Tyreke Evans: Pelicans ‘right there’ with defending champion Warriors
One of my all-time favorite quotes from Breaking Bad came from the great Mike Ehrmantraut, who famously told Walter White, “Just because you shot Jesse James, don’t make you Jesse James.”
Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans should probably heed Mike’s words, albeit with a bit more of an applicable interpretation: “Just because you hired the offensive guru of the Golden State Warriors, don’t make you the Golden State Warriors.”
In an interview with Adi Joseph of the Sporting News on Thursday, Evans stated his belief that the Pelicans, who tabbed Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry to be their head coach this offseason, can realistically contend for a championship in 2015-16.
I don’t see why we can’t do it,” the former Rookie of the Year said. “We have a great team. I don’t see our team any different from the Warriors. I think we’re right there, even though this is going to be our first year with Coach Gentry. If we push each other and work hard, we can make that next step. It’s not going to be easy, but I think we have that chance.”
Evans went on to advocate for the team being at their best when they push the pace and run an up-tempo style of play. “We’re a young team. We need to get up and down,” he said. “The last game of the season, when we played the Spurs, we played an up tempo game. We came out of the gate getting stops and going for baskets. That’s been our best style. Playing like that is going to be good for us. We have a lot of guys with athleticism.”
Well, the Pelicans have more than their fair share of work to do in order to live up to Evans’ lofty appraisal of the team for next season. While the Warriors ranked second in offensive rating last year at 109.7, New Orleans clocked in at ninth with 105.4. The Gentry factor could help close that gap, but more concerning were the discrepancies on the defensive end (Golden State was first by a wide margin in defensive rating at 98.2, while the Pelicans ranked a lowly 22nd with 104.7) and that pace Evans was talking about (the defending champs again a runaway first at 100.69 with New Orleans in a different area code entirely at 93.70, fourth-slowest in the league).
Ousting former head coach Monty Williams in favor of Gentry was a huge step in the right direction. Williams was often criticized for his plodding offensive schemes and his defensive gameplans that placed a heavy emphasis on sending bigs up high to contain pick-and-roll ballhandlers (and giving up tons of points in the paint as a process). Meanwhile, Gentry is famed for his high-octane offenses and has been known to run more balanced defensive sets.
Still, it remains to be seen if the Pelicans have the bodies to compete. They don’t quite have the long, versatile athletes that the Warriors have who can switch all screens and rotate seamlessly to seal off the rim or close out on open shooters (except of course Anthony Davis, the basketball boogeyman who craves the warm blood of the living). New Orleans doesn’t have the shooting to justify such a comparison either. The career outliers of Luke Babbitt (51.3 percent) and Quincy Pondexter (43.3 percent) from deep last season scream regression. Furthermore, the only other above-average three-point shooters on the Pelicans roster (Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, and Jrue Holiday) combined to miss 84 games last season. Evans was particularly offensive from long-range at 30.4 percent and there’s talk that Holiday could still be extremely limited headed into 2015-16.
Make no mistake, New Orleans should easily contend for a playoff spot in the West next season. They have another year of Anthony Davis developing his ridiculous talents and a head coach in Gentry that finally knows how to utilize those talents and blend them with Evans’ drive-and-kick skills and the rest of the roster’s strengths into a cohesive offensive identity. But after a first round sweep at the hands of the Warriors last April, let’s chill out on the championship contention talk and the Dubs parallels for now, Tyreke.
H/T SLAM Magazine
*Stats courtesy of NBA.com*