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Anthony Davis.

Are the Pelicans a victim of last season's success?

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Last season the Pelicans shocked most NBA fans by making the Western Conference playoffs for the first time since 2011 (then known as the Hornets). Led by All-NBA power forward Anthony Davis, the Louisiana franchise achieved a record of 45-37 earning themselves a first round series against the eventual NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors.

The playoff series went as most people expected as the Warriors swept the Pelicans in four. Whilst there were some competitive games between the two, the Pelicans never really looked like seriously pushing the Dubs. 

Throughout the 2014-15 regular season, New Orleans punched well above their weight as they consistently managed to win games against bigger teams. In one particular game against the Oklahoma City Thunder (their main rival for the 8th seed) on February 6th, Anthony Davis put together a tremendous boxscore of 44 points on 15-23 shooting and 10 rebounds. 

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'The Brow' also hit a clutch three-pointer as time expired to win the game 116-113. This firmly stamped Davis into the MVP discussion. Davis went on to finish the season 5th in MVP voting as he set career highs in per game averages - 24.4PPG, 10.2RPG, 2.2APG, 2.9BPG and 53.5 percent shooting. 

Davis was not the only Pelican to have a career season, with former Rookie of the Year winner Tyreke Evans quietly putting together his best year since winning the award back in 2010. Former New Orleans swingman Quincy Pondexter was traded back to the team (in a three-team deal involving Boston and Memphis), and he worked his way into one of the best value contracts in the NBA. 

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Former All-Star Jrue Holiday played well, when healthy, but only managed to play in 40 regular season games. Ryan Anderson continued to be a major factor in the Pelicans offensive gameplan and evolved into a much-needed stretch forward. 

Despite the franchise claiming its first playoff berth since 2011, head coach Monty Williams was fired and replaced by Alvin Gentry - who went on to win an NBA Championship as part of Golden State's coaching staff. 

Gentry was seen as somebody who could take a playoff team and push them further up the standings. He was a hire that was supposed to help a team in 'win-now' mode.

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Clippers

General manager Del Demps obviously thought the Pelicans were closer to winning than they realistically were as he kept the majority of the roster in place without adding any real talent to help Davis. Demps failed to give Gentry any players that fit his patented uptempo ball movement offence. 

The Pelicans have come up short of expectations because of this. They are currently sat as the 12th seed in the Western Conference, and bar some Davis inspired nights, have proven far too inconsistent. 

Most of the problems are due to Gentry not having players who fit his system, some of it boils down to players regressing - like Anderson, Alexis Ajinca, Eric Gordon) and a lot of it is down to a roster which was plagued with injuries in 2014/15 and those problems surfaced yet again this term.

Whilst this usually cannot be accounted for, it was pretty obvious that no effort was made to sign players who are proven to be more durable assets. 

San Antonio Spurs v New Orleans Pelicans

Overall, the problem with the Pelicans this season is the same issue that hangs over the Milwaukee Bucks right now and it's the same strain the Phoenix Suns are feeling right now. The relative success of previous seasons made the front office think they were closer to competing than they actually were. 

The front office in Phoenix thought the same after a season which saw them wind up with the ninth seed, they made moves to compete and it failed. The Bucks last season surpassed all expectations making the playoffs after a tremendous run after the All-Star break and pushed the Chicago Bulls in round one. They also made moves to compete - largely in Greg Monroe - but compromised their chemistry and have failed to live up to preseason hype. 

The Bucks last season surpassed all expectations making the playoffs after a tremendous run after the All-Star break and pushed the Chicago Bulls in round one. They also made moves to compete - largely in Greg Monroe - but compromised their chemistry and have failed to live up to preseason hype. 

Golden State Warriors v Milwaukee Bucks

Unfortunately for Pelicans fans, their front office did not do all they could to further this team. Instead, they opted to try and implement a system that did not suit the talent at their disposal. 

Demps and co seemed to ignore that a major factor behind their playoff run was the Oklahoma City Thunder having a down year thanks to the extended absences of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

The 2016/17 campaign offers a fresh opportunity for the New Orleans executives to properly support Davis, and thus, build their roster. Will they learn the lessons this season has presented?

Topics:
New Orleans Pelicans
Southwest Division
Western Conference
NBA
Anthony Davis
Tyreke Evans

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