• Hoop-Ball’s Post-Mortem series takes a look at the 2016-17 season and what went right and wrong for every team. From coaching analysis to fantasy impact, we dive in to the year that was and make sense of it all. If you’ve missed any, you can find them here.

    Coming into the 2016-17 season, there were talks of the New Orleans Pelicans returning to the playoffs after a disappointing 2015-16 season plagued with injuries. Health was an area of focus for the team, particularly for Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday. With the addition of a few key players to make up for their losses, there was definitely a chance that the Pelicans would catch lightning in a bottle. Hoop-Ball’s Post-Mortem takes a look at a year of big changes in New Orleans.

    Overview

    The Pelicans took a huge step this year. They were healthy—well, that’s relative to previous years. Anthony Davis played more than 70 games for the first time in his NBA career, Jrue Holiday played more games than he did in each of his previous four seasons and Tyreke Evans was healthy enough for another team to take him in a trade.

    To start the season, it was clear that Davis needed help when Holiday was out as the Pelicans only won two of 12 games. When he returned, they began to win a bit but it was even clearer then that Holiday wasn’t enough for this young team to compete for a playoff spot.

    So the front office decided to take it a notch further by acquiring another superstar to pair with Davis—DeMarcus Cousins. As important as Holiday is to this team, he was no superstar. The addition of Cousins gave the Pelicans another threat both on the offensive and defensive end of the floor that teams would have to deal with.

    After Cousins joined the team, the Pelicans closed the season winning 11 of 25 games to finish at 34-48. Although they didn’t have a strong finish, they are much better than their record reflects. The strides that this team made in the previous season will translate to next season as a big oomph. The Pelicans get to grow in the offseason by building chemistry with a healthy roster. That will help Cousins transition to his new team with a handful of months to learn the ins and outs of the offense and the tendencies and preferences of his teammates.

    Coaching

    The Pelicans finished the season with Alvin Gentry as their coach for the second season in a row. After having a crippled roster in his first season, it was time to see whether or not Gentry could make something out of this young team.

    The team led the NBA in defensive rebounds while having admirable defensive stats (5th in blocks, 7th lowest opponent FG%). However, with a player like Davis, that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

    While avoiding huge struggles on the defensive end, it seems that the Pelicans struggled offensively. They were below average in field goal, 3-point and free throw percentage. Though those can have many causes, a big one to consider is obviously the coaching.

    Gentry is known for a run-and-gun offense and insists on playing quickly. The Pelicans placed ninth in pace and don’t appear to be changing their philosophy, as Gentry has already said he wants Cousins to lose weight. Though many would say that Cousins could be in better shape, Gentry wants him to lose weight for the purpose of running up and down the court.

    While Cousins may agree to some of Gentry’s requests to begin with, the big man’s reputation with coaches attempting to rein him in hasn’t been great. There were already reports that Gentry’s job was on the line towards the end of the season. If Gentry continues to insist and irritates one of his franchise cornerstones, it isn’t likely that he will be in New Orleans for long.

    Players

    Anthony Davis

    ADP: 10/8 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 6/2 (8-cat/9-cat) , Per Game Value: 5/2 (8-cat/9-cat), Games Played: 75

    Davis was a bit of a wildcard not due to his skills, but his inability to stay on the court over the course of the season. He played 61 games last season and had not played more than 70 before this year. There was no telling whether he would continue his trend or finally manage to stay in the action, and owners who drafted him towards the end of round one were handsomely rewarded for their faith.

    If healthy, Davis’ expectations would be in line with the 2014-15 season when he led the Pelicans to the playoffs, averaging 24.4 points, 1.5 steals and 2.9 blocks along the way. While his blocks weren’t as high this year, he had increases in both scoring and rebounding.

    Even with Cousins joining the fold after the All-Star break, Davis did not skip a beat. His defensive numbers dropped since he was no longer the only serviceable big man on the team, but he was more efficient overall. Owners would probably prefer the extra defensive stats since efficiency is hardly a problem area for The Brow, but it’s not like they’ll complain too much about the overall package either way.

