Some fans in New Orleans may be disappointed by the departure of DeMarcus Cousins but that certainly isn’t the feeling internally.
As well as Cousins, veteran Rajon Rondo also left after just one season with the Pelicans despite playing a huge role in getting them to the playoffs.
But general manager Dell Demps believes they’ve improved their roster this offseason with the replacements they’ve brought in.
Julius Randle penned a two-year deal after he failed to secure an extension with the Los Angeles Lakers and point guard Elfrid Payton has signed on for one year after a short stint with the Phoenix Suns.
Demps expects the pair to fit perfectly into the Pelicans’ style of play that made them successful towards the end of the last campaign.
“When we finished the season last year, we felt like found a rhythm, found an identity,” Demps said, per Yahoo Sports.
“We feel like the team’s improved. On paper, everything looks really good. But, obviously, we have to do it on the court.”
With Cousins recovering from a torn Achilles and unlikely to play for at least another five months and Rondo turning 33 next season, it makes sense for the franchise to bring in younger pieces.
When Boogie suffered his injury, New Orleans got better in his absence and played a faster style of basketball.
They went 21-13 to ended the regular season and reached the second round of the playoffs, sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers in round one.
Demps emphasised that Randle and Payton “are two-way players” who can “push the ball in transition.”
“Obviously we want to build off the success we had last year,” Demps said.
As soon as the Lakers secured the signing of LeBron James, it became obvious that they wouldn’t retain the services of Randle and Anthony Davis advocated for the Pels to capture him.
According to Demps, the superstar contacted him immediately to urge him to get a deal done.
“I was like, `Yeah, we’re on it,'” Demps recalled.
Both the power forward and Payton will be entering their fifth seasons in the league and will have a point to prove.
For the latter, the upcoming campaign should have a special feeling as he’s got close ties to the city of New Orleans.
The 23-year-old is a native of Louisiana but he claims it’s not the reason why he chose the Pelicans.
“It didn’t matter if this team was in – wherever,” Payton said. “I just felt like this was the best fit.”
Only time will tell if the franchise is better but they’re heading in the right direction and have a specific plan in place.
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