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11 Pelicans

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Of the eight players who took at least 100 three-pointers for the Pelicans last season, only two are with them to start the season: Anthony Davis and Dante Cunningham. Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, their most prolific shooters, are gone. (When Jrue Holiday will return is unclear.)

Those six absent players combined to make 489 threes, or 69.7% of the team's total. New forward Lance Stephenson hit 38.5% of his treys in 2015--16—but only 17.1% the season before. Terrence Jones isn't realistically a stretch four. Only Langston Galloway is serviceable from deep—but he's awful from everywhere else. So the Pels' shooting hopes rest on their first-round pick from Oklahoma, Buddy Hield.

They shouldn't have so much trouble scoring with a game-wrecker like Anthony Davis, whose overall play suffered last year from the increased load he shouldered on defense. The departures of Anderson and Gordon will help at that end. But unless Gentry can figure out how to space the floor for his best player, New Orleans will be hard-pressed to improve last year's 18th-ranked offense. Davis—who entered last season 3 of 27 from three but then knocked down 35 of 108—shouldn't have to carry the burden from the perimeter, too.

—R.N.

PROJECTED LINEUP | 2015--16 stats

COACH ALVIN GENTRY (2nd season with Pelicans)

2015--16 RECORD 30--52 (5th in Southwest)

PG JRUE HOLIDAY†

16.8 PPG; 6.0 APG; 43.9 FG%; 33.6 3FG%

SG BUDDY HIELD (R)

25.0 PPG; 5.7 RPG; 50.1 FG%; 45.7 3FG%

SF SOLOMON HILL

4.2 PPG; 2.8 RPG; 44.7 FG%; 32.4 3FG%

PF ANTHONY DAVIS

24.3 PPG; 10.3 RPG; 2.0 BPG; 49.3 FG%

C OMER ASIK

4.0 PPG; 6.1 RPG; 0.3 BPG; 53.3 FG%

BENCH

PG TIM FRAZIER

5.1 PPG; 3.2 APG; 2.2 RPG; 33.3 3FG%

SG TYREKE EVANS

15.2 PPG; 6.6 APG; 5.2 RPG; 43.3 3FG%

PF TERRENCE JONES*

8.7 PPG; 4.2 RPG; 45.2 FG%; 31.6 3FG%

*NEW ACQUISITION (R) ROOKIE, COLLEGE STATS †OUT INDEFINITELY FOR FAMILY REASONS

TELLING NUMBER 489

ENEMY LINES

A rival scout sizes up New Orleans

Alvin Gentry and the offense can bounce back to a degree. Last year they had to play so many guys that aren't even close to NBA-caliber offensive players. That said, I wonder if they'll be good enough defensively, because Alvin's going to put lineups out there based on offense.... They have Jrue Holiday, but he's going to miss some time because his wife [retired U.S. soccer player Lauren] has a [brain tumor]. So Tim Frazier's their starting point guard. I love Timmy; he'll play O.K. But it's not ideal when your starting point guard is a backup.... At the two, Tyreke Evans. Tyreke is solid. If they can find enough other guys who can shoot to put out there with him, he could be decent anchoring the second unit.... Buddy Hield can shoot, but I don't think he's going to be all that good an NBA player. Hield is a very good spot-up shooter; he's a decent shooter off some movement. He's not a great guy sprinting off a pindown for a catch-and-shoot three off elevation. But if they expect him to create for people, or be really hard to guard, or impact the game defensively, I don't see that coming.... They signed [small forward] Solomon Hill, and he's an O.K. player. He's sort of a poor man's Jae Crowder, but with kind of a bad attitude.... They signed Lance Stephenson also, so he's in this weird two-three mix. Lance is like Evans in a lot of ways. If I'm them, I'm a little worried about what I'm concocting there.... Anthony Davis doesn't look like he's in shape a lot of times, and then he's hurt a lot. But he can't play any worse than last year.

BOTTOM LINE

After a huge step back, they will inch toward the playoffs—but likely fall short.