The team has all the pieces, a dynamic center capable of protecting the rim and serve as a dominate rebounder, an All-Star caliber point guard, a wing player capable of carrying the offense for extended stretches and, of course, Anthony Davis, the most complete young player in the game.
Unlike many of the of the other teams in the league that have failed to make the playoffs, New Orleans has rejected the notion of purposely throwing away games in order to obtain a higher pick in the draft.
In their first game together, Asik and Davis became the first duo to each grab 15 rebounds and swat five shots in 16 years.
The pairing in the front court has boasts the second and fourth leading rebounders in the NBA along one of the top shot blocking duos in the league, but New Orleans coach Monty Williams is looking for a complete defensive effort from his team.
“I think they are just going to get better, but we don’t want to rely on those guys every night,” Williams said. “We have to guard the ball, not let them get into the paint and force them to try and make a play.
Davis has already emerged as an MVP candidate, leading the league in blocks and offensive rebounds while averaging 23.7 points, 13.3 rebounds, 4.3 blocks, 2.0 steals, 1.7 assists and leading the league in PER at 33.8.
Each night, he is capable of making a play no one else in the can.
While the team certainly has enough talent, but it has struggled to establish itself among the elite teams in the rugged Western Conference.
After throttling Orlando in the opener, as the Pelicans totaled 62 rebounds and 17 blocks, the team struggled in its first true test of the season.
Facing the Mavericks — one of the teams New Orleans needs to outperform to try and secure a playoff spot next summer — the team struggled in the first half, surrendering 66 points and seemingly giving up an easy basket in transition after every one of its own made shots.
The difficulties containing Dallas in transition was one of the key areas the Pelicans want to improve upon.
“When we score, we kind of switch matchups. Instead of playing your guy, just going with the guy next to you,” Evans said. “We have to get back and play defense the right way and not get switched up.”
When the Pelicans needed a spark to start the second half, Evans delivered, scoring 16 points to help his team enter the final period with a three point advantage.
New Orleans wasn’t able to close out the game, as it committed a trio of offensive fouls, including a critical charging call on Eric Gordon late in the contest, allowing the Mavericks to escape with a five point victory.
Dallas knew it was fortunate to leave Smoothie King Arena with a victory and fully expect the remaining three games of the season to be closely contested.
“We know they are looking at themselves as a playoff team and they’re going to present a lot of challenges this year,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.
Two nights later as New Orleans battled the Grizzlies, the offense couldn’t find its rhythm, and as Davis struggled, the rest of the team couldn’t generate enough points to secure a road victory.
The Pelicans have dropped their only two contests against Western Conference foes and if the team doesn’t have the promise of adding to its core though the draft next June, as the Rockets own the rights to their first round pick.
The front office has done what it can to try and make the team a success this season, the only thing the team lacks is cohesion.
“We have to make sure we focus or and execute,” Davis said. “It’s just, we need to come out with wins, especially against a good team like Dallas.”