The New Orleans Pelicans just couldn’t stay healthy in 2015-2016. Ryan Anderson played 66 games, Jrue Holiday played 65, Anthony Davis played 61, Eric Gordon played 45 and Tyreke Evans played 25. They had a lot of hope in Alvin Gentry’s first season at head coach, but frequent lineup changes slowed down their progression. The Pelicans were the eight seed in the Western Conference in 2015 and didn’t come close to the playoffs in 2016. Missing the playoffs gave them the sixth pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. This is a big draft because the Pelicans haven’t used a first-round pick since they drafted Anthony Davis. With picks, it is time to finally start putting a roster around Davis. Lets take a look at the offseason ahead for the Pelicans.
SG Jamal Murray
Anthony Davis has never played next to a scorer in New Orleans. That would change if the Pelicans drafted Jamal Murray. Murray is a clutch performer who’s jump shot is NBA ready. He plays with confidence as he recently told reporters he is the best player in the entire draft. His versatility gives the Pelicans more options at point guard if they all get injured like last season. I compare Murray to an improved Brandon Knight, who Davis played with at Kentucky.
PG Kris Dunn
Jrue Holiday has been a disaster in a Pelicans uniform. He is only under contract for one more season, so if the Pelicans have the opportunity to draft their future point guard they won’t hesitate. Kris Dunn led the NCAA in assists last season. He played in every game except two so staying healthy would finally give Davis some consistency in the starting lineup. Put Holiday on the trade block. Dunn will not fall past no.6 in the NBA Draft.
PF Dragan Bender
Dragan Bender played inconsistent games with limited playing time in Israel. His potential is real, but there is real potential in Bender falling on draft night because of his inconsistencies. His offensive skill set is what impresses NBA general managers. He can pass and stretch the floor at 7’0″. Defensively, he can’t jump and only weighs 220 pounds. There isn’t much potential if he doesn’t gain significant weight. Bender has workouts scheduled with Boston, Phoenix and Minnesota. New Orleans should schedule a workout.
PG Norris Cole
Jrue Holiday is notorious for not staying healthy. Backup point guard is an extremely important position on the Pelicans. Norris Cole has been the Pelicans backup point guard for a season and a half. During that span he posted his best offensive numbers. Cole averaged 10.6 points per game last season and the first time he ever averaged double-digit numbers in points. He suffered a high ankle sprain last season but is known for staying healthy. There is no reason for Cole to leave the Pelicans.
SF Harrison Barnes
The Pelicans have enough money to make one major move. Harrison Barnes is major and exactly what the Pelicans need. He is a versatile forward who can play the three or four. His versatility would set the Pelicans front court in a small-ball lineup. Alvin Gentry wants to play small and he coached Barnes when he was Steve Kerr’s assistant on the Golden State Warriors. Barnes stats aren’t mind blowing, but they would increase as he goes from fourth option in Golden State to second on the Pelicans. The Warriors can still match his offer sheet.
SG Evan Fournier
Evan Fournier is a three-point shooter who will draw interest all around the league. The Pelicans need a three-point shooter because Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon will not return next year. 2015-2016 was Fournier’s best season with career highs in points, assists and rebounds per game. Fournier’s points and assist numbers have improved every season. He is another restricted free agent and the Orlando Magic have the last call on his next contract.