2012-13 Result: 27-55, 14th in Western Conference, missed the playoffs
Key Additions: Tyreke Evans, Jeff Whitey, Jrue Holiday, Greg Stiemsma, Anthony Morrow, Arinze Onuaku, Rodney Carney
New Orleans Pelicans
Key Subtractions: Greivis Vasquez, Robin Lopez, Terrel Harris, Xavier Henry, Roger Mason, Lou Amundson, Pierre Jackson, Lance Thomas
The New Orleans Hornets were consistently terrible in 2012-13. They started the year by going 7-23, then got somewhat steadier after the new year, winning 8 games out of 16 in January. After the All-Star Break, though, their unsteady play came back, culminating in a 1-7 April, all games against Western Conference rivals. The poor showing put to waste the season performances of individual players, including Greivis Vasquez, Ryan Anderson, and Robin Lopez, who all averaged career-high numbers in 2012-13.
In the off-season, the new franchise owner, Tom Benson, wanted to change the "Hornets" name into something with a little more local flavor. At first, they asked the Utah Jazz if they would be willing to give back the name to the New Orleans franchise, seeing that the original Jazz team was based in Louisiana. However, when Utah refused, they decided to change to the Pelicans, after Louisiana's state bird.
With the name change being made official, they sought to revamp the team. While Vasquez was one of the league leaders in assists, giving up 9 dimes a game, the Pelicans felt they needed someone with more scoring sock. Thus, they let go of Vasquez and Lopez in a three-way trade, getting Tyreke Evans in return. 2013 first round pick Nerlens Noel was traded to Philadelphia in exchange for All-Star guard Jrue Holiday.
While Noel was supposed to bolster the Pelicans' frontline, the team already has 2012 first overall pick Anthony Davis, who averaged 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game, losing the Rookie of the Year award to Portland's Damian Lillard by a narrow margin. It remains to be seen if the Robin Lopez gamble will pay off as only Greg Stiemsma and Jason Smith the only experienced center in the roster -- and we use "experienced" very loosely here. Anderson and Davis add length and hops to the lineup, Defensively, Stiemsma is one of the best shotblockers in the league on a per-48 minutes basis (3.6 per game).
One thing's for certain, though -- this iteration of the New Orleans Pelicans will try to push the ball as much as they can. They certainly have the personnel for it, as Evans, Holiday and Eric Gordon team up for what could be one of the best small-ball tandems in the league. Holiday himself is no ballhog -- he averaged 8 assists an outing with the 76ers. It will have to start with defensive rebounding and perimeter defense, though, which are both areas where the team struggled in the past seasons.
Season Prediction: The new-look Pelicans will be one of the league leaders in fastbreak points. However, the shortage of talent down low means that the likes of San Antonio and both Los Angeles teams will have their way in the paint. It's hard to see the Pelicans improving substantially, especially since all the Western Conference teams have upgraded their talent. The Pelicans will miss the playoffs by a mile, but at least they'll be fun to watch.
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