(COVINGTON, LA) — The New Orleans Pelicans have brought in a young core this off season with free agency. With the loss of center DeMarcus Cousins and point guard Rajon Rondo, Pelicans fans thought the team was on the road to failure. Instead, General Manager Dell Demps signed SF/PF/C Julius Randle and point guard Elfrid Payton, adding depth and versatility to the team.
Randle is a young forward that the Pels picked up from the Lakers. Randle, 6’9 feet tall and 250 pounds, brings another dimension to the offense. Randle is a versatile and strong player and can also play the small forward, power forward, or center position for the team. He averaged 16.1 points per game, 2.6 assists per game, and 8.0 rebounds per game for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Elfrid Payton is a 6’4, 185-pound traditional point guard. He is a pass-first player and is also very quick off the dribble. Payton is a New Orleans local who attended Gretna Middle School, John Ehret High School, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He averaged 11.8 points per game, 6.2 assists per game, 5.3 rebound per game, and 1.0 steals per game for the Phoenix Suns last season.
Bringing in these new players, the Pelicans look to bring back a speedy offense from last season. The Pelicans averaged 104.9 possessions per game, which was the most in the NBA and are bringing back 8 of 12 players from the playoff roster from the previous season. The Pelicans took the whole league by surprise, sweeping the third seed Portland Trail Blazers. An ESPN analyst predicted the 6th seed Pelicans to be swept by the Trailblazers but the Pelicans high efficiency of offense and underrated defense shocked the Trailblazers. PF/C Anthony Davis shined averaging 33 points per game, 11.6 rebounds per game, 2.8 blocks per game, and 1.8 steals per game. PG/SG Jrue Holiday also put on a show averaging 27.8 points per game, 6.5 assists per game, and 4 rebounds per game.
Holiday and Davis were both named First Team All-Defense by the NBA. Holiday arguably had the best season of his career last season. He averaged 19 points per game, 1.5 steals per game, 6.1 assists per game, and 4.5 rebounds per game. Holiday was also the ninth-ranked defensive guard in the league last season. If Holiday keeps up this play, he is on track to put up All-Star numbers and be voted an All-Star.
Davis comes into this season playing on a legendary level of basketball. Davis said in an interview after Pelicans minicamp, “in my eyes, I am the best player in the league.” Many disagree, but Davis has proved his skill in the past few seasons, improving each year he has been in the league. Last year, for example, he finished third in MVP votes. Davis averaged 28.1 points per game, 11.1 rebounds per game, 2.6 blocks per game, and 1.5 steals per game last season. Anthony Davis has transformed himself through his past six seasons into one of the most versatile and dominant big men in the game.