The Golden State Warriors topped the New Orleans Pelicans by a score of 97-87 in Game 2 of their first-round series matchup and now find themselves up 2-0 in the series. Nobody can blame the Pelicans for not winning a game at Oracle Arena; it is after all the toughest arena to steal a win from in all of the NBA.
It’s also not as if the Pelicans aren’t doing the best they can. Superstar forward Anthony Davis is averaging 30.5 points and nine rebounds through those first two contests, not to mention three blocks. Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans are also doing their best, although Evans has had to deal with a knee injury that limited him to just 11 minutes in Game 1.
Whether anyone playing for New Orleans is limited or not, the fact of the matter is that the team’s appearance in the playoffs is more of a learning experience than anything else. Coming into the season, most would have expected that a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder would stake claim to the last playoff spot in the Western Conference anyway. If it weren’t for the injury to Kevin Durant, most people would probably still peg the Pelicans as being a year or two away from being a playoff team.
Nevertheless, the Pelicans have found themselves with great opportunity to learn from the best. It’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be overlooked and will likely lead the Pelicans through an evolution that sees them and not the Warriors sitting atop the Western Conference at some point in the near future.
Yes, that’s a bold statement considering how competitive the West is, but consider some of the things that the team has going for it. The emergence of Mr. Davis is the most obvious. He’s the dominant big man in the game today. He’s long, athletic and gaining the strength necessary to compete with the likes of Dwight Howard, he has more range than the average big man and he swallows up a ton of rebounds.
To think that a guy who was once viewed as being incredibly raw in terms of his abilities in college could reach superstar status in just his third season in the NBA is scary. At just 22 years old, he’s five years younger than the Warriors’ Stephen Curry, and yet if the Pelicans found themselves with home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, it might be Davis, and not Curry, James Harden or Russell Westbrook leading the MVP conversation.
Making an argument for Davis leading the future dominance of New Orleans is easy, but one also has to consider the surrounding cast he has at his disposal. Evans is a former Rookie of the Year award winner who virtually disappeared while playing for the Sacramento Kings after that first season and appears to have finally found a role for himself that suits both his personality and long-term production levels. The aforementioned Gordon is a gifted scorer, who like Evans isn’t necessarily a No. 1 guy, but now has the advantage of having both Davis and Evans on his side to open up space for him on the floor whether he decides to create his own shot or go to the hoop.
Not to mention Jrue Holiday is on the roster as well, although he has dealt with injuries in New Orleans and the presence of Holiday, Evans and Gordon creates a crowded situation in the backcourt. Even so, perhaps one of the three get traded for help elsewhere in order to balance out the roster. Even if all three stay together, that’s a good amount of talent.
Throw in the fact that the team has one of the best secondary big men in the league on the depth chart in Omer Asik, and the Pelicans have the makings of a solid future in the works. It remains to be seen whether the team needs a coaching change along the lines of what the Warriors did with Steve Kerr in order to really make things happen in the future, but coach Monty Williams has done well for himself so far and deserves every opportunity to see the team grow with him at the forefront of it all.
Even after just two games in this postseason, it’s obvious that New Orleans is still a few years away from really becoming a top contender in the race for an NBA championship, but don’t be surprised if the meteoric rise of the Pelicans happens sooner than most of us might expect, just like the quick rise of their star in Davis.