The secret to good New Orleans gumbo is allowing the ingredients to marinate together. That philosophy should be applied to the New Orleans Pelicans, thus allowing their core guys another year to show their collective value.
On paper, the hub players of this squad looked impressive. Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans comprised the backcourt rotation, and Anthony Davis was back to further instill the fear of the brow in opponents.
Health was the biggest rival of this group with the four of them missing a combined 91 games. Holiday missed a lion’s share of that figure with 48, but Evans is the only player of the remaining three who played in more than 70 contests.
That is all the more reason for a 2014-15 do-over. Head coach Monty Williams needs the chance to show what this club is capable of when these athletes are all present and accounted for.
Despite the losing record, there were still some positive things that point to a much brighter future for this franchise.
Reasons for Optimism
The Pelicans finished eight games below .500 this season but managed to tally seven more victories than they did for the 2012-13 run.
Granted, an ending that brings the team’s streak of losing campaigns up to three is not desirable; however, the final count is a step in the right direction.
Focusing on totals in the win-loss columns distracts from the strides made by the players who carried the load on the court.
Davis was the team’s biggest standout.
The former Kentucky Wildcat increased his output in points, rebounds and blocks during his sophomore season. His offensive repertoire expanded, yet he shot a sensational 51.9 percent from the field.
Evans had a rough time meshing in the beginning but found his groove in 2014, especially when injuries put him in the familiar capacity of being a starter.
The fifth-year guard really helped bring stability to the half-court set in the closing weeks.
When faced with such a shortage of talent, the best thing that can happen is for a player to step in and carry the load.
Both Davis and Evans did just that for the Pelicans this year. Combine their elevated play with the returning skill sets of Holiday and Gordon, and it’s easy to see why this group needs another go.
The Biggest Challenge Ahead
The timing of each core player’s injuries really limited what Williams was able to do about establishing a solid rotation.
Not having some players did allow for others to grow, but the impact of that growth presents quite a quandary going forward.
Holiday is definitely the starting point guard upon his return, but Evans has been very solid in the first unit. Even coach couldn’t deny it. Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune quoted Williams as saying, “His effectiveness as a starter, you can't just sneeze at that.”
Nakia Hogan, of the same publication, reported that the Pelicans’ sideline strategist has even mulled relegating Gordon to the bench next season.
These kinds of issues show why this collective needs more opportunities to jell.
The timing of their injuries happened separately, and the randomness of the occurrences limited the chances Williams had to see how they fit with his overall scheme.
Making sure these players are all brought back gives the coach a fair chance to figure out how to best utilize their abilities. Davis makes the frontcourt rotation pretty easy to determine; establishing exactly how to make use of Evans and Gordon is a bit trickier.
Play Them Again for the First Time
What is the 2014-15 ceiling for the New Orleans Pelicans if all of the core players are brought back?
Quoting from the aforementioned Hogan article, Williams is well aware that there is no need to dismiss this assemblage: “This year it's hard to evaluate it just because the sample size is so small.”
There is no doubt that players and coaches alike are going to spend the summer improving their individual talents while thinking of ways to best contribute to the team.
Sure, the season may not have been as successful as one may have liked, and while certain prospects did not have panned out as well as expected, the year’s hiccups necessitate another look.
This faction can benefit the Pelicans in different ways. If Williams can come up with an effective scheme, this team will run most opponents off of the floor. In case the group falters, some could serve as trade chips in a retooling effort.
Either way, more time for a fair assessment is the best way to go. Figure out exactly what the team has, and use that to mold the franchise’s direction.
Let this player soup simmer in order to gauge its true flavor.