2014 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: 34-48)

2013-14 Season Summary:
Last summer, the New Orleans Pelicans made a major splash by trading their first-round pick in 2013 and 2014 for Jrue Holiday while also signing Tyreke Evans to a monster deal. With those moves, management was expecting the Pelicans to become a playoff contender in the Western Conference. While the team showed improvement from the prior year, injuries limited the team from making a major leap forward.

With that being said, the franchise still has a solid young core led by blossoming superstar Anthony Davis, who averaged nearly 21 points and 10 rebounds during his second year in the league. Getting guys back healthy and adding a few minor needed pieces will allow New Orleans to take another step in the right direction.

2014-15 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Anthony Davis/Jeff Withey/Alexis Ajinca

PF: Ryan Anderson/^Melvin Ely

SF: Tyreke Evans/*Darius Miller/^Luke Babbitt/*James Southerland

SG: Eric Gordon/Austin Rivers/^Anthony Morrow

PG: Jrue Holiday/*Brian Roberts

NBA Free Agents:

SF-Al-Farouq Aminu (UFA)

PF-Jason Smith (UFA)

C-Greg Stiemsma (UFA)

^SG-Anthony Morrow (TO)

^SF-Luke Babbitt (TO)

^PF-Melvin Ely (TO)

*PG-Brian Roberts (RFA)

*SF-Darius Miller (RFA)

*SF-James Southerland (RFA)

2014-15 Team Salary: Approximately $55.5 million

NBA Offseason Team Needs:

1. Health: Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson were expected to be major contributors for New Orleans last season, but they combined to miss a total of 108 games. Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon missed stretches of time as did reserve Jason Smith, so Monty Williams was sometimes forced to piece together a lineup. If the Pelicans are truly going to become a playoff level team in the competitive Western Conference, they cannot afford any injuries to their top players.

2. Starting Small Forward: New Orleans reeled in Tyreke Evans last summer, and while he put together an okay season, his role moving forward with the team seems to be more of a sixth man. With Al-Farouq Aminu becoming a free agent, the Pelicans need to find a starting small forward, preferably one who can commit to becoming a defensive stopper. If the price is right, Aminu could be re-signed, but the front office should be looking elsewhere in free agency for an upgrade.

3. Depth Inside: When Anderson and Smith went down, the Pelicans were forced to rely on guys like Greg Stiemsma, Alexis Ajinca, and Jeff Withey to plug the hole in the middle. Davis’ versatility does allow him to play either the four or five, but with Stiemsma and Smith both unrestricted free agents, New Orleans should look to improve its skill on the inside.

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