The New Orleans Pelicans suffered through an injury-plagued 2015-16, and the result was a dreadful 30-win campaign following a trip to the postseason in 2014-15. The Pelicans set out to retool the roster around Anthony Davis this summer, adding Buddy Hield with the No. 6 pick and then adding a bevy of role players, including Lance Stephenson just this past week. Will the Pelicans bounce back despite Tyreke Evans’ continued injury problems and an early-season absence of Jrue Holiday as he tends to his ailing wife?
1. Best move of offseason
Andrew Ford: Drafting Buddy Hield. The Oklahoma product fills a huge roster need and gives the Pelicans a backcourt player to ease some of Anthony Davis’ load. Hield is a prolific scorer who fits the mold of a player who should thrive in Alvin Gentry’s offensive system. His ball-handling ability needs some work, but he’s ready to be a run-and-gun threat who can put the ball on the floor and attack the rim hard after aggressive closeouts. It might take him awhile to adjust during his rookie season, but he’s a physical guard who has all the tools necessary to succeed on both ends of the floor for a long time.
Kelly Scaletta: I love the E’Twaun Moore signing. It gives them depth where they need it, a mentor for Buddy Hield and a temporary starter who can fill in capably at the 1 or 2. It also gives them a guy can defend the perimeter. Moore’s not going to be making any All-Star Games, but he shoots, handles the rock and guards the ball well. He plugs a lot of holes.
Jason Patt: I like E’Twaun Moore signing, and they got him at a pretty reasonable price. Selecting Buddy Hield was good, too. But the decision to move on from Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon and not give them long-term deals was really important. Both guys are talented and helped the Pellies get into the playoffs, but sticking with those guys as key core players surrounding Anthony Davis would’ve been a mistake given their flaws and injury concerns.
2. Worst move of offseason
Andrew: Signing Lance Stephenson doesn’t make a lot of sense. He’s basically a worse version of Tyreke Evans, who many already think is a bad fit on the roster. Stephenson is an iso-heavy player, and that’s exactly the style of play the Pelicans need to continue to move away from under Alvin Gentry’s direction. Stephenson often alternates between nonchalant and wild play, both equally infuriating. The Pelicans are obviously going for a value play here, but the risk might not be worth the reward as is often the case with Stephenson.
Kelly: Giving four years and $48 million to Solomon Hill is just not wise. This almost feels like one of those bid-against-yourself moves the Lakers would do. I will be shocked if he’s in the league four years from now, much less earning his $12 million.
Jason: The Solomon Hill deal is quite questionable. Hill wasn’t particularly good the last few seasons with the Indiana Pacers, although he’s only 25 and has shown flashes. He shot really well from three in the playoffs last season, but over the course of his career his long-range shooting has been inconsistent. Committing four years and a decent chunk of change to him could be backfire badly.
3. Offseason grade
Andrew: B+. The Pelicans let Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon walk, which will probably make them worse in the early going next season. However, they made some savvy moves in free agency by signing Langston Galloway and Terrence Jones to cheap deals. Galloway’s future production seems like more of a sure thing than Jones’ does, but Jones has enough skills to make him enticing to a team that thinks they can mold him into a workable rotation player despite his shortcomings.
Drafting Buddy Hield is also a good move — at least on paper — as he could end up being the backcourt talent the Pelicans need to take their offense to the next level. Signing Solomon Hill and E’Twaun Moore to large deals is risky, because neither one of them has been good for an extended period of time, but the vision of the front office is at least respectable. While the Pelicans might not improve much, if at all, this season, it seems as if they are headed in the right direction and that’s all that really matters at this point.
Kelly: D. They need to do things that will make Brow’s decision easy when he become an unrestricted free agent, and frankly, they haven’t done that yet. It’s not up to panic mode next year, but another summer like this one will start having people wondering if he’s going to stick around.
Jason: C+. They made a few nice signings and did well to snag Buddy Hield and Cheick Diallo in the draft, but they also made a few questionable signings and they didn’t really move the needle that much in the right direction.
4. Early prediction for 2016-17
Andrew: 34-48. Some big building blocks have been put in place, but plenty of hard work lies ahead. Alvin Gentry will continue to refine the offense and mold the squad to fit around Davis, but there will be growing pains with so many new faces on the roster. The Pelicans are still a season away from contending for a playoff spot again. If they still look like a bad team next season, then fans can reasonably begin to worry about never capitalizing on Davis’ great potential.
Kelly: Somewhere around 40 wins and a shot at the No. 8 seed. I think we forgot how good Davis can be. If Holiday can be back on the court before too long, that will be a big help.
Jason: The Pellies should be better as long as Anthony Davis remains healthy, but I don’t see them returning to the playoffs unless he goes absolutely nuts and/or there’s some surprising development from some of the younger players. They should at least be in the hunt, though.