Oct 8, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) controls the ball against the Chicago Bulls during the first half at United Center

USA Today Sports

Pelicans tipping off season tonight

Expectations are high for Davis, Cousins and crew

Seth Dunlap
October 18, 2017 - 3:25 pm

The New Orleans Pelicans tip off their 2017-18 season tonight at 7:00 p.m. in Memphis against the Grizzlies.  Expecations for the team this season are high and it feels like it could be a franchise defining year.

DeMarcus Cousins is set to hit free agency after this season, and the Pelicans likely must prove they can be a competitive contender in order to entice Cousins to stay.  He averaged 27 points and 11 rebounds last year and is highly regarded as one of the best centers in the NBA just entering his prime at 27 years old.  He is a three time All-Star and two time All-NBA player.

He teams up in the fontcourt with Anthony Davis, forming a formidable duo that goes against the recent NBA trend of building your team in the backcourt first.  Davis averaged 28 points and nearly 12 rebounds last year, but the biggest concern continues to be about his health.   He is entering his sixth NBA season at just 24 years old, but had never played in more than 68 games in a season until last year, when he suited up for 75.  

Speaking of health, that will be a critical factor in this team's success.   Injuries have plagued the franchise during Alvin Gentry's tenure, and it's already a factor again this season.  Newly aquired point guard Rajon Rondo suffered a sports hernia injury in the perseason and is expected to miss 3-5 more weeks.   That means the other players in the backcourt will have to fill his void.

Jrue Holiday returns after testing the free agent waters.  While he was expected to slide over to the shooting guard spot with the aquisition of Rondo, he has played point guard for years in New Orleans.  He will fill in adequately, it's the other guards who are a bit unproven.   

Ian Clark comes over from Golden State and is expected to be a big contributor on the perimeter.  Clark shot a career high 37% from three point range last year, an area the Pelicans were desparate for improvement.   Jordan Crawford will also help in that area.  Crawford enters his second season with the Pelicans, hoping to improve on his 14 points per game and 38% three point shooting.

The talent on this roster is there for success, especially if they can weather the rough early season schedule until Rondo returns from his injury.   After their trip to Memphis the team will face defending champion Golden State at home before heading back on the road for a three game trip.  The competition in the Western Conference is even tougher this season as Oklahoma City, Houston, and Minnesota all made big offseason additions.  Plus the Spurs and Grizzlies return most of their playoff rosters from a season ago.  If Gentry and GM Dell Demps are to keep their jobs the Pelicans must at minimum make the playoffs this season.  That's possible with the roster they've assembled, but health and improved defensive play on the interior will be big factors.  

Join WWL Radio tonight at 8:00 p.m. for "Double Coverage" with myself, Seth Dunlap, and Kristian Garic as we break down the Pels-Grizzlies game live on the show and have post game reaction from writer and podcaster Jake Madison of the Locked on Pelicans podcast. 


Comments ()