5 Things We Learned About New Orleans Pelicans After Week 1
A week is a small time from which to learn about a basketball team, but there are plenty of takeaways to digest from the opening week of the New Orleans Pelicans 2013-14 season.
After a preseason filled with hype and high hopes, the Pelicans showed us a glimpse of what they're all about when the bright lights turn on. Have they lived up to the lofty expectations? Yes and no.
Going 1-3 through four games will dampen anyone's mood, but there's plenty to like despite the tough start.
Let's delve inside the facts and figures of the Pelicans and see what we can draw from their first week as a unit. As Jay-Z famously quipped, "Men lie, women lie, numbers don't."
Anthony Davis Is the Real Deal
Davis is the team leader in four separate statistical categories and has looked every bit the player that many believed he could be coming out of Kentucky.
The rarity of what he's doing is almost unparalleled. Per ESPN Stats and Info, Davis is the first player with 15 points and three blocks in his first four games since David Robinson did so in 1997. Rubbing shoulders with a Hall of Fame player is a great early achievement for the young big man.
A major factor in his impressive production has been Davis' ability to shoulder a heavier burden. After playing in just 28 minutes per contest during his rookie year, he's upped that average to 38, a huge step forward that speaks to the improved physical shape he first displayed in training camp.
One of the fine writers for this site—ahem—predicted Davis would be an All-Star and the Pelicans MVP this year. He's making a strong case for both thus far.
Anthony Morrow Will Provide Valuable Shooting off the Bench
Lost in the hubbub over the team's flashier signings, Anthony Morrow has proven to be one of the better acquisitions of the offseason for the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Pelicans core of Holiday-Gordon-Evans-Anderson-Davis is under contract for the foreseeable future—accounting for almost all of the Pelicans cap by themselves. Due to the rigidness of this quintet, finding cheap contributors is of the utmost importance for general manager Dell Demps.
It seems they've found one in Morrow. Known for his three-point shooting, Morrow has excelled at exactly that for the Pelicans, shooting a blistering 61.5 percent from deep through four games.
Having a bomber like Morrow allows head coach Monty Williams to toy with different lineup combinations and lessens the impact of non-shooters such as Al-Farouq Aminu on the Pelicans' floor spacing.
There's Nowhere to Go but Up for Tyreke Evans
It has not been pretty for Tyreke Evans so far. After missing most of the preseason with an ankle injury, Evans might be a case study on the merits of preseason basketball.
Don't interpret that as an endorsement of the NBA's exhibition slate. It's still filled with bad basketball and roster flotsam that otherwise would never see time on the pro hardwood. But getting those early reps to shed the cobwebs built up during the summer is an important step for many players.
Evans has been simply dreadful so far, averaging seven points, 3.8 assists and 3.3 rebounds on 29.3 percent shooting. If there's a basketball equivalent of the Mendoza Line, Evans is under it, and then some.
The good news is he can't possibly continue to play this bad. When Evans' game picks up and falls more in line with his career averages of 17.3 points, 4.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds on 44.7 percent shooting, it'll give a big boost to his new club.
Even if the counting stats aren't flashy in a smaller role than he's accustomed to, the normalization of his efficiency is on the horizon.
Jrue Holiday Is Not a Finished Product
Jrue Holiday came out of the gates blazing in New Orleans—minus this slip-up—to the tune of 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists. It was the type of performance GM Demps hoped he would be getting regularly when he traded for Holiday this summer.
Unfortunately, Holiday is not good enough yet to constantly churn out games like that debut, and he faces the unique challenge of trying to increase his mastery of his position while adjusting to a new set of teammates.
The turnover issues that plagued Holiday in Philadelphia and this year's preseason are still lingering. He has coughed the ball up four times per game through four contests, an unacceptable number that he must cut down.
Of course, Holiday's maturation process underscores a larger-scale story surrounding the Pelicans.
They're Still Building Chemistry on the Court
Despite the considerable amount of talent that has been stockpiled in New Orleans, the Pelicans are far from a finished product.
After losing to the Phoenix Suns on November 5th, Coach Williams stressed that accounting for all the new faces could be an issue for his young squad, though he told John Reid of The Times-Picayune that it's not necessarily a good explanation in his eyes.
For whatever reason, I don't think it has anything to do with the other team. I think it's just us learning how to play together, learning how to do something with guys you never played with before. But to me, that's a bit of an excuse. It's still basketball. You're playing to win.
Williams seemed a little dismissive of something that is a real issue for all teams, not just his own. Teams must combat issues of mismatched pieces all the time—what's to say overcoming something like a lack of outside shooting is much different than working through chemistry issues?
Without the in-game knowledge of the strengths of their teammates, like where they prefer to get the ball, it's unwise to expect an inexperienced group to play to their maximum potential right away. The early record isn't pretty, but this is a small stretch of a long road.