Mavs News

Mavericks Divison Preview: New Orleans Pelicans

By Rami Michail
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The Dallas Mavericks don’t just play in the toughest conference in the NBA; they play in the toughest division.

Along with the Mavericks, the South West Division consists of the Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, and San Antonio Spurs.

Last season the Mavs, Grizz, Spurs, and Rockets all made the playoffs and finished with 49+ wins.

We can expect the division to be just as tough, if not tougher, this year as well.

Previous Previews: Spurs | Rockets | Grizzlies

New Orleans Pelicans

Injuries tarnished a busy offseason for the Pelicans last year. Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, and Ryan Anderson all missed a number of games for the 34-48 Pelicans. Along with the return of healthy bodies, the team has brought in Omer Asik which they hope is enough to make a run for the playoffs.

Key Additions

  • Omer Asik
  • Jimmer Fredette 
  • John Salmons
  • Patrick Young
  • Russ Smith

Key Losses

  • Jason Smith
  • Brian Roberts
  • Al-Farouq Aminu
  • Anthony Morrow

2013-2014 Leaders

  • PPG: Anthony Davis (20.8)
  • RPG: Anthony Davis (10.0)
  • APG: Jrue Holiday (7.9)
  • SPG: Jrue Holiday (1.6)
  • BPG: Anthony Davis (2.8)

Dates

  • Oct 23 @ NOP (Preseason)
  • Nov 1st @ NOP
  • Dec 10th @ Dal
  • Jan 25th @ NOP
  • March 2nd @ Dal

Q&A

Michael Pellissier joins us to answer some questions on the Pelicans and their matchup with the Mavs.

Editor’s Note: Michael Pellissier is a recent MBA graduate of Millsaps College, which is located in Jackson, MS. He will be starting his professional career as a Data Analyst in New Orleans in just over a week. He writes for ESPN TrueHoop Network’s Bourbon Street Shots (@BourbonStShots), which covers the New Orleans Pelicans. You can find Michael on Twitter @MikePellissier.

The Pelicans added Omer Asik, John Salmons, Jimmer Fredette, and plenty of healthy bodies (Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday). Which player(s) will have the greatest impact on this team?

This would’ve been an easy answer if you hadn’t put in a healthy Ryno and Jrue. I’ll say that our most pressing need to fill was a big body to patrol the paint and grab boards, and Asik gives us that.

The offense was scintillating when Ryan Anderson was healthy last year simply because teams had no way to guard Davis and co. when Ryno was taking their power forward out to the 3 point line. The power of a stretch 4 is no myth.

Jrue is the best player of the 3 and Anderson is a huge boost for the offense, but I think what Asik brings is the most needed. Our defense has been so awful the last few years, and that needs to change if we have any chance of making the playoffs. Ultimately, that responsibility largely rests on the shoulders of Asik and Davis.

Anthony Davis has been pegged by many as a future MVP and many have him predict he’ll claim the title as best power forward in the game by the time the season is over. Is the hype justified? What kind of season do you expect from the third year star?

The hype is more than justified, and it’s nice to see overwhelming national recognition of a player Pelicans fans are just smitten with. Davis’s minutes were intentionally limited in his rookie year and I don’t think people knew how good of a season he had- I legitimately had some friends ask me if he was a bust.

He had a bit of a coming out party during a stretch of last season where he averaged close to 30 points in something like 10 games. I can’t remember the exact numbers, but it was a crazy stretch of games. Granted, a lot of our high-usage players were hurt at the time.. I certainly don’t expect him to average 30 points a game this year. It was just an indication of what he’s capable of.

As for whether he will be the “best power forward” this year, I think it entirely depends on whether he becomes the defensive game-changer that he was projected to be coming out of college. He has actually been far more successful as an offensive player thus far in his career- his defensive impact has been overrated because of his insane ability to block shots. I think Blake Griffin and Kevin Love are 1a and 1b right now, so he’d have to pass them. And Dallas also happens to have a pretty good PF named Dirk.

But with that said, if Davis becomes the impact defender I think he’ll be, I don’t think any other PF can have the overall effect on the court that he has. I expect that he will at least be seriously considered for the “best power forward” moniker sometime soon.. I also expect him to put up a crazy stat line this season: 23-24 points, 10-11 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 1.5-2 steals per game is a very reasonable target, in my opinion.

Including their preseason showdown, the Mavs and Pelicans will face each other five times. Which matchup(s) will your eyes be focused on?

To be honest, I hadn’t thought about that much.. but if I have to choose one, it’s the first regular season matchup. It’s our 2nd regular season game, and the Magic aren’t the toughest opener. The Dallas game in November is at home for us, and I think it’ll be our first test of the season.. at least I hope.

What about the Mavericks will give the Pelicans the toughest time?

I think the biggest question for us is if we can stop the Ellis-Dirk pick and pop. Dallas absolutely terrorized us last year with it. Ellis is so quick and you can’t leave Dirk. Adding Parsons just gives opposing defenses another weapon to worry about when leaving to help on anyone else, and Tyson is certainly a better lob threat than Dalembert was. Luckily, I think having Asik/Davis to cover will help there.

Dirk in isolation is tough, but I think Davis can at least play him well enough to prevent hard doubles, which Dirk can easily exploit by passing.

What will/can the Pelicans do that will cause the Mavs to struggle?

I think Davis is a very tough matchup for you guys. He’s just so mobile for a guy his size, and I think Brandan Wright might be the only one who can stay with him. Ryan Anderson could also give y’all trouble, because a pick/pop with Ryan Anderson would be hell on someone like Dirk.

Past that, I could see Tyreke giving y’all trouble. He got a bit of a bad rap last year from those outside of New Orleans, but when he’s around shooters, he can be impossible to stop. He’s a weapon if and only if surrounded by quality players. He’s just so strong and so good at getting to the rim- without Marion, I’m not sure who can match up with him.

Where do you see the Mavs and Pelicans finishing this season in the loaded West?

I’m pretty high on the Mavs this year if Tyson is anything resembling DPOY Tyson and if Dirk can stay healthy. I could see you sneaking into the top 4 or 5 of the West if things break right. At the least, Dallas absolutely looks like a playoff team. I have a ton of faith in Rick Carlisle and I think you are in store for a good season.

As for us.. I really don’t know. There were glimpses of a very, very good team last year, but I have little faith that we can stay healthy. Injury-plagued seasons have kinda become the norm here. With that said, if Davis can stay healthy and we can keep 3-4 strong players healthy to support him, I think we have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs. I think our ceiling is the 6th or 7th seed in the playoffs (if everything breaks right) and I think our floor is 11th.

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