2013 New Orleans Pelicans

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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New Orleans Pelicans (Last Year: 27-55)

2012-13 Season Summary:
There were several revelations the New Orleans Hornets, er, New Orleans Pelicans were able to take away from Year 2 of the post-Chris Paul rebuilding effort. Greivis Vasquez emerged as one of the better assist men in the league and might actually be the floor leader of the future for the franchise. Robin Lopez, who the Pelicans acquired for next to nothing last offseason, is actually a serviceable NBA big man even to the extent where New Orleans signed him to a 3-year extension. Give credit to general manager Dell Demps for not only that trade, but also acquiring Ryan Anderson last summer for Gustavo Ayon. Anderson proved that 2011-12 was no fluke and that he is a dangerous stretch four who can really bring some offensive firepower off the bench.

Obviously, most eyes were on the top overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Anthony Davis. When healthy, he was a solid producer and should be the cornerstone of the franchise moving forward as he is able to affect the game in multiple ways. On the opposite end of that spectrum was the Pelicans’ other lottery pick Austin Rivers. He really struggled acclimating himself to the NBA game and has a long way to go before he becomes a true contributor.

The other major disappointment for the New Orleans was Eric Gordon who missed the first two months of the season due to a knee injury. He never really reached 100 percent as he didn’t play the second night of back-to-back games once he returned. The Pelicans made a major investment in Gordon last summer and through Year 1 of his mega-deal, it hasn’t paid off.

2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Robin Lopez/Jason Smith

PF: Anthony Davis/Ryan Anderson

SF: Darius Miller

SG: Eric Gordon/Austin Rivers

PG: Greivis Vasquez/Brian Roberts

NBA Free Agents:

SF-Al-Farouq Aminu (UFA)

SG-Xavier Henry (UFA)

G-Roger Mason Jr. (UFA)

C-Lou Amundson (UFA)

F-Lance Thomas (UFA)

2013-14 Team Salary: Approximately $43.4 million

NBA Offseason Team Needs:

1. Get Gordon Healthy: As if the nagging knee injuries aren’t worrisome enough, Gordon underwent offseason ankle surgery as well. Though it was a minor procedure, the accumulating injuries are not what you want to see from someone you just signed to a $58 million deal a year ago.

Not only does the physical health need to improve, but so does the mental side of things. Gordon was relatively outspoken last summer that he didn’t want the Pelicans to match the Suns’ offer sheet. Gordon then got into a shouting match with head coach Monty Williams late in the season to only add to the problems. If the relationship between Gordon and management doesn’t improve, the team might be forced to rid itself of his negative presence.

2. Small Forward: Al-Farouq Aminu filled the temporary void at the three last season, averaging a career high 7.7 points and 7.3 rebounds. He is a free agent this summer and even if New Orleans elects to bring him back, it would be a mistake to think he can be the long-term starting small forward. The Pelicans likely won’t find the answer with their sixth overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft (unless Otto Porter somehow falls to them), so they will likely have to look to free agency to find a suitable starter at the three.

3. Guard Depth: With Gordon’s health and Rivers’ struggles, New Orleans would be wise to add some experienced backcourt depth this summer. Even though Brian Roberts came from nowhere to be a solid backup to Vasquez at the point, the Pelicans should bring in a veteran as insurance.

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