    At the time of the draft, taking Davis was risky. He had suffered an ankle injury not long before drafts started and that scared many—rightfully so. When he was healthy, he would no doubt be a top-5 player. The question was whether or not he was worth the risk when there were more enticing options such as Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden and the just-as-risky Karl-Anthony Towns. Going into next season, health isn’t something you should be worried about but do keep your eye out.

    DeMarcus Cousins

    ADP: 13/13 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 13/18 (8-cat/9-cat), Per Game Value: 11/13 (8-cat/9-cat), Games Played: 72

    Cousins was expected to be the same as ever—a big man who excels in many categories except for his percentages and turnovers. However, he added the three-point to his game last season, making 1.1 per game and he bested that this year with 1.8 per contest.

    When it came to Boogie’s expectations, it wasn’t only in the numbers but also in trade rumors. Before the season started, Cousins was mentioned in trade talks. When the season began, he could possibly, maybe, potentially be traded. It was the same rumors year in, year out.

    It finally came true this season when the Kings traded Cousins away right when the Pelicans did their best Tyreke Evans revival and drafted Buddy “better-than-Curry” Hield. There were moments when Cousins did not look like he fit into the team but what can you expect from a guy who carried his team to two seasons of 30+ wins. In his defense, it really wasn’t his fault. Everyone seemed ready for a change.

    Cousins ranked 11th in per game value after the All-Star break but his percentages and turnovers didn’t change too much. He excels well enough in every category that a small bump in them won’t change the world. However, if Cousins is able to turn the tide with better field goal percentage or lower turnovers, he can easily jump into top-10 value. Spending an offseason working with a healthy Davis, it’s far from crazy to believe he can do it. Of course, Cousins also displayed a nasty habit of playing like a perimeter player, especially once he started knocking down triples at a good clip. Perhaps the most lethal post weapon in the game, he’d do himself a lot of favors by playing like it. His upside is immense either way but it’ll be capped until someone, whether that’s a teammate, coach or member of the organization, gets him to snap out of it.

    Jrue Holiday

    ADP: 118/97 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 49/60 (8-cat/9-cat), Per Game Value: 39/52 (8-cat/9-cat), Games Played: 67

    Holiday was not planning to play the beginning of the season as his wife gave birth to their child early and shortly after had a benign brain tumor removed. Although he was considered out indefinitely, there were expectations that he would be out until late December at the earliest.

    Holiday returned ahead of the speculated dates at the end of November, missing only 12 games. When he returned, he started off slow. Holiday found it difficult to score in his first month and a half and took his time to get up to speed.

    After January, the guard shot the ball well, found his teammates and found ways to nab steals. He looked like the Jrue of old once again. If he plays at least 65 games, he is easily a top-50 player in the league. After two injury-plagued season with the Pelicans, Holiday has had two respectable seasons and will build upon it alongside Davis and newly-acquired Cousins. His usage will definitely decrease but he can compensate by hitting open threes and taking advantage of being the third option on the team.

    Solomon Hill

    ADP: N/A /144 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 146/151 (8-cat/9-cat), Per Game Value: 190/186 (8-cat/9-cat), Games Played: 80

    Solomon Hill was a relatively big signing last offseason. He improved his play toward the end of the 2015-16 season with the Pacers that he leveraged into a four year, $48 million contract. Though his numbers weren’t flashy, his potential to play both forward spots, play defense and ability to hit the three was enough to attract plenty of suitors on the market.

    Hill’s numbers weren’t stellar this past season and a $12 million annual salary is quite expensive when looking at his stats. He is still useful for the Pelicans but he may never deliver what management expected from him when he signed last summer. However, it doesn’t matter if he can fit in alongside either Davis or Cousins as a 3-and-D player or as a stretch four.

