I went through the Locked On Pelicans archives this week and noticed a consistent theme: the importance of last season. From the preseason to DeMarcus Cousins’ injury, to the fun playoff run the Pelicans made, everyone was focused on the gravity of the season. For those of you who weren’t paying attention, or if you’re just a fan of bullet point recaps, here is the summary:
- The Pelicans started the season with Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and Jrue Holiday, as well as the promise of a healthy Rondo a few weeks in, making it the most talented New Orleans roster since creole blue was a real color.
- Cousins entered the season on the last year of his deal, determined to prove that he was worth an enormous contract.
- The Pelicans were anxious to see how successful this group of talent would be, because if they would go into the luxury tax to re-sign Cousins, they had to make sure the team was good enough to make serious noise in the playoffs
- If the team underperformed, or were not able to convince Cousins to stay, fans feared that Davis would not want to stay with the team once his contract was up
All of that created a gumbo of uncertainty, making it all the more important for the Pelicans to do what they hadn’t done in years: make the playoffs in a convincing fashion. Expectations were high, excitement was high, and the Pelicans motto “Do It Big” seemed to describe not just the twin towers lineup the team boasted, but the amount of interest and exuberance the city had for its basketball team.
So with all of that in mind, the Pelicans did a great job holding up their end of the bargain. They earned the 6th seed, but finished with the 4th best roster in the conference. They showed that the team could respond to adversity, and that both Davis and Holiday were capable of leading the team without Cousins. They looked overmatched against the Warriors, but fought in such a way as to inspire their fans to think “Maybe with Cousins this would be different.” The bottom line: last season was the most important season in Pelicans franchise history, and they delivered.
Unfortunately, part of the goal they wished to accomplish — retaining the services of Cousins — didn’t happen. And as a result, that title of “most important season in Pelicans franchise history” has been kicked ahead to next season.
Because he made the All-NBA team, Davis will be eligible for a 5 year extension worth around $230 million. That’s a lot of money. But we’ve seen players turn down that money for a variety of reasons, chief among them an opportunity to win a championship. So even though the Pelicans did admirably last year, they will have to continue to improve to show Davis that it’s worth his while to sign that extension.
Demps understood that, making sure that the two losses from last year were at least adequately filled. And he’ll likely be working the phones all season long trying to bring in more talent to battle against a Western Conference that as a whole got demonstrably better (I still can’t believe LeBron came West). And as Shamit from Bourbon Street Shots noted last week, Dell isn’t done looking for talent this offseason either:
Last year's Pels free agency signings
July 19: Rondo
July 24: Miller
August 3: Clark
September 15: Tony Allen
September 25: Cunningham
Today is July 11.
— Kumar (@FearTheBrown) July 11, 2018
So the Pelicans will do everything they can to live up to the challenge in this, the newly crowned Most Important Season in Pelicans Franchise History. They proved last year that they can respond to challenges and adversity. And if Elfrid Payton and Julius Randle fit in as well as they project to, and Davis and Holiday continue the momentum from last year, maybe this season can earn a new title: The Most Exciting Season in Pelicans Franchise History.