On Draft Night, the Pelicans made a dramatic move to change their organization.
Already with Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis as the basis, New Orleans traded the draft rights to Nerlens Noel for Jrue Holiday. They further reformed their team when the Pelicans traded Grievis Vasquez to Sacramento for Tyreke Evans.
Now the Pelicans were not just rebranding the team off the court, but completely overhauling it on the court with a trio of superb young guards with All Star potential.
This is a group with tremendous potential.
Holiday was an All Star last year in Philadelphia, emerging as a strong scorer and capable leader for the undermanned Sixers team. Gordon has been a bit unsettled in New Orleans after his restricted free agency flap, but when he is healthy he is one of the best shooters in the league. Evans is a former Rookie of the Year and a dynamic ball handler who can share the scoring and point guard load, allowing Holiday to play off the ball some.
Why can't it work? Holiday said the three-guard lineup allows the Pelicans to throw different things at defenses. There is more ways for the team to attack and more space for the three guards to play with. Particularly with Ryan Anderson back in the lineup and able to spread the floor even more with his shooting ability. There is always someone able to attack the basket.
"We've all got the ability to get to the basket and create our own shots," Evans said. "We're not used to playing with each other but we all know the game. We all got that basketball IQ. When we're out there, we try to do what we do best and make something happen for the team."
Entering Monday's game, the Pelicans have had a few false starts and sit with a 6-6 record. The trio of guards have played a total of 47.3 minutes in 11 games this season. The group is posting a net +/- of +13.9 per 100 possession. The team is shooting better than 50 percent from beyond the arc and 46.4 percent from the floor. The trio seems to have a net positive gain offensively with a 114.6 offensive rating.
This is precisely what the Pelicans imagined when they brought the three together.
Individually, they might be posting career-low numbers. Gordon is averaging 16.1 points per game while shooting 38.0 percent from beyond the arc. Evans is averaging 10.7 points per game on 39.1 percent shooting from the floor in his first time as a bench player. And Holiday is following up his All-Star campaign with 13.9 points and 7.3 assists per game.
Collectively though they have played well and have even done a decent job on the defensive side of the floor.
Monty Williams likes the trio's versatility and the ability for the three to push each other in pracitce. It has enabled them all to work well off each other.
"I think overall they present a myriad of problems," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "On the perimeter, the ability for Holiday, for Gordon, for Tyreke Evans to break down the defense and to get to the bucket. And the improved play and outstanding play of Anthony Davis gives us a problem inside."
It really is a fresh start for the three.
Holiday had to get over the initial shock of being traded. And Evans got a true fresh start with a new role and new expectations with a new franchise.
Evans has the chance to show off his versatility in a new environment with new teammates. Something he surely was looking forward to after seemingly being lost in Sacramento in rotating roles. His versatility should play off the guards much better than they did in Sacramento.
The potential is truly tantalizing, which is why many had the Pelicans as a Playoff contender before the season. New Orleans is still putting all the pieces together, but the potential remains as the season goes on.
"It's good potential," Gordon said. "You don't see too many guard tandems like that in the league. We have all these threes, it's going to be a very fast pace with us. It's all about timing and the more games that we get under our belts together."