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New Orleans Pelicans: NBA season preview, roster and schedule 2018

It’s playoffs or bust for the Pelicans this season as the future of both DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis likely hang in the balance.


Offseason Recap

Arrivals: Rajon Rondo, Tony Allen, Darius Miller, Frank Jackson, Ian Clark, Martell Webster, Perry Jones

Departures: Tim Frazier, Quinn Cook, Quincy Pondexter, Donatas Motiejunas, Axel Toupane

The Pelicans succeeded in one of their main goals this offseason by re-signing Jrue Holiday. They really didn’t have much of a choice on the matter as they would not have the cap space to get a capable replacement for Holiday in free agency if they didn’t re-sign him.

However, it turns out that Holiday won’t be the team’s starting point guard. That role will go to veteran Rajon Rondo, which means Holiday will move to the shooting guard spot. It’s an interesting move for head coach Alvin Gentry to put another non-shooter in Rondo in a lineup that’s already starved of spacing.

Meanwhile, the Pelicans went on a shopping spree for any potential contributors on the wings when their projected starting small forward, Solomon Hill, suffered a hamstring injury which will keep him out for six to eight months.

They already brought in Darius Miller from Europe, but they also added veteran Tony Allen, as well as Perry Jones and Martell Webster, who will be battling for a roster spot in preseason. They also retained the services of Dante Cunningham, who is now expected to play a crucial role for the Pelicans this season with the shooting and defense he can provide.

The Pelicans have assembled quite a flawed roster overall, one that will need its stars to shine for them to have any chance of being a viable playoff contender out West.

Projected Depth Chart

C – DeMarcus Cousins / Alexis Ajinca / Omer Asik

PF – Anthony Davis / Cheick Diallo

SF – Dante Cunningham / Darius Miller / Solomon Hill

SG – Jrue Holiday / E’Twaun Moore / Tony Allen / Jordan Crawford

PG – Rajon Rondo / Ian Clark / Frank Jackson

Strengths

Obviously, the Pelicans’ main strength is their Twin Towers, Cousins and Davis. The two are arguably the most talented big men in the game today. Both players can get this team buckets when they need it, whether it’s in the post, mid-range, or all the way out to the three-point line. After a feeling out period following the All-Star break, they should have a somewhat better understanding of how to play with one another.

The Pelicans are also a fairly strong defensive team. They finished in the top ten in defensive efficiency last season and have a good chance of doing so again this campaign. They kept Dante Cunningham, who is a solid, versatile player capable of defending multiple positions. They also added veteran Tony Allen, who has long been one of the best perimeter defenders in the league.

New Orleans offense helped the defense a lot by not turning the ball over despite playing at a top-ten pace in the league. Meanwhile, the defense also helped itself by preventing its opponents from getting to the free throw line too often.

Weaknesses

If you thought the Timberwolves have bad spacing due to a lack of shooting, the Pelicans have it even worse. The fact that they play two bigs in Cousins and Davis already puts their spacing in a bind, but they somehow made it worse by picking up one of the worst shooting point guards in the league in Rajon Rondo.

While Cunningham and Moore were strong three-point shooters percentage wise last season, neither is exactly a volume shooter who can strike fear into opposing defenses.

Moreover, the Pelicans have a real lack of above-average, two-way wings. They either have good offensive players who can’t defend (Crawford, Clark) or good defenders who struggle to score (Allen, Cunningham, Hill). Miller and Moore might be decent two-way players, but they figure to be average at best. Even with Cousins and Davis, that combination of lack of shooting and playmaking wings will almost surely hamstring this Pelicans offense, which was already a bottom-third unit last season.

Finally, health is always a big question mark when it comes to New Orleans. Cousins and Davis are often beat up and miss a handful of games, while Holiday also has a checkered injury history. They’re already without Hill and Frank Jackson for most of the year due to injuries and will be in big trouble if they miss even one of their Big Three.

Player to Watch – DeMarcus Cousins

This will be a pivotal season for the Pelicans. Cousins, whom they bet big on after trading for him last season, is set to become a free agent next summer. The chances of him re-signing will be tied to how well he plays with Davis and how successful the team ultimately is. His fate could also have a significant impact on Davis’ future with the franchise going forward.

So, a lot will be riding on the three-time All-Star this season. He was still able to get his numbers playing alongside Davis in the limited number of games they had together. When on his game, Boogie is something to behold; he’s a force of nature capable of dominating inside-out.

However, the Pelicans have such a slim margin of error, so they need the very best version of Boogie this year. That means a lot fewer boneheaded plays which hurt his team, such as those instances of him complaining excessively to officials.

The 27-year-old is a must-watch because of both the good and the bad that he brings to the table. But for the Pelicans to be successful, they’ll need a lot more of the former and a lot less of the latter. 

