Kamenetzky Bros. Power Rankings: The Curious Case of the Pelicans

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AnthonyDavisSH1At this time of year, it’s common practice to categorize teams into tankers and non-tankers, but where a team is in mid-March isn’t necessarily where they were in October.

You have your teams who started the year constructed to be historically atrocious, now rounding spectacularly into form (Philadelphia). Some expected to be bad, but turned out pretty good (Phoenix, Toronto). Some hoped to be maybe-we-scrape-the-playoff-ladder-if-all-goes-well-but-we-know-it’s-a-rebuilding-year competent, then saw everything go straight to the terlit (Lakers).

Then there is the curious case of New Orleans.

Few teams were as aggressive last offseason as the Pelicans. Coming off a 27-win season, New Orleans traded the sixth pick in last summer’s draft (Nerlens Noel) and this year’s first-rounder for Jrue Holiday, then engineered a pricey sign-and-trade for Tyreke Evans. They went from a slow build to win-now almost instantly.

It hasn’t worked, and in the worst possible ways. First and most obviously, they haven’t won many games, but aren’t likely to lose enough to trigger the 1-5 lottery protection on the pick they owe Philly. Meanwhile, injuries – most prominently to Holiday and Ryan Anderson – have made it tough for them to know exactly what they have going forward.

It’s been tough, coach Monty Williams acknowledges, but not without a silver lining.

“For one, Anthony (Davis). I don’t think Anthony would be where he is if we had Jrue and Ryan and [other injured players] on the floor. I just don’t think that would have happened,” he said earlier this week. “I think this has been a blessing in disguise, in that he’s been able to stamp his claim as the franchise player, and now when those guys come back I think they know they have to adapt to his game.”

As will the rest of the league. Only 20 (for one more day), Davis has become a 20-10 player, is swatting almost three shots a game, sports the league’s fifth best PER and has lifted virtually all of his advanced metrics from his rookie season.

Particularly remarkable have been the consistently of his splits. Month-to-month, he hasn’t averaged fewer than 19.3 points or more than 21.6, no fewer than 9.4 rebounds or no more than 11.0. In no full month has his shooting percentage dropped lower than 51.3.

Davis buys Williams’ theory about circumstances accelerating his development.

“With Jrue and Ryan out, and Jason (Smith), it made me mature fast and try to become a leader faster. To learn how to handle situations faster. So there’s a lot of truth to that, and each and every day I’m more prepared for it,” he said. “It’s coming faster. teams are staring to key into me a lot faster than I expected. I have no choice but to figure it out.”

The problem for New Orleans is figuring out what to do going forward. Without two key rotation pieces available, GM Dell Demps doesn’t have the sample size to say definitively what the Pelicans will need to crack the top eight in an absurdly deep Western Conference. He probably won’t have a pick to work with, nor any real cap flexibility. To some degree, whatever tweaks he is able to make will be done with imperfect information.

“I don’t think we have to start over,” Williams says, but there’s a good chance the Pelicans will have to use next year as a do-over for this one.

At least they can be confident in Davis.

“One thing we can go into the summertime and say,” said Williams, “we know he’s the guy.”

To the rankings!

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Sixth Man Rankings: Taj Gibson pairing strong offense with elite defense

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question markLet’s play a quick game of “Name That Big Man”:

Since the All Star Break (nine games), Player A, an All-Star, has averaged 19.0 points on 51.6% shooting in 33 minutes per game.
Since the All Star Break (nine games), Player B, not an All-Star, has averaged 16.3 points on 51.3% shooting in 27 minutes per game.

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Rookie Rankings, Week 18: An Otto Porter Sighting

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The best thing about top overall pick Anthony Bennett’s tremendously disappointing rookie season is that it OttoPorterhas provided cover for some tremendously disappointing seasons by other rookies.

Namely, Otto Porter.

Porter was taken third in the 2013 draft by the Washington Wizards and has been worse than Bennett. Much worse.

Bennett is averaging 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds while shooting just 35 percent from the floor. Pedestrian numbers, for sure, and unacceptable for a top pick who is expected to contribute right away.

But Bennett looks like Wilt Chamberlain compared to Porter, who is averaging 1.7 points and 1.4 rebounds while shooting 30 percent. Through February, he had 37 points in 215 minutes.

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Sheridan’s MVP Rankings, March 5 Edition: What Do the Readers Say?

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vote1It’s a two-man race. We all can agree on that, right?

But who is the more worthy candidate: LeBron James? Or Kevin Durant?

This week, we let y’all have your say as we post a poll within this post. You can even vote for somebody else if you so choose, but the majority of folks will vote for the player who leads the league in scoring or the player who went off for 61 points on Monday night.

Once you cast your ballot, the results will appear. And the Cook County rules are in effect, so you can cast a vote from the graveyard if you like. This is a basketball poll, after all, so stuffing is encouraged. (Get it?)

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Most Improved Player Rankings: The Oscars Edition

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The Oscars are over, and since I didn’t watch them or see any of the nominated movies, let’s get this Oscar-themed edition of the Most Improved Player Rankings under way!

Because nothing says “balanced sportswriter” like a column full of misinformed pop culture references!

The envelopes, please …

Best Actor: Anthony Davis. This award goes to the best player in our group, and Davis is the clear choice there. He’s already one of the league’s best big men, and Pelicans fans have already started counting down the days until he ditches them for a bigger market, so they can spend the following season winning 15 games and praying for a franchise-saving draft pick! Laissez-les bons temps rouller!

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Best Picture: This award goes to the guy on the best team, and that would be Lance Stephenson of Indiana. Like 12 Years A Slave, the Pacers haven’t been easy to watch. But they just may end up being the most important basketball team of the season – if they win the NBA championship. Imagine the social impact that a small-market team that plays defense and didn’t import all of its stars like Ocean’s Eleven would have if it actually won the title. Now that’s a dream worth dreamin’.

Also, Isaiah Thomas. That’s a nice picture there. His grandma has it hanging on her fridge, I’m sure.

Best Supporting Actor: Lance Stephenson. He’s playing Beta Dog to Paul George’s Alpha Dog, and he’s played it as well as that Somalian guy alongside Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips. At least, what I’ve seen from the trailer. That was a powerful 30 seconds.

Best Foreign Language Film: Goran Dragic. He was the only nominee. He wins because his name sounds like a Game of Thrones character.

Best Breakthrough Performance: Goran Dragic. Does anyone realize he put up 40 on the Pelicans on Friday night? Forty! This is Goran Dragic we’re talking about, people! My lord!

Best Visual Effects: DeAndre Jordan. For making this look real.

Best Hair and Makeup: Anthony Davis’ barber. Imagine the incredible will power that this man has not to take a Norelco to Davis’ temple and rid the world of that jointed caterpillar he calls his eyebrow. What an inspired performance.

Standout Performance in a Crappy Movie: Andre Drummond. The 2013-14 Pistons are as bad as Transformers would have been without Shia LaBeouf. Unfortunately, in the Pistons’ season, no one ever blows up.

Best Column Written at 3 a.m.: Oh, come on, guys. You didn’t have to do that. I’m not a hero. I mean, I am my own hero - 10 years from now. 37-year old Kels is going to be one hell of a person. I can’t wait to see what I have in store for myself. Will I be an astronaut? An award-winning physicist? A Wal-Mart greeter? I guess I just have to keep living and we’ll find out.

Best Line of this Introduction: On to the rankings.

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