    While useful on the court, he is hardly helpful on most fantasy teams. Hill has his flashes but that is nowhere near late-round value in standard leagues. There will be better players to own so let the desperate owners take him and take someone who has both a higher ceiling and a higher floor.

    E’Twaun Moore

    ADP: 140/143 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 171/157 (8-cat/9-cat), Per Game Value: 183/168 (8-cat/9-cat), Games Played: 73

    E’Twaun Moore joined the Pelicans in the offseason for a considerable price (four years, $34 million) after contributing to the Bulls as a 3-and-D wing. He was expected to do the same on the Pelicans: hit the open threes and play defense to complement the ball-dominant players on the team.

    Moore had the ball in his hands more often than expected at the beginning of the season but returned to his regular role once Holiday returned. He averaged career-highs in points (9.6) and threes (1.1) and will likely see a larger role as a key defender as New Orleans becomes competitive in the West.

    Unlike other defensive-minded players, Moore’s play style could translate into low-end fantasy relevance if he gets more minutes. However, that seems like a difficult accomplishment with many options in the backcourt such as Holiday, Jordan Crawford and Solomon Hill.

    Tim Frazier

    ADP: 140/132 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 197/223 (8-cat/9-cat), Per Game Value: 204/232 (8-cat/9-cat), Games Played: 65

    Tim Frazier started at point guard to begin the season and performed well for being a relative newcomer to the league. He was expected to be the starter for much longer since Holiday had a late December targeted return date.

    Though he averaged 7.2 assists per game in November, his role decreased drastically once Holiday returned, and the trend continued through the rest of the season. The Pelicans attempted at a Frazier-Holiday combo from time to time but that proved detrimental. Holiday played much better when Frazier was off the court and vice-versa.

    However, once Evans returned, Frazier’s role as the backup ball-handler was given to the small forward. Frazier couldn’t hit threes so he was difficult to play as an off-ball guy and neither Holiday nor Evans did well without primary ball-handling responsibilities.

    Frazier is now facing a new challenge as John Wall‘s backup in Washington. While the team (and Wall) made a ton of noise about needing more out of their bench going forward, Frazier getting enough minutes to matter in fantasy leagues seems like a pipe dream. A fine real life acquisition, but one that totally saps his fantasy appeal.

    Jordan Crawford

    ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 338/340 (8-cat/9-cat), Per Game Value: 129/134 (8-cat/9-cat), Games Played: 19

    Jordan Crawford was signed by the Pelicans early March and made an impact immediately. In that month, he averaged 13.5 points, 2.4 threes and 2.8 assists. Crawford is known for his ability to score and he came as advertised for the Pellies. They needed him to create shots for himself—something that the Pelicans couldn’t get out of anyone besides their three stars.

    Despite doing the same thing for this team as he’s done before, he did something different this time: he shot efficiently. For his career, he has a .411 field goal percentage and is .314 from three. As a pleasant surprise, he made 48.2 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from three in his short 19 game run.

    His flash of efficiency this season helped him fall into late-round value in 12-team leagues but that isn’t something to rely on. Essentially, we saw that Crawford’s ceiling is late-round even when making shots at a career-high rate. When the fantasy draft comes around next season, there will be many more players that are worthy of a flier.

    Dante Cunningham

    ADP: N/A/ N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 201/181 (8-cat/9-cat), Per Game Value: 220/174 (8-cat/9-cat), Games Played: 66

    Dante Cunningham remained a serviceable piece for the Pellies, making 35 starts at the glorified revolving door that was the small forward spot in New Orleans. Though he did shoot fairly well with a .485 mark from the floor and a .392 mark from deep, he just didn’t do enough of anything in his 25.0 minutes per contest. The most appealing number would be his 1.1 triples, but that came a year after he averaged 0.7 (on a much more regular .316 percentage). He’ll get his share of court time but just doesn’t make enough with it next to all of his higher usage teammates.

