July 12, 2019, 12:02 am
Once Zion Williamson fell in the Pelicans’ lap, everything changed. Anthony Davis was not yet traded and it wasn’t entirely certain the Pelicans would receive a foundational young talent to headline a deal. Then David Griffin’s lottery luck struck again, and the Pelicans found themselves in a still-uncertain, but better position: they now had a foundational young player to build around and the assets that would come back from an AD trade to bolster their future interests.
Now that they had someone to build around, the calculus of a rebuild shifted gears. They could sell off Jrue Holiday to a team looking for a top-25 player and go full rebuild, or they could look to acquire young talent on the free agency market. The Pelicans chose to go in-between.
The moves the Pelicans made this summer echoed everything that David Griffin said in his various public appearances. They wanted to rebuild for the future, but they wanted to do so in a way that completely revamped the culture of basketball in this city, because the Pelicans have always been second fiddle to the Saints. And so far, every veteran that the Pelicans have chosen to acquire and every veteran that they have chosen to keep has a specific purpose for the future of this team, even if they won’t be around to reap the benefits four or five years from now.
Holiday is the steadying force. Griffin has not shied away from paying high praise to Jrue, challenging him to jump from “very good” NBA player to MVP candidate. Whether this challenge will result in the leap that Griffin wants and expects is unclear, but this is certainly clear: the team belongs to Jrue, and that is something that couldn’t be said at any time during Anthony Davis’ awkward tenure here.
J.J. Redick is the first veteran the Pelicans acquired. The 35-year-old was brought in for a very specific reason: to shore up a lineup that was virtually bereft of any volume distance shooting. To my estimation, Redick could possibly account for as much as 30% of the Pelicans’ 3-point makes this season barring any major roster changes. This makes him a pivotal consideration when constructing lineups that optimize the skills of the other players, particularly when 2-3 of the other perimeter players may lack reliable jumpers.
Derrick Favors was the final major veteran acquisition and came via trade with the Utah Jazz. Griffin noted that Favors is seen as a major part of the nucleus moving forward, which would mean that the Pelicans are hopeful to maintain Favors after his contract expires at the end of this year. They think that he has “untapped offensive potential,” which is probably linked to moving Favors out of an awkward fit with Rudy Gobert, as the two centers had a lot of skill overlap. Favors does his best work near the rim, and that is hard to do when the Stifle Tower is your frontcourt partner for a sizable number of minutes. The shift to full-time 5 should take Favors’ offense away from the perimeter, where he doesn’t belong.
The use of the Pelicans’ available cap space points to the middle ground they hope to achieve this year: a team that is built to win (some) now while still maintaining flexibility for the future. No contract handed out this summer (including Darius Miller’s, which appears to be an overpay for a short-term need and for trade salary aggregation) extends past two years, no big contracts were handed out, and no future first-round draft assets were sent out despite the deep collection of first-rounders the Pelicans possess. The hope is that the Pelicans will be good enough to compete for a playoff spot and that this culture will help the young core build and solidify good habits as they learn to play on a winning NBA team.
While it is far too early to proclaim the certainty of a bright future for the New Orleans Pelicans, one thing is clear: the front office is going to very public about what it’s going to do, and after it has declared its intentions, it is going to deliver upon them; for that reason, hope is superfluous in a way that has never been present in Crescent City basketball.
February 21, 2020, 1:36 pmKenrich WilliamsPF, New Orleans Pelicans
Kenrich Williams (back soreness) remains out for the Pelicans.
Williams has missed well over a month now and the All-Star break wasn't even enough to get him a status upgrade. He can be ignored in all but the deepest of formats at this point.
Source: NBA Injury Report
February 21, 2020, 12:45 pmJaylen NowellPG, Minnesota Timberwolves
Jaylen Nowell (illness) will not play on Friday against the Celtics.
Nowell has only appeared in nine games all season, mostly showing up in garbage time. This news shouldn't affect many, if any, fantasy teams.
Source: Wolves PR on Twitter
February 21, 2020, 12:43 pmWayne EllingtonSG, New York Knicks
Wayne Ellington (strained right ankle) is available for Friday's game.
Ellington was initially questionable. He might not be in the rotation, especially if the Knicks tilt towards playing their younger options, so his presence or absence only affects the deepest of fantasy leagues.
Source: Knicks PR on Twitter
February 21, 2020, 12:42 pmElfrid PaytonPG, New York Knicks
Elfrid Payton (sore right ankle) will not play on Friday against the Pacers.
Payton has been on fire of late so this is a tough development coming out of the All-Star break. Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith will split the point guard work for as long as Payton is out, though neither is a standard-league option. Smith has more upside as a scorer while Ntilikina might be safer as a simple steals specialist.
Source: Knicks PR on Twitter
February 21, 2020, 12:40 pmKemba WalkerPG, Boston Celtics
Kemba Walker had his sore left knee drained and received a synvisc injection, and Brad Stevens said that Walker would miss "at least" Friday's game.
The injection is meant to help with swelling and soreness. Knee drains often sound more serious than they are and to this point the Celtics haven't reacted as though Walker's injury is all that serious, so hopefully he only misses a couple games, if that. Marcus Smart and Brad Wanamaker should handle the PG work in the meantime, though players like Tremont Waters and Carsen Edwards can also factor in.
Source: Boston Celtics on Twitter
February 21, 2020, 12:36 pmDusty HannahsPG, Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies are expected to sign Dusty Hannahs to a 10-day contract.
Hannahs appeared in two games for the Grizzlies last season but has been a lights out shooter in the G League this season. It's unlikely he gets much action for this iteration of the Grizzlies.
Source: Memphis Commercial Appeal
February 21, 2020, 12:26 pmD.J. AugustinPG, Orlando Magic
DJ Augustin (left knee bone irritation) will be available for Friday's game.
Augustin will be returning from a 15-game absence and while he will be worked along slowly, it should be a big lift to the Magic in the long run. It's possible that he takes some minutes from Markelle Fultz in certain situations, but the Magic's various fantasy values shouldn't change much. Augustin is back on the radar as a deep-league option for assists and threes.
Source: Dante Marchitelli on Twitter
February 21, 2020, 12:20 pmJoe ChealeyPG, Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets will sign Joe Chealey to a 10-day contract.
Chealey was with the Hornets last season and signed an Exhibit 10 with the team this offseason. He was one of the final cuts before opening night and his familiarity with the organization probably helped him out here. There's no need to watch Chealey in fantasy leagues.
Source: Rod Boone on Twitter
February 21, 2020, 1:40 amDamion LeeSG, Golden State Warriors
Damion Lee went 4-for-12 from the field and 4-for-4 at the line to finish Thursday's game with 13 points, one 3-pointer, four rebounds, three assists and one steal.
Lee has been one of the hotter pickups since D'Angelo Russell was sent to the Wolves. However, some buyer's remorse might be setting in as Lee's .413 shooting from the field can dip thanks to the variance that comes along with him being a streaky shooter, making more suiting for FG-punting builds.
February 21, 2020, 1:36 amJuan Toscano-AndersonPF, Golden State Warriors
Juan Toscano-Anderson was a beneficiary of lengthy garbage time in Thursday's loss to the Rockets, recording a career-high 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting with seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block.
JTA played well, but as mentioned this game was long over even before the fans could form their conga line leading out of the arena. He's worth a watch list spot if you're playing in an 18-teamer or deeper, but expect him to fall off when Stephen Curry eventually returns.