The New Orleans Pelicans showed flashes of potential in an opening night beatdown of the Houston Rockets. Anthony Davis and company went into Houston and won 131-112 as they couldn’t be stopped all night. While the night was supposed to be about how the new look Rockets would perform, it was Anthony Davis who stole the show. He played like a top five player in the NBA with 32 points, 16 rebounds, a career-high 8 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. The Rockets had no answer for him (or anyone else on the Pelicans for that matter).
Anthony Davis also had a lot of help from his supporting cast. Nikola Mirotic added 30 points, 10 rebounds, and shot 6-8 from three-point range. Julius Randle had 25 points and 8 rebounds on 9-15 shooting off the bench while Etwaun Moore had 21 points. New starting point guard Elfrid Payton posted a generic triple-double (10 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in his Pelicans debut. Overall, it was a great performance from Alvin Gentry’s team.
Going back to last season, the Pelicans have played with a lot of pace since DeMarcus Cousins injured his Achilles in January. When they had Cousins, their offense was still good, but they played at a slower tempo. Gentry’s teams have historically had a faster pace with a lot of shooting and ball movement. Personnel changes have paved the way for him to have a team similar to the one that went 20-8 in the last 28 games of the 2017-2018 season.
With Cousins no longer on the team, it opens up for Mirotic to be a legit stretch four in this offense. This team also lost Rajon Rondo, but Payton does play a little bit like Rondo in the sense that he is capable of filling up the stat sheet every night. Payton isn’t the best shooter, so the Pelicans will need great outside shooting all season from Moore, Mirotic, Randle, and Jrue Holiday. They will also need other rotation players to step up like Solomon Hill and Darius Miller.
One thing to expect from the Pelicans is more lineups featuring Randle and Davis. While Mirotic is a great shooter, Randle and Davis the potential to be a really good frontcourt duo on both ends of the floor. Randle is a solid playmaker for his size and the two of them could be great in transition all season long.
Looks like Julius Randle can get used to playing with Anthony Davis.
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) October 18, 2018
In the end, Anthony Davis is going to be one of the favorites to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. He is that talented and with a consistent performance from him and his team, he’ll be in the running to win one or even both of the awards. Only Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon have ever won both of the awards in the same season since the Defensive Player of the Year was introduced in the 1982-83 season.
The New Orleans Pelicans have the makings of a playoff team, but the western conference is going to be even tougher to navigate this season. However, they have an out of this world talent on their team which is something that not many other teams have. With a lot of fresh faces, it will take some time for the Pelicans to really hit their stride. It has only been one game, but watch out for this Pelicans team as the season progresses. They have the potential to be a lot better than they were at the end of last season.