The Fall of the Pelicans

5374-77000-original.jpgPhoto Credit: Derick E. Hingle

It was just eight months ago the Pelicans made history by becoming the first six seed or lower to sweep the first-round series. The Pelicans made quick work of the Blazers, and the league was discussing the dynamic duo of Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis. Holiday was looking like a star point-guard going toe-to-toe with one of the games best Damian Lillard, while Davis was thriving with the spacing of the Pelicans after the Cousins injury.

Fast forward to October 17th, the NBA season opens and the Pelicans travel to Houston. The Pelicans were able to dominate the Western Conference runner-ups 131-112, with an offensive clinic shooting over 53%. During that game, everyone saw the Pelicans that swept the Blazers, an Anthony Davis that was hungry for MVP, and a team that could be dangerous for any team in the playoffs. Fansided said, “The Pelicans have picked up right where they left off, with an MVP candidate and putting the league on notice.” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said, “It was a good win for us, but to be honest, we feel like if we play at the level we’re supposed to — we’re not surprised.” The Pelicans were in the top 10 in ESPN power rankings, and the league was on notice… until it wasn’t anymore.

anthony-davis-demarcus-cousins-road-red.jpgPhoto Credit: NBA.com

As quick as the Pelicans rise started it ended. The Pelicans now sit at 24-31 and 13th in the Western Conference. So, the question remains what happened. Spacing. Spacing. Spacing. People praise Anthony Davis and see his immense talent, yet the Pelicans have yet to get over the edge. The issue with the Pelicans early last year before the Cousins injury was the fit between Davis and Cousins. In theory two of the best bigs in the NBA should be a dangerous combo, but in the modern NBA spacing is so crucial. Even with both of their ability to step out and hit threes, neither is at their best on the perimeter and with Cousins in the game, Davis had a far more clogged lane. Julius Randle and Anthony Davis cause the same issue, with both on the floor Davis’ talents can’t be fully utilized.

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Photo Credit: Amazon.com

If Davis is going to be at his best where ever he moves to, he needs to go to a situation like Giannis has in Milwaukee. Giannis is able to play with 4 shooters spreading the floor, with nobody at the rim when he chooses to attack, this would be crucial for Anthony Davis. Not just some possessions every possession. The biggest difference between last two years Bucks and this year? Greg Monroe is gone and John Henson minutes of shrunk to just over 10 a game (when Giannis is on the bench). Giannis strictly plays PF or C, and when at PF, Lopez is in at Center who also happens to lead Milwaukee in three-point shooting. The Pelicans first-round sweep was built with Mirotic as the only other PF/C in the rotation, Mirotic shot more threes than twos, and the Pelicans demolished the Blazers.

Davis must go to a place where he is the ONLY interior player in the rotation. That means not going to Milwaukee to pair with Giannis. Spacing is the key in the modern NBA, the Pelicans have not figured that out yet, hopefully, Davis’ next team will. Whether it was Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, Cousins and Davis, Giannis and Monroe, or Griffin and Drummond, two bigs does not work, and for a unique talent like Giannis or AD a 7-foot ball-handler who can thrive inside, the paint must be clear for 35mpg (or whatever time they are on the floor).

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