The New Orleans Pelicans have done a great job this offseason of garnering a great amount of excitement for their new-look franchise.
By adding Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday the Pelicans have added to their explosively athletic roster which has in turn increased their expectations for the 2013-14 season.
The Pelicans' potential success lies within their ability to develop as a cohesive unit during training camp. To do that they need to understand who their leaders are and where their best talent is on their roster.
Well the Pelicans are in luck, because I'm going to take care of that for them. They can keep focusing on the upcoming training camp while I rank every player on their young roster.
No. 13 Darius Miller, SF
It's all bad news for the New Orleans Pelicans when it comes to Darius Miller because he's going to miss training camp and the start of the 2013-14 season.
Miller is sidelined with a stress fracture in his left foot—according to the Pelicans—and will be sitting for the next 8-12 weeks.
The good news for the Pelicans is that they don't really need to rush Miller, because thanks to the addition of Mr. Evans, they have all the talent they need at the small forward position.
By the time Miller returns, the Pelicans' core talent will have established chemistry, which means it'll be a challenge for him to break into the rotation.
No. 12 Anthony Morrow, SG
Interestingly enough, Anthony Morrow is tied with Eric Gordon when it comes to being the most veteran player on the Pelicans' youthful roster.
With five years he's going to be looked at for that valuable veteran leadership that every successful team needs.
Unfortunately, that's not necessarily the kind of player Morrow is, mainly because he hasn't been in the NBA long enough to establish himself as a veteran presence on and off the court.
The second problem is that he's not nearly good enough to get significant playing time for the Pelicans. He's stuck behind two younger, more explosive players—Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers—and that's where he'll be most of the season.
No. 11 Jeff Withey, C
There's no reason why Jeff Withey can't make a name for himself on the Pelicans this season.
He's one of two seven footers on the team and the other one, Jason Smith, has a terribly generic name and somewhat of a bum shoulder. That means Withey could earn himself playing time sooner rather than later.
The other good news for Withey is that while he's behind Greg Stiemsma on the roster, he's a more well-balanced player than Stiemsma, assuming his collegiate skill transitions smoothly into the NBA.
Withey averaged 13.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game last year for Kansas. Just think about having that kind of potential alongside Anthony Davis in the frontcourt. Yep, it's pretty exciting.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 4.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.2 BLKPG, 45.7 FG%
There are three things Greg Stiemsma does rather well.
The first is dunk, the second is block shots and the third is foul early and often.
There's no doubt that Stiemsma is a player who gets minutes because of his hustle. But he also loses minutes because he doesn't play with discipline while he's on the court.
I don't see that changing this year with the Pelicans and that means that Stiemsma could lose time to a more well-rounded player like Jeff Withey as the season chugs along.
Every team needs an enforcer, and that's exactly the roll Stiemsma will play for the Pelicans.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 7.1 PPG, 2.8 APG, 1.2 RPG, 41.7 FG%
Brian Roberts saw 17 minutes per game last season. A lot of that time was out of necessity because of injuries at the point guard position, and the Pelicans certainly hope that that isn't the case this season.
Roberts will enter training camp behind guys like Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans and Austin Rivers.
While guys like Evans, Gordon and Rivers aren't exclusively "point guards" they are hybrid players who can be inserted into the lineup at the point to create unique rotations, and that could limit Roberts' minutes.
The one thing that Roberts needs to work on if he wants to work his way into the rotation this season is his efficiency. He shot 41.7 percent last year and that just won't cut it with the new talent New Orleans has to put out on the floor.
Like last year, Roberts will need to be ready whenever the team needs him, because his time in the rotation will mainly come when injuries sideline the talent ahead of him.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 6.2 PPG, 2.1 APG, 1.8 RPG, 37.2 FG%
The Pelicans are hoping that Austin Rivers spent 24 hours a day working on his jump shot this offseason because last year his efficiency was a major detractor to the rest of his game.
A player can't shoot 37.2 percent from the field and expect to have a long career in the NBA, and that's the case for Rivers.
There's no doubt that he has potential to be a star player for New Orleans. but right now he's nothing more than a player with a high ceiling that's limited by his weaknesses on the floor.
The good news for Rivers is that he has solid talent around him who will help him shine, as long as he learns how to maximize his own talents. He can do that by focusing more on being a facilitator than being a scorer.
New Orleans needs a true backup point guard behind Jrue Holiday and Rivers can be that for them, but he has to be willing to pass first and shoot later. If he can't do that he'll lose time to other talent the Pelicans have, including guys like Brian Roberts.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 8.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 0.9 BLKPG, 49.0 FG%
There are two things holding Jason Smith's game—his inability to rebound and his low shooting percentage.
It's rather inexcusable for a seven footer to player more than 17 minutes per game and shoot under 50 percent and average less than four rebounds per game.
There's no doubt that Smith needs to develop a certain level of intensity to his game if he's going to make a name for himself on the Pelicans roster.
Without Robin Lopez, Smith has a stellar opportunity ahead of him, but he also has to overcome his own weakness and the torn labrum he's been recovering from since March of last year.
