NBA 2013-14 Western Conference Preview: New Orleans Pelicans, no. 12

With the 2013-14 NBA Season just around the corner, Ball So Hard is bringing you the definitive ranking of every NBA team, counting down each conference from 15-1. Think we’re wrong? Let me know in the comment section below.

Western Conference no. 12 – New Orleans Pelicans                                                                                          

Image: Eliot Kameitz | AP Photo/The Advocate

Image: Eliot Kameitz | AP Photo/The Advocate

Players Added

Rookies: Jeff Withey

Free Agents: Anthony Morrow, Greg Stiemsma, Lance Thomas, Arinze Onuaku

Trades: Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday

Players Lost

Free Agents:

Trades: Terrel Harris, Robin Lopez, Greivis Vasquez

Waived: Louis Amundson, Xavier Henry, Roger Mason Jr.

The Story So Far

New Orleans is another team who has made several major changes in an attempt to climb the rankings in a tough Western Conference.

Trading Chris Paul turned the franchise upside down and left the team without a cornerstone player, especially once Eric Gordon proved to be more of a locker room problem than a leader.

Their fortunes took a dramatic turn when they stole Anthony Davis from under the nose of Charlotte last season. Davis’ unique combination of defensive dominance and guard-like agility and skill set gives him the potential to become one of the best players in the league. If the former Kentucky Wildcat continues to improve, the pain of losing Paul and watching him lead the Clippers into the playoffs should be somewhat numbed.

The most publicized move made in N’awlins might be the teams’ name switch from Hornets to Pelicans, but don’t let the humour of their new moniker overshadow the personnel moves they made during the offseason.

On draft night, they added one-time All-Star Jrue Holiday in exchange for the unproven Nerlens Noel and a future first round pick. And they also secured the signature of former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans in a sign-and-trade deal that sent Greivis Vasquez to Sacramento.

After several years anchored to the bottom of the Western Conference, the Pelicans finally have an exciting young core that can help them climb back up the standings.

Their trio of guards gives coach Monty Williams plenty of options for different lineups and play styles. All three are great ball-handlers, but all bring different skill sets to the team. Gordon is an excellent outside shooter, Evans is a great slasher who can get to the line, and Holiday is a solid passer who can also create his own shot.

Davis’ athleticism and Ryan Anderson’s ability to shoot from the outside in transition will allow Williams to go with smaller lineups and play an up-tempo style that should, at the very least, be fun to watch.

While there have been major improvements in the Big Easy, the Western Conference is full of tough and improving teams, and the Pelicans still lack depth in the front court.

They wont make the playoffs this season, but New Orleans is well placed, and one free agent/trade/Anthony Davis breakout season short of making the jump.

The Big Question

Can Eric Gordon stay on the floor and deliver on the promise he came packaged with from Los Angeles?

Since being traded from the Clippers, Gordon has only played in 51 of 164 possible games for New Orleans.

Before he joined the then Hornets, Gordon was an exciting young prospect coming off of his first 20 plus points per game season. His combination of outside shooting and explosive athleticism had him in conversations of top 5 shooting guards in the league, but lingering injury and attitude problems have stunted his development in recent seasons.

A healthy Gordon is the key to the Pelicans running an unpredictable and dynamic offence, and is a big part of whether or not they can realistically make a run at the playoffs.

On the flipside, there is no short of egos in New Orleans’ backcourt, and whether or not the trio of Gordon, Holiday and Evans can co-exist is another issue that could either propel the Pelicans up the rankings or totally derail the progress they have made.

A full season from Gordon will also do wonders to win back the fan base that he has made every effort to burn bridges with. Gordon was supposed to be the sweetener in the deal that saw CP3 head to LA, but his constant injuries, signing of a max offer sheet with Phoenix and then pouting his way through the season once that deal was matched by New Orleans has left a sour taste in the mouth of everyone in Louisiana.

Gordon is owed $45 million over the next three season, so no one will be hoping he can stay on the floor more than new Pelicans owner Tom Benson.

Nevertheless, Gordon’s health and the position battles in the Pelicans’ backcourt will be an interesting storyline to follow throughout the season.

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