Will Pels’ mediocrity be enough to sustain Davis?
If you are trying to figure out the New Orleans Pelicans, the line is out the door and around the corner.
Two days after losing by 15 to lowly Philadelphia, the Pelicans erased an 11-point Toronto lead to win on a driving layup by Tyreke Evans with one second to play. The win on a Sunday afternoon in Canada brought the Pels back even at 20 wins, 20 losses.
Considering their bloated, top-heavy payroll (four players earn at least $11 million per season), a .500 record is not where New Orleans is supposed to be. And, if you are concerned about the future, you should be.
After this season, Anthony Davis has two years remaining on his rookie contract. His pay will then skyrocket. And, the Pelicans’ future options will be limited if Davis stays.
Davis is more than a once-in-a-generation player for a small-market NBA franchise. He is an exceptional talent who doesn’t need shots to affect the game. And, he is a model citizen, wise far beyond his years.
The Pelicans have until the summer of 2016 to convince Davis that they can compete with the upper echelon of the league. Hovering near .500 won’t cut it.
Speculation about the futures of general manager Dell Demps and head coach Monty Williams has intensified. If the Pelicans don’t make playoffs, this will be the fourth consecutive year they have failed to qualify.
Rumors abound that former Pistons general manager and former McNeese State star Joe Dumars will join the front office in some capacity. When Williams and Demps arrived in the summer of 2010, they talked of building a model franchise, much like the one in San Antonio. But, the Spurs are masters at getting good production for the right dollar, an idea that seems foreign to the Pelicans.
If Demps and Williams want a crash course in how it is done the Spurs’ way, all they need to do is look east to Atlanta. Longtime Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer has managed the top of his roster well. That has allowed a deep bench to shine. Five Hawks come off the bench to average at least 13.7 minutes per game.
Center Al Horford is the Hawks’ highest-paid player at $12 million per season. Horford was averaging 15.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Point guard Jeff Teague is an NBA bargain at $8 million per season. Teague, who earns less than three Pelicans guards, was averaging 17.4 points and 7.7 assists per game.
Forward DeMarre Carroll, on his fifth NBA team, is averaging 11.7 points and 5.6 rebounds. In the NBA, he is a bargain indeed, earning a paltry $2.5 million this season.
Can the Pelicans break out of mediocrity and make a sustained run to the playoffs? Or is this a team that has reached its ceiling?
If Davis asks for a trade, the start-over in New Orleans would be far more daunting than the one that occurred after the trade of Chris Paul.