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2013 W-L Record: 27-55 (fifth, Southwest Division)
Projected starters under 25: Anthony Davis (20), Al-Farouq Aminu (22), Jrue Holiday (23), Eric Gordon (24)
2013 Draft Picks: Jeff Withey (39th overall), Pierre Jackson (42nd overall, via Philadephia)
The Pelicans have done themselves a huge favor over the past few seasons by staying patient and stockpiling young talent.
Truth be told, the Pelicans played it smart from the minute Chris Paul was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. In exchange for the NBA's best point guard, New Orleans received Eric Gordon, who still has the potential to be one the NBA's best shooting guards, and Al-Farouq Aminu, an athletic swingman who averaged 7.3 points and 7.7 rebounds in 27.2 minutes per game last season.
In addition, the Pelicans received the rights to Minnesota's 2012 first-round draft pick, which they used to draft Austin Rivers.
The verdict is still out on 21-year-old Rivers and whether he has the potential to make a serious impact at this level. Still, the 2012 NBA draft was a huge victory for New Orleans, thanks to their first selection.
The turnabout in the franchise's fortunes started with last year's NBA draft lottery, when New Orleans won the top overall pick and landed cornerstone Anthony Davis. "The Brow" wasn't an immediate superstar in his first season, but he flashed signs of being a special player down the road. In 28.8 minutes per game, Davis averaged 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, proving that his reputation as a disruptive force on defense at Kentucky carried over to the NBA without much pause.
This year, instead of banking on the potential of No. 6 selection Nerlens Noel, the Pelicans pulled off a fantastic trade to bring young All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans. The prospect of a Noel-Davis frontcourt is tantalizing, but the Pelicans were intelligent to take the safer bet, especially when you consider the fact that Noel is still recovering from a torn ACL.
To top off a great offseason, the Pelicans bolstered their bench by signing a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate—that is, if everything goes as planned—in Tyreke Evans.
Like many squads, New Orleans' future is primarily dependent on health. Davis missed 13 games over the first two months of his rookie season, while more importantly, Eric Gordon missed 40. Gordon has yet to play over 80 games in a single season.