If Smith can add some tenacity on the glass this year and add defensive pressure in the paint, the Pelicans will have a shot at contending for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
If he doesn't, they'll be another team without a frontcourt identity solidifying them, and that's a vulnerable place to be when you're playing in the West.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 7.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.2 STLPG, 47.5 FG%
At this point, Al-Farouq Aminu is one of the best rebounders and defensive players the Pelicans have on their roster.
He ended last season with more rebounds than any of the returning or new centers. The problem with that is that he's a slash-forward who shouldn't be the second-leading rebounder on the team.
The good news is that he'll continue to rebound the ball that way simply because he's an athletic freak who has a knack for dominating the glass.
To take a step forward in his game this year, Aminu needs to take his mid-range game to the next level by increasing his efficiency.
Once he improves his ability to knock down perimeter jumpers, he'll be even more deadly around the rim because teams won't be able to guard his jumper while also guarding his dribble-drive game.
There's no reason why Aminu can't be a solid contender for the Sixth Man of the Year award this season. He has the physical and athletic capabilities to do it, and he also has the talent around him that will make him shine even brighter.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 42.3 FG%, 38.2 3P-FG%
Ryan Anderson brings range and depth to the Pelicans roster and he's really the only true, consistent deep threat that they have.
Not only can he spread the floor, Anderson can also earn a living in the mid-range and that certainly makes him a valuable player for the Pelicans roster.
To keep moving his game forward, Anderson needs to be more aggressive inside the three-point line. At times Anderson relies too heavily on the long ball and that can make him extremely one dimensional.
If Anderson can enhance his ability to play in the post and in the mid range, he'll be an even deadlier player on the perimeter and that is a key to the Pelicans success this year.
One more thing Anderson needs to do is to become a leader for this young team. He has the most experience on the team with five years under his belt, and that means it's time for him to lead. If he can do that, the Pelicans can have an identity on and off the court and make a some noise in the West.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.4 STLPG, 47.8 FG%
No one is more excited for the 2013-14 season to start than Tyreke Evans.
He's finally getting the fresh start that he needs, and he has the talent around him that will help him maximize his unique talents.
Each and every season it seems like Evans finds himself as one of the "most underperforming players" and the Pelicans are hoping that will change this upcoming season.
The good news is that the last three seasons Evans' efficiency has increased significantly. Could this be the first year he shoots at 50 percent from the floor? It certainly could be, and it would be in large part due to the talent he has around him.
With Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday on the floor with him, opposing defenses are going to have a hard time keying in on all three players, which means a solid chance for Evans to truly shine.
Evans has the ball-handling skills of a point guard and the size of a small forward. That rare mix of size and skill can make Evans a star in the NBA, but this year is the one that will either make or break Evans.
Let's hope he's up to the challenge.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.7 PPG, 8.0 APG, 4.2 RPG, 1.6 STLPG, 43.1 FG%
Adding Jrue Holiday instead of bringing Nerlens Noel alongside Anthony Davis was one of the most interesting moves of the past offseason.
There's a high likelihood that it will pay off for the Pelicans, but there's also a small chance that the talent on the roster will overshadow him.
With Philadelphia last season, Holiday was the main player running the show. That won't be the same with the Pelicans, with guys like Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans on the floor with him.
It will be interesting to see how Holiday meshes with the talent around him because he hasn't played with this amount and quality of talent during his entire career.
Holiday's biggest asset will be his versatility to be both a pure scoring point guard and a true facilitator at the same time.
This year is a great opportunity for Holiday to transition from being a good player to being one of the great ones in the Western Conference. He has all the talent around him that he'll need to accomplish that. He'll just need to figure out how to let those players help him realize his vast potential.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.8 BLKPG, 51.6 FG%
It's a shame that Anthony Davis didn't decide to leave the unibrow behind during the offseason. But either way, he's ready to be a dominant force this season.
Hopefully, Davis has been working on his mid-range game this offseason because that will enhance his ability to make an even bigger impact for the Pelicans around the rim.
Once Davis starts knocking down mid-range jumpers with lethal efficiency, teams will be forced to front guard him, which will allow him to beat them off the dribble and get to the rim—which is where he can truly earn his paycheck.
On the defensive side of the ball is where Davis will make a name for himself this upcoming year.
Davis needs to rely on his intelligence more than just purely his athleticism to become a next-level defender, and he can do that this season. He's had an entire offseason to study the game and increase his knowledge of the game.
If he's taken the time to do that, he'll find himself on the bench during the all-star game this season, which would be quite an honor for the second-year man out of Kentucky.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.0 PPG, 3.3 APG, 1.8 RPG, 1.1 STLPG, 40.2 FG%
Eric Gordon missed about half of the 2012-13 season thanks to a bum knee.
The good news is that he's had an entire offseason to rehab his knee and get back to full health. When Gordon is at full health he's a lethal offensive player, capable of carrying an entire team, and that's who the Pelicans hope they have this year.
Last season Gordon was forced to play a hybrid point/shooting guard role and that didn't truly compliment his style of game.
He had to create offense for himself and he was asked to facilitate at a high level too, which is why his shooting percentage was low and his assists per game weren't as high as they could be.
With Jrue Holiday running the point and Tyreke Evans and Anthony Davis drawing double teams away from him, Gordon will have the perfect opportunity he needs to be a star player for the Pelicans this season.