FLANNERY: Anthony Davis is 23 years old. Last year, he averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds for the second straight season. No, it wasn't the MVP-type breakout season some of us projected (cough), but even in that injury-ravaged mess of a year, AD was still pretty damn good.
Now, it could have been better and no one should excuse his wandering attention on the defensive end. That has to improve if he's going to make good on becoming a superduper superstar. And the Pelicans’ season was an unmitigated disaster. But egads, man. One would think AD fell off a cliff last season.
He's going to be a monster this year. We all know that, yes?
ZILLER: He's going to be a monster.
I'm concerned that the team lost two key offensive cogs (Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon) on an offense-skewed team with an offense-skewed coach. I'm concerned about the point guard position given the unspeakable situation Jrue Holiday faces. Tyreke Evans is still sort of a mismatch here, and he's still recovering from injury to boot.
I'm somewhat concerned that Alvin Gentry continues to resist moving Davis to center, which means this team will have too many minutes from Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca. I fear playing more with lineups featuring defenders E'Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway and Solomon Hill will, while improving the New Orleans resistance markedly, force Davis to face far more double-teams.
But yes, Anthony Davis is going to be a monster. I get the sense he's very disappointed in last season's results. I think he's probably pissed that he missed out on the All-NBA nod and the $24 million bonus that it would have brought. He's a very competitive guy, and I bet he bristles at having been eclipsed as The Next Great Big Man by Karl-Anthony Towns, many have said. He knows this is a critical season.
We saw Gentry get the most out of Amar’e Stoudemire in Phoenix. The overall roster upgrades will improve the team's ability to defend, and that should help the team's ability to win. I'm so ready for this Anthony Davis again.
FLANNERY: Same here, and I share your concerns about the makeup of the roster. They're younger, more athletic, and presumably healthier, but that's a lot of skill and shooting they're subtracting without Gordon and Anderson. Unless Buddy Hield is Dale Ellis, shooting is still the biggest concern.
I fear this team needs a complete rebuild rather than the constant tinkering on the margins that has become Dell Demps' trademark. I mean, the clock's ticking here.
ZILLER: The clock's absolutely ticking. I suppose a mitigating factor is that you don't want to waste a single season that you do have with Anthony Davis on a rebuild and that you don't want to burn the fandom more than last season already burned them. Financial success in New Orleans is so tenuous for this club.
Demps made real mistakes building this team, with the starkest ones being the eternal void at small forward since Trevor Ariza left and the Asik problems. (Re-signing him last year is probably Demps' biggest mistake, other than firing Monty Williams after a playoff berth. Monty had the roster in peak form.)
But you can't really rebuild now, can you?
FLANNERY: Considering Tyreke Evans was the most obvious candidate to trade ... no, I don't think you can. This was the bargain Demps made when he decided to eschew the draft and add young veterans to the core around AD. It hasn't worked out the way he wanted because it's hard to find fellow franchise cornerstones by going that route. But I still understand why he did it given everything you just said.
This was a playoff team two years ago and bust last year. What's their equilibrium in your mind? We haven't revealed our predictions yet (god, I hate predictions), but I don't have them in the postseason. It could happen, certainly, but they'd need some good fortune to come their way.
ZILLER: I have them on the fringe of the playoff race, since that's how they got in two years ago -- on the final night of the regular season. I think we can chalk most of last season's flailing up to that incredible injury bug that ripped through the team early. Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson both got starts in the season opener last year! Once the Pels got out to that awful start, there was no coming back. Despite serious roster changes and the Evans and Holiday uncertainty, I think New Orleans' true form is closer to the 45-win version from 2014-15.
Good fortune would be nice. It'd be a remarkable change of course.
FLANNERY: This is getting kind of bleak, so let's end with the thought of watching a motivated Anthony Davis recapture his place in the game. That's worth the price of League Pass, right there.
ZILLER: Hear, hear!