When New Orleans’ professional basketball franchise became the Pelicans in 2013, the name change was supposed to signify the grounded team and its city taking flight again.
Close to two and a half years later and there have been signs of ascension, including a playoff appearance in the loaded Western Conference last season.
But for the Pelicans to sore with the NBA’s elite, the tragedy-hardened New Orleanians must suffer one more crash landing.
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A little over seven weeks ago, last season’s eighth-placed Pelicans tipped off the new NBA season at the home of the defending champions, hoping to make a statement against the world’s best.
How quickly things can change.
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Anthony Davis and his Pelicans teammates watched the Golden State Warriors collect their championship rings, dreaming of starting a season in the same fashion in the not too distant future.
But an 111-95 blowout was the first of six straight losses to start the new season.
After 24 games, new head coach Alvin Gentry’s injury-ravished team have struggled to just six wins, leaving them with the third-worst record in the association.
When key players return, the Pelicans will improve and sneaking into the playoffs again is not beyond any team including Davis.
But if the Pelicans are to reach their championship aspirations, it is as clear as ever that Davis, on course to become the most dominant player in world basketball, is going to need some help.
Even with ‘AD’, New Orleans will never be as popular a free agency destination as the likes of Los Angeles, New York or Miami.
For the Pelicans, just like with Davis in 2012, their best hope of adding another superstar is via the draft.
Fortunately for the NBA’s struggling franchises, the 2016 draft will offer general managers the opportunity to land themselves a bonafide super-duper star.
Despite being just 19 years old, Louisiana State University freshman Ben Simmons has for some time been touted as the greatest basketball prospect since LeBron James.
Like James, drafted by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003, Simmons is considered capable of quickly transforming a pretender into a contender.
Most teams are never lucky enough to acquire one once-in-a-generation talent, so the Pelicans have to embrace a season of misery to put themselves in a position to combine two.
Unfortunately for twenty-nine teams, only one will draw the number one pick at the Draft Lottery in May, and for the Pelicans to put themselves in the best position possible, they must lose games.
Past mismanagement has left the Pelicans with a roster, excluding Davis, loaded with expendable talents that would have interested buyers and that could assume roles on title hopeful teams.
But clearing the decks is a risk.
Not because Simmons may not develop into the all-time great he is expected to be – some players are just sure things.
But because the Pelicans might not get the all-important number one pick.
But for the chance to pair Davis and Simmons, it is without a doubt a risk worth taking.