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The Pelicans don’t need Anthony Davis

February 27, 2019

Graphic by Kaitlyn Biri

Graphic by Kaitlyn Biri

It’s been the biggest talk of the town since the 2019 NFC Championship. It’s evidence for sports observers that think the NBA lacks competitive balance. But, most importantly, it’s just a major disappointment.

On Jan. 28, New Orleans Pelicans power forward and center Anthony Davis informed the organization that he would not sign a super-max contract extension following the 2018-2019 season. Had Davis agreed to stay and sign this lucrative deal, the six-time NBA All-Star would have made $240 million over five years.

Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers threw down trade offers for Davis on the Pelicans’ table before the Feb. 7 trade deadline, but none fell through.

Pelicans Head Coach Alvin Gentry said Davis would play for the remainder of this season but with reduced minutes.

It’s inevitable that New Orleans will ship away its long-time franchise player this summer and have some new leadership in the front office.

On Feb. 15, the team fired Dell Demps, general manager, and replaced him with former Danny Ferry, Atlanta Hawks general manager, on an interim basis. Demps had been with the organization since 2010, but the team made the playoffs only three times in his eight-and-a-half seasons in the Big Easy. In those three seasons of postseason berths, the team never got past the Western Conference Semifinals and won just one playoff series (2017-2018 season).

This past Saturday night at the Smoothie King Center, the Pelicans knocked off the Lakers 128-115 without Davis. It was kind of a sweet victory for the home crowd since the Pelicans won without their superstar and defeated the Lakers small and power forward LeBron James.

As the team wraps up its regular season in mid-April with no hopes of the postseason, it will be time for an organizational overhaul.

New Orleans took care of one of its major problems in Demps, who failed to elevate the franchise by building a winning team. Next will be the Davis trade saga this summer, as the Pelicans should demand a lot in return from a team landing the transcendent player.

If I were a member of the Pelicans’ front office, these assets would be the components of a trade: Davis and Pelicans small forward Solomon Hill (to clear cap space) in exchange for three to four solid players and two first-round picks.

For example, if the Pelicans trade with the New York Knicks, (who could own the team’s worst record) then they could select Duke’s freshman small and power forward Zion Williamson if they receive the No. 1 pick of the 2019 NBA Draft.

Williamson, along with the players from the Davis trade and solid free agent pickups, will make the Pelicans relevant again.

Let me say this statement for all to hear:

This team does not need Davis to win.

Yes, you read that last sentence correctly.

They have made the playoffs twice and have missed them entirely five times, and potentially a sixth, with “The Brow” on New Orleans’ roster.

In basketball, one player can take over a game, but it is much more difficult to win by putting an entire franchise on one’s back.

James can lead the Lakers to some relevance again but cannot win a championship without some help. And then, there’s the Golden State Warriors, who currently have a starting lineup full of All-Stars. That team makes winning look so easy with so much talent to go around.

The point is that Davis has had decent help around him in players like point and shooting guard Jrue Holiday, former Pelicans point guard Rajon Rondo and former Pelicans power forward Nikola Mirotic, but he has not stepped up as a leader.

Back in 2011, former New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul left the organization after asking for a trade. However, Paul asked for a trade in the offseason and was able to lead the team through the turmoil of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In six seasons in New Orleans, Paul and the Hornets made the playoffs three times and won the Southwest Division title and one playoff series in the 2007-2008 season.

Davis led the team to the same height Paul did, but with some more talent around him.

This Pelicans squad seems to play better without Davis on the court, despite his recognition as a top-five player in the league. Davis can post big numbers on a given night, but he lacks the “alpha” mentality and is a pretty quiet individual.

Davis was a great player for the franchise and may one day be an NBA Hall of Famer, but I put Paul and former LSU and New Orleans Jazz shooting guard Pete Maravich ahead of him in terms of the best players in team history.

It’s time to tank and let the season, and Davis’ era in New Orleans, come to an end.

 

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