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.
October 17, 2019, 1:01 amLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James scored 18 points with 11 dimes, four rebounds, a triple and a steal in Wednesday's 126-93 win over the Warriors.
James might have played his last preseason game tonight, but he delivered for the fans in his 25 minutes of action. He bullied the Warriors tonight and dished out some beautiful dimes, including a backwards overhead toss straight into Danny Green's shooting pocket which ended up with a bucket. The King has his help this year with Davis so the numbers will come, but we can expect him to take a bit of a backseat and more rest days as he saves his body for the playoffs.
October 17, 2019, 1:00 amAvery BradleySG, Los Angeles Lakers
Avery Bradley scored 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting with four triples against the Warriors on Wednesday.
Bradley did nothing but score the ball tonight and if he isn't red-hot from deep, he isn't worth owning in fantasy leagues. Danny Green (eight points, two triples, two assists and a steal) isn't a sexy option, but provides more for fantasy owners and Quinn Cook (16 points, four triples, two rebounds and three assists) is going to have to prove he can produce when the Lakers play their full rotation.
October 17, 2019, 1:00 amJaVale McGeeC, Los Angeles Lakers
JaVale McGee scored 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting with six rebounds, a steal and a block vs. the Warriors on Wednesday.
McGee looks solid in short spurts and the Lakers look like they have a solid rotation at center between he and Dwight Howard (13 points and seven rebounds). McGee is the man to own here, but both are decent options at the end of your drafts.
October 17, 2019, 1:00 amAnthony DavisPF-C, Los Angeles Lakers
Anthony Davis scored eight points on 3-of-9 shooting with 10 boards, eight assists, a steal and two blocks in Wednesday's preseason game against the Warriors.
It doesn't matter what position he plays, Davis will put up huge numbers this season as he looks ready to go after a thumb injury scare. The eight dimes are a nice wrinkle and the Lakers are going to generate a lot of open looks for their role players with Davis and LeBron James drawing all of the attention.
October 17, 2019, 12:59 amD'Angelo RussellPG, Golden State Warriors
D'Angelo Russell scored 23 points on 8-of-17 shooting with three rebounds, three assists and three 3-pointers in Wednesday's preseason match against the Lakers.
Russell played 27 minutes, which was near the 30 minute mark that the Warriors said they'd play him. He was one of the few productive Warriors players in tonight's game and should slot in as the second highest usage player behind Stephen Curry (rest) which means he'll be someone to target in the earlier rounds.
October 17, 2019, 12:59 amDraymond GreenPF, Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green scored 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting with four rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block against the Lakers on Wednesday.
Green went 0-for-5 from deep and if he can't get his 3-point shooting right, it'll hurt his fantasy value a bit. He's still going to get it done defensively and the Warriors are going to hand him more shots this year so his baseline counting stats production is still safe.
October 17, 2019, 12:37 amMarvin Bagley IIIPF, Sacramento Kings
Marvin Bagley scored a game-high 30 points in Wednesday's 124-110 win over Melbourne United to go with 14 rebounds, one assist, three steals and a block.
Bagley went 12-for-17 from the floor and missed both free throw attempts, but he continued his impressive play in the preseason tonight. He went 6-for-10 at the line which highlights one of the few deficiencies in his fantasy game, but the numbers across the board make up for it.
October 17, 2019, 12:35 amRichaun HolmesPF, Sacramento Kings
Richaun Holmes started on Wednesday and scored two points with eight rebounds, two assists and a block.
Holmes got the starting nod as Dewayne Dedmon (rest) sat this one out. He'll be a great play whenever Dedmon misses time, but he should still be able to scrape out some standard-league value regardless. If you don't know our love for Holmes, you haven't been around enough.
October 17, 2019, 12:33 amBuddy HieldSG, Sacramento Kings
Buddy Hield scored 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting with three 3-pointers, six assists and two rebounds in Wednesday's game against Melbourne.
Hield's six dimes are nice, but the zero on defensive stats is a bummer. If he can expand his game even further in either the assists or defense department, there's a higher ceiling than his current early-mid round value.
October 17, 2019, 12:33 amHarrison BarnesSF, Sacramento Kings
Harrison Barnes finished Wednesday's game with 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting with six rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Barnes was hot tonight, but his line is exactly why he's not a great fantasy player. Even though he shot well from the floor, he hit zero 3-pointers and was limited in contributions elsewhere. The Kings have a ton of talent so there's no need to give Barnes the ball that much.