ll see solid improvement and contributions, but the NBA season is a grind and you may see him wear out towards the end.

JC: I predict he’ll start hitting his stride in January, then start to burn out in early March. This is not a knock on Buddy, but it’s the hand he’s been dealt. The roster will be in flux, and his short-term play will stabilize late. Then, his steam will simply fade. If he’s kept to, say, 15 mpg in terms of a rolling weekly average, maybe he’ll last the season. Given the free agents who might be expecting minutes, this might work out.

NL: I’m hoping for Anthony Morrow’s rookie year with better defense. Don’t laugh. Morrow put up 10 points, 1 assist and 3 rebounds and lit it up from deep (46.7%) on a very bad Golden State team. In a more general sense, I think he’ll be a below league average player, if everything remains stable with the team. If the team gets in serious injury or roster issues, then i think his play will suffer a good bit, and he’ll be a clearly below league average player. Still, I think the Pelicans have enough guards on the roster to protect Buddy from himself and a traumatizing rookie season.

SD: I think it all depends on where he falls in the rotation. If he is given an opportunity to start, I think we can reasonably see him break the 10ppg barrier. If his minutes are ceded to more experienced players like Moore, Galloway, and Pondexter when he comes back, then I think you won’t see Mr. Buddy Buckets get buckets. I do predict he will have at least one crazy hot streak in a game. Elsewise, I think he will be as Gentry says a “typical rook”, some highs, more lows, poor defense.

GM: Slow start with promising spurts, then an ok middle marked by erratic but improved play, followed by a sputtering end. Things could be made easier for him if he gets the opportunity to play next to Jrue Holiday instead of Tim Frazier or Langston Galloway or E’Twaun Moore, but we’ll see. I think he might have a little more put on his plate than some would like but he seems like the kind of guy to step up to the challenge so it could work out to be a good thing. In a word, I’m hoping for very promising but I’ll settle for plain ol’ promising.


Did the Pelicans sign the type of players who can make a difference in the Western Conference?

JM: Probably not enough to really do much of anything in the playoffs. But overall these are the type of guys they need on the team. Solomon Hill can shore up the perimeter defense, and guard opponents’ best offensive players. Given teams like the Warriors and Spurs, that alone can be worth a lot.

JC: Eh, what’s a difference? Change the Western Conference Finals? Nope. Can they make the playoffs? In a generic, on-paper sense, yes. Will the reality of missed games play Commodus to the Pelicans’ Playoffs Hopes Maximus? Hmmmmmmm. The Pelicans are continuing with the same plan that they have publicly held for years, which is the Young Vets Plan. These vets play defense and are versatile. With Davis and Holiday, the way to make a difference is to set the table for their efforts to put you over the top. The top here, being 45 wins, sadly.  

NL: This year? Honestly, No. I think their high bar is low to mid 40 wins. If some injuries go their way maybe they sneak their way to a dishonest 47 win season. The real question is can any of these guys make a difference in the Western Conference 2-3 years from now. That is, can they be part of a trade to bring in bigger and better pieces? Or, can they be part of a long term foundation around Davis. I think both of those realities are possible, and this is the season to find out.

SD: No. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t set themselves up for the future as Nick says. I believe they went out and got lower variance players. Players who don’t have the spectacular nights guys like Anderson and Gordon can have, but players who likely won’t go 3-13 with horrendous defense. Instead, we got a control group. A group Dell and company hope they can set a baseline with and find meaningful data to evaluate. A group the ideally gives them a good idea of their true needs down the road.

GM: They signed a couple guys who change a few specific things about this team and who can help Anthony Davis on the court. Davis has the talent to impose his will on every team in the league, so if they help him be better then yes they can make a difference in the West. But my real answer would be…Eh, they still need more to really make noise. The team’s absolute ceiling sits somewhere around 45 wins, but the 6th through 9th seeds in the West last year were all within 1 game of .500, and that could be the case again this season. So the Pels could potentially knock a projected team out of the picture, but being a spoiler for another team is the ceiling of their difference making.


We have to ask, give the Pelicans’ off-season a grade.

JM: I’ve said all off-season that I’ve been a bit underwhelmed by the moves made. They didn’t sign any difference makers (not that they could), and they didn’t go out and blow money on bad players. So this offseason they make perfectly adequate moves. To me that is a B-. With potential to grade out higher depending on how these new additions play.

JC: Where an A+ is signing Durant and a C is treading water, I give this team a B with a chance at a B+ if their bets come in. The did what they needed to do, made some good signings, kept their future flexible. Some say you don’t get credit for doing what you should do, but so many teams don’t. Behaving counts. Poise counts. If the team were better before, maybe I’d shift the grades, but they weren’t, so I’m not, so nyah.

NL: It’s a B, but I said on several podcasts that I wanted a B. We don’t live in a single, discrete move world. Stuff happens, then after that more stuff happens based off of what happened with the stuff before. Get it? This offseason the Pelicans tried to get some solid doubles and singles. I think that those moves may work out, but I’m far from certain. That’s part of why it is a B and not higher. The other more significant part has to do with the future. This offseason was about setting up for the offseason to come between now and the end of Davis’ current contract. So, this offseason’s grade depends on that, and yes, I reserve the right to change and modify this grade based on new information whether you like it or not.

SD: I give them a C+. It’s passing, it gets the job done, but it’s nothing to write home about. Maybe the curve will kick in and it will end up better than expected, but it’s not likely.

GM: I was not given a rubric for the grading so I am just going to wing it here. I think they accomplished almost exactly what they set out to accomplish, so in that sense they get an A-. When you compare to what some other teams did I still think their offseason holds up. They didn’t give out horrible contracts to overpriced talent and got multiple guys who will contribute, so in that sense I’d give them a B. The reality is they weren’t in a position to get a top level free agent, same with most other teams. The thing about Free Agency is that the Free Agents get to choose. You can have a better pitch than another team but the player just likes the other city more, doesn’t like seafood, and is a fan of snow. Too bad, so sad. So I won’t hold that against them. I give them a B, B+.

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