    Alexis Ajinca

    ADP: 140 / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 317/315 (8-cat/9-cat), Per Game Value: 266/255 (8-cat/9-cat), Games Played: 39

    Though Alexis Ajinca actually has pretty solid per-minute numbers (he posted 5.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 0.5 steals and 0.6 blocks in only 15.0 minutes per game), he simply didn’t play enough to warrant attention. With him firmly behind two of the game’s elite big men, there’s nothing here for fantasy purposes.

    Doctor’s Orders

    The Pelicans are gearing up for a push to the playoffs and will more or less be treating this as a year-long recruitment period for DeMarcus Cousins. The season will be riding on his play style and Anthony Davis’ health, two things which are far from guarantees. New Orleans has a top-heavy roster for sure, but they’ll be able to qualify for the playoffs if they can get Cousins to operate more inside the arc and leverage his elite physical abilities down low. He and Davis might need an adjustment period if they both operate to their full potential near the paint, but those growing pains are a vast improvement over what happens when Boogie resorts to perimeter play. If everything breaks right, New Orleans could boast the most dominant frontcourt we’ve seen in a long time. If it doesn’t, expect another year of frustration and a handful of changes a year from now. If nothing else, the Pelicans’ season will be extremely fascinating to watch.

Fantasy News

  • De'Andre Hunter
    SF, Atlanta Hawks

    De'Andre Hunter finished his rookie season with top-220 value in 8/9-cat formats.

    Hunter started 62 of his 63 games played and averaged 32 minutes in those appearances, giving him an ample opportunity to prove what kind of player he can be in the league. The rookie posted an uninspiring 12.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. Touted as a quality defender coming out of college, Hunter only averaged 0.7 steals and 0.3 blocks per game. On a team with multiple other ball dominant players Hunter is probably suited best in a three-and-D role on the wing. If the defensive numbers can slightly increase we could see Hunter play closer to a top-120 value player next season.

  • Clint Capela
    C, Atlanta Hawks

    Clint Capela kept top-40 value admist injuries, mid-season trade.

    Although he is yet to make his debut for the Hawks, Capela posted 13.9 points and 13.8 rebounds per game, in 39 games with the Rockets. Foot injuries kept him out the final months of the season and left the door open for speculation on how he will fit in with his new club. Capela's high block (1.8/game) and field goal percentage (63%) numbers make up for his lack of threes and brutal free-throw percentage (53%). In Houston, Capela was the only big on the floor for the majority of his minutes, but now slides in next to forward John Collins, one of the better big men in the league. It will be interesting to see how his lack of an outside game can mesh with this roster, but he has proven over the last few seasons you can expect consistent double-double type numbers out of him, no matter what situation he is in.

  • Kevin Huerter
    SG, Atlanta Hawks

    Kevin Huerter finished the season just outside the top-100 in both 8/9-cat formats.

    Huerter was able to carve out a starting role for the Hawks with his consistent numbers throughout the season. The second-year player dropped 12.2 points, with 2.3 triples in 31.4 minutes per game. The remainder of the stat sheet is filled out with mediocre to below-average numbers including 4.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists and only 1.6 turnovers a game. Huerter had a two week run late in the season where he posted top-50 numbers and has the ability to play at that level more frequently if he can slightly increase and stay consistent with his numbers. Moving forward he is most likely just a points and threes threat.

  • Trae Young
    PG, Atlanta Hawks

    Trae Young finishes the season as a top-20 fantasy player.

    Going into the season with top-20 ADP, Young proved owners right putting up top-10 8-cat and top-20 9-cat rankings on a per game basis. Finishing the year top-five in scoring with 29.6 points per game, Young proved there isn't a shot he won't take making himself one of the most exciting young players in the league. The dramatic scoring increase from his rookie season comes along with knocking down 3.4 threes per game on 44% shooting from the field. Not just a scoring threat, Young is second in the league in assists with 9.3 per game. While these numbers carry his stat lines on a nightly basis there is much more to be desired from the point guard. He also leads the league in turnovers with 4.6 a night and has below average rebounding and defensive stats. The high turnover numbers are to be expected being the primary play maker on an inexperienced, bad team. As the scoring and assist numbers figure to stay consistent Young can crack the top-10 in both formats if he can improve on his assist and steal numbers next season.

