The New Orleans Pelicans had quite the tumultuous offseason. After the significant departures of DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo, the Pelicans were searching to fill the void left to help their star and potential-MVP Anthony Davis.
Commonly known as “The Brow,” Davis is projected to have another sensational year. Last year, he averaged 28 points, 11 rebounds, and led the league in blocks again with 2.6 per game. Because of those stellar numbers, his signature uni-brow and unique game will be the target of many teams come next offseason.
After Cousins went down with an Achilles injury halfway through last season, Davis maintained his personal stats and his name began appearing in the MVP conversation. Davis ended up finishing third, behind LeBron James and winner James Harden. This year, the weight of his impending free agency will put even more heat on The Brow, how he plays this season, and whether or not he leaves New Orleans.
Davis proved last year he can lead a team, as he and the Pelicans surprised many during their first-round upset of the Portland Trailblazers. Now, the Pelicans will have to do the most they can to convince the five-time All-Star to stay.
They may just have a chance to do so, mainly due to two important factors: the super-max and their new signings. The fact that Davis is eligible for the super-max contract extension is definitely appealing. If Davis stays with the Pelicans, he is up for a potential $230 million payday next year. This is far more than any other team could offer and this could lure Davis to stay with the team that drafted him.
Furthermore, the Pels’ new free agent signings may be just enough to convince Davis to stay past this year and be the MVP for the Pelicans for years to come. In an unpredictable free agency market, the Pelicans snagged three quality player with inexpensive contracts, in Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton and Jahlil Okafor.
Randle and the Pelicans agreed to a two-year deal worth $18 million, which may become an absolute bargain if Randle continues his upward trend. The Pelicans will be able to immediately plug him into the starting lineup alongside Davis. Randle had a career-year last season, averaging 16 points and eight rebounds. If he can build upon that production, Davis may have a new and exciting front-court running mate.
As for Payton, he will have a chance to prove himself as a premier starting point guard in the absence of Rondo. While Payton is certainly not as skilled as Rondo, he is only 23 and averaged a solid line of 12.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 6.2 assists for the Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns. Having The Brow and Randle to throw lobs to will certainly help his assist numbers. Also, he could form a formidable offense-to-defense backcourt duo with Jrue Holiday.
This is Payton’s best chance to make a lasting impression in the league and he will have to as he only agreed to a one-year deal with his hometown team. If he plays well this year, he will definitely have a shot at staying on as the point guard for the Pelicans.
Of the three signings, Okafor is probably the biggest wildcard. After a great rookie year which saw him average 17.5 points and seven rebounds for the Philadelphia 76ers, his numbers have dropped off significantly since.
Okafor’s recurring injury history and the superstar emergence of Joel Embiid caused his playing time to be diminished in Philadelphia and as he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets. With the Pelicans, Okafor will again have to embrace coming off the bench, but behind a top-three player in Davis.
The Pelicans have Okafor signed to a possible two-year deal, with a team-option on the second year. If Okafor can return to rookie form and produce for the second unit, the Pelicans may be a top-tier team in the Western Conference again.
These three additions to the Pelicans roster will have a chance to compliment Anthony Davis.
A starting five of Payton-Holiday-Nikola Mirotic-Randle-Davis has some serious potential. This is a young, athletic lineup that features high-flyers and versatile players. If Okafor can remain healthy, he can be a significant piece to this puzzle with instant offense. However, the question remains if all of this will be enough to convince Davis to stay.
If Davis has a spectacular year and Randle, Payton and Okafor were significant contributors in that process, then I believe Davis will stay in New Orleans. All in all, these three signings means good news for The Brow.