2017/18 Schedule

1 Oct 18, 2017 vs. Atlanta Hawks    

2 Oct 20, 2017 vs. Sacramento Kings    

3 Oct 21, 2017 @ Houston Rockets    

4 Oct 23, 2017 vs. Golden State Warriors    

5 Oct 25, 2017 vs. Memphis Grizzlies    

6 Oct 26, 2017 @ Memphis Grizzlies    

7 Oct 28, 2017 vs. Philadelphia 76ers    

8 Oct 30, 2017 @ Utah Jazz    

9 Nov 1, 2017 @ Los Angeles Clippers    

10 Nov 3, 2017 vs. New Orleans Pelicans    

11 Nov 4, 2017 @ Minnesota Timberwolves    

12 Nov 7, 2017 @ Washington Wizards    

13 Nov 11, 2017 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers    

14 Nov 12, 2017 @ Oklahoma City Thunder    

15 Nov 14, 2017 vs. San Antonio Spurs    

16 Nov 17, 2017 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves    

17 Nov 18, 2017 vs. Milwaukee Bucks    

18 Nov 20, 2017 vs. Boston Celtics    

19 Nov 22, 2017 @ Memphis Grizzlies    

20 Nov 25, 2017 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder    

21 Nov 27, 2017 @ San Antonio Spurs    

22 Nov 29, 2017 vs. Brooklyn Nets    

23 Dec 2, 2017 vs. Los Angeles Clippers    

24 Dec 4, 2017 vs. Denver Nuggets    

25 Dec 6, 2017 @ Boston Celtics    

26 Dec 8, 2017 @ Milwaukee Bucks    

27 Dec 10, 2017 @ Minnesota Timberwolves    

28 Dec 12, 2017 vs. San Antonio Spurs    

29 Dec 14, 2017 @ Golden State Warriors    

30 Dec 16, 2017 @ San Antonio Spurs    

31 Dec 18, 2017 vs. Phoenix Suns    

32 Dec 20, 2017 vs. Detroit Pistons    

33 Dec 22, 2017 @ Miami Heat    

34 Dec 23, 2017 @ Atlanta Hawks    

35 Dec 26, 2017 vs. Toronto Raptors    

36 Dec 27, 2017 @ Indiana Pacers    

37 Dec 29, 2017 @ New Orleans Pelicans    

38 Dec 31, 2017 @ Oklahoma City Thunder    

39 Jan 3, 2018 vs. Golden State Warriors    

40 Jan 5, 2018 vs. Chicago Bulls    

41 Jan 7, 2018 vs. New York Knicks    

42 Jan 9, 2018 vs. Orlando Magic    

43 Jan 10, 2018 @ Charlotte Hornets    

44 Jan 13, 2018 vs. Los Angeles Lakers    

45 Jan 16, 2018 @ Denver Nuggets    

46 Jan 20, 2018 @ Portland Trail Blazers    

47 Jan 22, 2018 vs. Washington Wizards    

48 Jan 24, 2018 vs. Houston Rockets    

49 Jan 26, 2018 vs. Portland Trail Blazers    

50 Jan 27, 2018 @ Denver Nuggets    

51 Jan 29, 2018 vs. Miami Heat    

52 Jan 31, 2018 @ Phoenix Suns    

53 Feb 3, 2018 @ Sacramento Kings    

54 Feb 5, 2018 @ Los Angeles Clippers    

55 Feb 8, 2018 @ Golden State Warriors    

56 Feb 10, 2018 vs. Los Angeles Lakers    

57 Feb 11, 2018 @ Houston Rockets    

58 Feb 13, 2018 vs. Sacramento Kings    

59 Feb 23, 2018 @ Los Angeles Lakers    

60 Feb 24, 2018 @ Utah Jazz    

61 Feb 26, 2018 vs. Indiana Pacers    

62 Feb 28, 2018 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder    

63 Mar 2, 2018 @ Chicago Bulls    

64 Mar 4, 2018 vs. New Orleans Pelicans    

65 Mar 6, 2018 vs. Denver Nuggets    

66 Mar 10, 2018 vs. Memphis Grizzlies    

67 Mar 11, 2018 vs. Houston Rockets    

68 Mar 13, 2018 @ New York Knicks    

69 Mar 16, 2018 @ Toronto Raptors    

70 Mar 17, 2018 @ Brooklyn Nets    

71 Mar 20, 2018 @ New Orleans Pelicans    

72 Mar 22, 2018 vs. Utah Jazz    

73 Mar 24, 2018 vs. Charlotte Hornets    

74 Mar 27, 2018 @ Sacramento Kings    

75 Mar 28, 2018 @ Los Angeles Lakers    

76 Mar 30, 2018 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves    

77 Apr 1, 2018 @ Cleveland Cavaliers    

78 Apr 3, 2018 vs. Portland Trail Blazers    

79 Apr 4, 2018 @ Orlando Magic    

80 Apr 6, 2018 @ Detroit Pistons    

81 Apr 8, 2018 @ Philadelphia 76ers    

82 Apr 10, 2018 vs. Phoenix Suns    

Prediction

Despite the Pelicans’ glaring issues in terms of fit, it’s hard to look at their immensely talented Twin Towers and not think they will at least be in the mix for one of the final playoff spots. Of course, that is if they stay relatively healthy, which they already haven’t done during the offseason. 

If Cousins, Davis, and Holiday all play north of 70 games this season, there’s still a decent chance the Pelicans scrape together around 42-45 wins and challenge for a seventh or eighth seed. But if at least one of them goes down for an extended period, they’re simply not making the playoffs. Unfortunately for them, it’s more likely for the latter to happen.

Can the Pelicans put everything together to make the playoffs? Discuss in the comments below!

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Brad Taningco

Brad Taningco has been a RealSport NBA contributor since Decemeber 2016. But apart from basketball, he's also a fan of soccer, American football, baseball, and ice hockey.

New Orleans Pelicans: NBA season preview, roster and schedule 2018

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