8. New Orleans Pelicans
Ignore this if you’ve been on the Anthony Davis for MVP bandwagon in past offseasons — the dude is about to turn 26, two years removed from any major injury, and has the best team of his career around him. The Pelicans’ success hinges completely on how great Davis is. Fortunately for them, we could be entering the apex of one the game’s greatest talents ever.
Davis scored 28 points per game on .534/.340/.828 shooting last season, intensifying his offensive efficiency despite sharing the floor with a second ball-dominant big man in DeMarcus Cousins. Indeed, after Cousins went down with an achilles tear, Davis shot up to another level. He averaged 35 points and 13 rebounds playing 38 minutes per game in February. If it was indicative of the future for Davis, we are in for a treat as this dude enters his late 20s.
Though the Cousins injury forced New Orleans to alter their course yet again, the team filled out its roster in the image of the squad which swept the Trail Blazers last April. They will play small and fast, Davis will be the primary center, and coach Alvin Gentry will tinker with lineups to balance floor-spacing and defense.
The Pelicans’ primary offseason additions to help create that image were Julius Randle on a two-year, $19 million deal with a player option on the second year, and Elfrid Payton for one year at $2.7 million. They might have nabbed their starting center and power forward on value contracts by waiting out the market. General manager Dell Demps has taken deserved flak in the past, but he has done a great job from the Cousins trade in February 2016 on.
Expect New Orleans to compete with the best in the West if Davis continues his unparalleled upward trajectory.