What Do New Orleans Pelicans' Additions Mean For Anthony Davis' Development?
Selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, Davis is regarded by many, such as ESPN's Justin Haven, as the second coming of Tim Duncan. His athleticism, shot-blocking ability and basketball IQ give him all the tools he needs to become one of the most dominant players in the league.
Usually, when a team picks a potential franchise player with star potential, the team surrounds that player with veterans and role players and waits for him to blossom.
This offseason, the Pelicans decided they weren’t going to wait on Davis' development to lead them to greatness. Instead, they traded for an All-Star in Holiday and acquired Evans, a former Rookie of the Year.
Do these moves make the team more competitive? Probably.
Does the presence of two ball-dominating guards, alongside Eric Gordon, hamstring the development of Davis? Possibly.
The only thing we know for sure is that there are four players on this team who need touches, and there's only one basketball.
Last season, the Pelicans featured an offense with the pass-first Greivis Vasquez and a shaky lineup that had to deal with Davis and Gordon’s nagging injuries. The scoring wasn't great (25th in the league according to NBA.com), and they ranked dead last in offensive pace, according to ESPN.
That shouldn't be the case with the new roster.
While the Pelicans’ offense last season was designed to score in half-court sets, this squad appears to be ready to run.
With the dynamic Holiday running the offense alongside Evans and Gordon (both strong, athletic guards), this team should be a terror on the fast break.
However, a faster-paced offense could severely limit Davis' scoring.
While the Pelicans’ trio of guards will be running down the court to score, Davis’ role might shift to securing defensive rebounds and starting the fast break with his outlet passes.
Not that those roles aren't incredibly important, but they’re not the tasks you assign to your budding star. Grunt work is essential to a team's success, but it should be an additional responsibility attached to the work of a superstar.
A limited role on offense is ideal for raw prospects and low-upside players.
Not the next great power forward.
New Team Trends
When a team wins the lottery and selects the next big thing, it tends to have a lot of patience and allows the player to develop into a star.
For example, the Cleveland Cavaliers paired LeBron James with Anderson Varejao and Eric Snow for James' first few seasons. And the Chicago Bulls played Derrick Rose alongside Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, a core that remains together even today.
In both cases, the No. 1 pick was allowed to become a star and shoulder all the responsibilities that come with the role while his supporting cast grew with him.
In the past, teams with a budding star have been content to build through the draft and sign players that complement the star.
However, it looks like that trend changed this offseason.
Sure, those moves make those teams better on paper, but as we learned with the Los Angeles Lakers this season, just bringing together talent doesn't win championships. Championship teams have a star that carries them through thick and thin, a star who's had the responsibility of carrying a team by himself and has learned from that pressure.
James had to be the man in Cleveland for several seasons before he before he knew what it really took to win, but at least he was given that opportunity.
Davis, who should be leading his team and carrying it for stretches at a time, will now be fighting for touches with three guards who all need the ball.
Teams are trying to win, and win now.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s a right and a wrong way to do it, and the wrong way is to bring together a bunch of talented youngsters who are all still looking to make their names.
How Davis Can Help Himself
It’s going to be tough for Davis to get touches; that much is certain.
This is pure speculation, but judging by the makeup of the roster, the scoring order could be Gordon, Holiday and Evans, followed by Davis as the fourth option.
That’s not ideal, but it’s a possibility.
However, there are still ways Davis can make an impact.
Despite his nagging injuries last season that limited his games and minutes played, he still averaged 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.
It’s tough to see how his scoring can improve with all of the mouths to feed on offense, but his rebounding and defensive stats should go through the roof.
The Pelicans’ guard trio is an offensive force, but they're not the most efficient bunch.
Gordon averaged 17 points with a 40.2 field-goal percentage last season, and Evans averaged two turnovers a game with a 33.8 three-point field-goal percentage. Holiday, for all his great play, still averaged 3.7 turnovers a game last season.
All of which means there’s going to be a lot of offensive rebounds and hustle stats for Davis to gobble up. If he can dedicate himself to the boards, there’s no reason he couldn't contend for the rebounding title next season.
Will the Pelicans' new roster hurt or help Davis' development?
Furthermore, given the three guards' athleticism, the Pelicans defense should be able to create a lot of disruption with deflections, blocks and steals. Davis will undoubtedly still be the defensive anchor of their team, and the quickness of his new teammates should help him lead one of the best defenses in the NBA.
The Pelicans’ new roster is certainly intriguing. They have the potential to contend for a playoff spot and run teams out of the gym with their athleticism.
Their moves may have made them better, and they’ll definitely win more games next season.
But whether those moves will help or hurt Davis’ ascension to superstardom is very much in doubt.
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