What’s the Plan? is a weekly series where we look at the long-term outlooks for teams that aren’t immediately contending for a championship. This week, we look at the team that has a promising future with Anthony Davis, but still has a little work to do before they become a championship contender.
Anthony Davis is the future of the New Orleans Pelicans, and might be the future of the NBA. He has only been in the league for three years, and is already a top 10 player in the NBA. Maybe even top five or top three. There isn’t a player with a brighter future in the league. He is points one, two, and three of my four-point plan for them moving forward. What are those points? I’m glad you asked.
Point One: Keep Anthony Davis on the team. The Pelicans have Davis for one more year on his rookie contract and can sign him to a max extension this summer. If for whatever reason that deal wasn’t signed, he’d become a restricted free agent and could sign an offer sheet with another team in 2016. A player of Davis’s caliber is almost never lost in restricted free agency, as the Pelicans would be willing to match any offer Davis would receive from another team. Basically the Pelicans won’t lose Davis any time soon unless they choose to do so, which would be a bad idea.
Point Two: Keep Davis happy. This is really a subset of point one, but an important one to mention. While the Pelicans have Davis under contract for the near future, there will likely come a time when he’s free to test the waters of unrestricted free agency and go wherever he pleases. The closer he gets to that point, the more leverage Davis has to force a trade to another team. The Pelicans should be doing everything they can to make New Orleans the best situation possible for Davis, and the Pellies can do that with my third point of the plan…
Point Three: Build a team that complements Davis’s skills and attributes. When the best thing about your team is one player, it makes sense to highlight that player as best you can. The Pelicans have some flexibility going forward, as they’re only committed to five players next year (Eric Gordon has a player option) and three the year after as of right now, (not including Davis’s next contract) when the cap is supposed to jump to around $90 million. They’ll have the roster flexibility to put whatever kind of team they want around Davis, and that team should supplement his skills.
Point Four: Don’t rush things. If there’s one thing the Pelicans have, it’s time. They don’t have to worry about Davis leaving for a long time; meanwhile, they can take their time to build the right team around him to compete. Showing him that New Orleans could make the playoffs was a good start this year, but the No. 8 seed and a first-round exit aren’t the things NBA dreams are made of.
The Pelicans have the first ingredient of championship contention, but they can’t rush the process and try throwing a half-made dish in the oven. They need to bring all the ingredients together: another talented player or two, good role players and a coach (Alvin Gentry? Jeff Van Gundy? Tom Thibodeau?) certainly wouldn’t hurt. Once they’ve brought it all together, only then can they try to put it on the fire to cook.