  • John Collins
    PF, Atlanta Hawks

    John Collins finishes a shortened third season as a top-tier fantasy option.

    Despite missing 25 games due to suspension for violating the NBA's Anti-Drug Program, Collins saw an increase in his numbers from last season across the board, landing him as a top-11 player in both 8 and 9-cat formats. The team's leading rebounder at 10.1 per game, also added 21.6 points a night on 58% shooting, including 40% from deep, making him the only player in the league to post that combination of numbers. The mid-season addition of Clint Capela will allow Collins to step outside more often and make plays along the perimeter and in the mid-post area next season. Low assist and steal numbers hold him back from being the top PF option in the league but more time alongside Capela and the rest of the young Hawks core could add to his ability to create. Yet to complete a full season in his NBA career, the big man has top-20 value when on the court and should come off the board early in next year's drafts.

  • De'Aaron Fox
    PG, Sacramento Kings

    Sam Amick is reporting that the Kings have shut down their practice facility after a member of the team's traveling party tested positive for COVID-19.

    The Kings are set to depart for Orlando on Wednesday and the facility will be shut until after they leave town. Buddy Hield and Alex Len have already tested positive for COVID-19, though the report doesn't specify if it's another member of the roster to come down with the virus. Sacramento joins the Nuggets, Nets, Bucks, Heat and Clippers as teams who have had to close their practice facilities in this phase of reopening. The NBA is set to send 22 of its teams to Florida in the coming weeks.

    Source: Sam Amick on Twitter

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
    PF, Milwaukee Bucks

    The Bucks have shut down their practice facility after receiving results from the latest round of COVID-19 tests, per Adrian Wojnarowski.

    That batch of tests was conducted on Friday. Woj adds that the facility will likely be shut through Thursday, when the team's traveling party is supposed to head to Orlando. No word on who or how many of the team's staff tested positive, but as always, the pandemic is in charge of the NBA's attempted restart, no matter how much effort the league puts into its plans.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Mike Conley
    PG, Utah Jazz

    Mike Conley, like several others, is expected to leave the NBA's Orlando bubble when his wife gives birth to a child.

    Conley's third child is due in late August, so any departure will likely affect the Jazz's playoff roster to some extent. Utah will already be missing Bojan Bogdanovic (wrist surgery), though they still figure to be one of the best teams in the West's second tier of contenders. It was a frustrating first season with the Jazz for Conley and fantasy GMs, but he can flip the narrative with a strong postseason.

    Source: Salt Lake Tribune

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    According to Shams Charania, the NBA has informed players that they will not be able to travel with their respective teams to Orlando, should they fail to be tested on one of two days before the scheduled travel date.

    The report also says that if the player does indeed miss the said window to be tested, he will need to register three consecutive tests before traveling. This is a strict protocol, but one the league needs to enforce in order to ensure the safety of all of the players and staff who will be entering the "bubble" in Walt Disney World in preparation for the resumption of the 2019-20 season. There has been a lot of concern, especially with the growing number of cases being recorded in Florida.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Jimmy Butler
    SG, Miami Heat

    Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald is reporting that a third Heat player has tested positive for COVID-19.

    Derrick Jones Jr. is the only known player, though Jackson adds that the two latest cases are both rotation players. Florida is in terrible shape at the moment and the Heat may need to enter the bubble without three of their rotation options — those players may still join the team later but will miss out on valuable practice time. The NBA is going full steam ahead on their restart plans but the virus is going to determine whether or not things actually unfold according to plan.

    Source: Barry Jackson on Twitter