A MODEST PROPOSAL ...
SCOUR THE WING MARKET
Your appreciation for Anthony Davis only grows when you consider who the Pelicans roll out for regular minutes on the wing. At 6'4", E'Twaun Moore, the best of the bunch, can hit threes, put the ball on the floor in a pinch and defend similarly sized guards well enough. Unfortunately, he often has to check bigger, rangier forwards. Then there's Darius Miller, the shooter who can't defend, and Solomon Hill, the defender who can't shoot. It's no surprise that coach Alvin Gentry has tried to play two point guards together whenever possible. Getting Jrue Holiday on the floor with Elfrid Payton (or Rajon Rondo last season) means there's one fewer wing position to account for.
That works to a point, but the Pelicans are in desperate need of quality perimeter talent. Maybe a forward on a deeper team (like Marcus Morris in Boston, or Thabo Sefolosha in Utah) comes available. A fire sale in Portland could spring loose Maurice Harkless, or a buyout might create a lane for Trevor Ariza. The G League could be a viable option, considering the rotation talent that teams such as the Clippers and the Heat have found there. No matter the course, the Pelicans owe it to Davis to find a solution.
COACH ALVIN GENTRY
2017--18 RECORD: 48--34
PREDICTION: Lose 1st round
PG ELFRID PAYTON [NEW ACQUISITION]
SG JRUE HOLIDAY (29 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])
SF DARIUS MILLER
PF JULIUS RANDLE [NEW ACQUISITION] (72 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])
C ANTHONY DAVIS (5 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])
Davis was the top shot blocker for the third time in his six-year career. Thanks to his rim protection, Davis was third in the league in defensive win shares (4.9).
PF NIKOLA MIROTIĆ
SF SOLOMON HILL
PG E'TWAUN MOORE
(*) NEW ACQUISITION
(#) SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP NEW ORLEANS
IF YOU had to pick a playoff team to take a step back in the West, it's probably them. Is there a significant drop-off between RAJON RONDO and ELFRID PAYTON? That's the biggest thing for me. If Payton can bring the same elements, they shouldn't miss a beat. But if not, if that means two or three games, it could be the difference between making the playoffs or not.... ANTHONY DAVIS showed how special he is, and all he has to do is be able to stay healthy. He's exceptional in every element of the game, and he's making threes now. He's a much better fit at center, where he's more of a matchup nightmare, covering ground and blocking shots. Their struggles are the supporting talent.... They got a heathy season from JRUE HOLIDAY, and he showed how dynamic he is. He's become 1-B for them. If Payton can handle Rondo's role and allow Holiday to focus on being a scorer and defender, it'll be huge. Not having to be a distributor really freed up his ability to make an impact on offense.... The way NIKOLA MIROTIĆ played for them, he showed a lot of that in Chicago—he was just more consistent. He had a great year. This is the guy the Bulls thought they were getting when they first had him. It just never clicked as often. As a stretch forward with a driving element at 6'10", he and Davis fit so well together right from the start.... They overpaid for SOLOMON HILL. His shooting numbers will have to come up for him to justify that [four-year, $48 million] contract. He does have some defensive versatility, but they need more from him.