The New Orleans Pelicans are going through a total re-haul this season, trashing the old Hornets nickname for a fresh look and adding a pair of top guards to help transform a team that was No. 24 in the league in scoring last season. No matter how you look at it, this is a new-look Pelicans team that only resembles last year's 27-55 team in the city it represents and the handful of key players that return.
Will the new additions get New Orleans into the playoffs in the always treacherous Western Conference? There's plenty of competition for postseason spots even at the bottom of the conference, but the Pelicans' roster is young enough to make a big leap forward possible.
Jrue Holiday -- The Philadelphia 76ers needed something—or, as it were, a few somethings—to rebuild around, and the Pelicans' almost-there roster was a good fit. So on draft night, the Sixers sent Holiday, their All-Star point guard, to New Orleans for Nerlens Noel (who had just put on his Pelicans hat at the draft) and a 2014 first-rounder. Holiday had a breakout season a year ago when he made his first All-Star game in his age-22 season, his fourth in the league. His 17.7 points and eight assists per game were career-highs, and both were so by a long shot. He may not score at that rate in New Orleans, but the assist opportunities may increase with Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson to feed. Perhaps the strength of Holiday's game is his defense.
Eric Gordon -- Gordon didn't make his season debut last year until late December while he recovered from a knee injury that he healed through rehabilitation instead of surgery. But once Gordon played, he led New Orleans in scoring. He finished his 42-game season with 17 points per game (his lowest since averaging 16.9 as a league sophomore in 2009-10) on a career-low 40.2 shooting percentage. Gordon has only played in at least 60 games twice in his five seasons so far, and he had offseason ankle surgery but should be ready by the time the season begins. When he's healthy, Gordon is a tremendous scoring asset.
Al-Farouq Aminu -- The Pelicans signed Aminu to a one-year, $3.7 million deal in July after declining the last year on his rookie contract. Aminu is an athletic wing who uses his athleticism mostly to defend and rebound, though he can get to the basket too. One thing he can't do well is shoot, but the Pelicans have plenty of guys who can do that. He started 71 games last year, but that won't be the case in 2013-14.
Ryan Anderson -- Anderson is really good at shooting threes. This you already knew. He took 557 three-pointers last season and 558 two-pointers. Because he's well known for his perimeter shooting ability, his mid-range game gets overlooked, but he shot 46.4 percent from inside the arc last season and made a career-high 6.8 field goals per 36 minutes. He's a true stretch-four who should be an interesting complement to Anthony Davis moving forward. He struggles defensively, the biggest area hampering his development after winning the 2012 Most Improved Player award.
Anthony Davis -- Davis made his name known—and his status secured as the No. 1 pick in 2012—in his one season at Kentucky mostly because of his defensive ability. He was, by all measures and assessments, a freak athlete with once-in-a-generation defensive instincts and shot-blocking timing. What he showed in the last half of his lone college season that went largely underreported was his skills as an offensive player. He began to develop a solid repertoire of post moves and a consistent jumper that stretches out to 19- or 20-feet. Davis missed 18 games as a rookie, but he still averaged 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds. The best part of his game, his defense, still didn't quite catch up to the league. He was, after all, a 19-year-old rookie. He'll catch up.
Tyreke Evans -- Evans appears to be the new Manu Ginobili, as SB Nation's Tom Ziller called him in projecting Evans as the 48th-best player in the league in the year 2017. He'll come off the bench but play a ton of minutes in New Orleans, spelling Gordon or Anderson. Evans has the size, ability and knowledge to fill in at the one, two or three, and with a young team whose starting shooting guard has a history of injuries, that's a luxury. Of course, the Pelicans paid for him like they would any luxury item; he signed a four-year, $48 million contract with the Pelicans in the offseason.
Jason Smith -- He had his first full-contact practice on Sept. 30 after a torn labrum derailed his 2012-13 season in February, and John Reid of the Times Picayune reported that Smith was immediately practicing with full intensity. His best shot at helping the Pelicans is pretty straightforward: bring intensity, play defense, rebound and let the other four players do the scoring.
Austin Rivers -- Of all the things Rivers lacked in his rookie season, confidence was not one. But here are the numbers to dispel any notion you may have that confidence directly correlates to anything involved with being good: Rivers shot 37 percent from the field in scoring only 6.2 points per game and generally looked lost after being thrust into the starting lineup upon Gordon's knee injury. Rivers looked better in the Las Vegas Summer League, and he should benefit from less weight on his shoulders with a better roster in town.
Brian Roberts -- Roberts was a solid backup to Greivis Vasquez last season, averaging 6.0 assists per 36 minutes as a 27-year-old rookie. He also shot 39 percent from 3-point range, second on the team among players with at least 100 attempts. With Holiday in town, Roberts will likely touch the ball even less, but he's a reliable back-up that should allow Monty Williams peace of mind when Holiday is getting a breather.
Greg Stiemsma -- Stiemsma is a solid big man off the bench who can play spot minutes and grab rebounds and play defense. This is what the Pelicans are asking of Smith in front of him on the depth chart, and it's the same for Stiemsma.
Anthony Morrow -- Morrow won't be asked to do much, which is the type of situation that has suited him best in his five seasons so far. He can provide instant scoring off the bench and hit threes.
Darius Miller -- Miller suffered a stress fracture in his foot in early September, and he likely won't make his season debut until late November or December. He shot 39.3 percent from 3-point range as a rookie in 52 appearances last season.
Jeff Withey -- According to Mike Prada of SB Nation, the lack of structure in the Summer League kept Withey from performing better, as the rookie from Kansas ranked No. 58 out of the 61 rookies in the Summer League in Prada's assessment. He was a great shot blocker in college who largely avoided foul trouble, a skill that will take some adjusting if it were to ever translate.
Monty Williams -- Last season's Hornets didn't look much like Williams' first three Hornets teams, but much of that had to do with a roster burdened with injuries. Williams is known as a defensive-minded coach, and he has a good roster to tighten up opposing offenses with Davis and Holiday leading the ranks. Because of the flexibility of the team's players Williams will have plenty of configurations to play with. With so many young players figuring out their roles and adjusting to the league, that level of flexibility should play into Williams' favor.