On paper, the New Orleans Pelicans have a pretty solid roster. A ‘Big 3′ of Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and Jrue Holiday, and some key role players in Dante Cunningham, E’Twaun Moore, Tony Allen, and Ian Clark, the Pelicans look like they should be able to contend for one of the lower playoff seeds in the Western Conference. Despite his recent injury, throw Rajon Rondo into that mix and a seventh or eighth seed doesn’t seem too far-fetched.
Injuries have plagued the Pelicans in recent seasons, however, and with the opening tip right around the corner, so far, this season seems to be a bit more of the same. Along with the aforementioned injury to Rondo, the Pelicans were already down a few players in starting small forward Solomon Hill and rookie point guard Frank Jackson.
There is one player on the roster, though, who could look to take advantage of the recent slew of injuries. That player is Jordan Crawford, who joined the team late last season after shuffling the past three years between China and the G-League. If you ask him, the Pelicans lineup is good enough to not worry so much about other teams in the conference.
“With AD and Boogie, we’re not really worried about the West Coast,” Crawford told Basketball Insiders over the summer. “We’re not really worried about it. As long as we follow them two, we should be good.”
Prior to joining the Pelicans, Crawford last played in the NBA in 2014 when he split time between the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors. Despite his reputation as an unapologetic gunner, Crawford actually thrived at point guard with the Celtics under then first-year head coach Brad Stevens. He averaged 5.7 assists during the first half of the 2013-2014 season and even had a triple-double.
Last season with the Pelicans, he was asked to provide reliable production off the bench, which he excelled at as well. In the 19 games he played for the Pelicans, he put up 14.1 points per game on 48.2 percent shooting from the field and 38.9 percent shooting from three-point range, both career-highs. He also dished out three assists per game.
This season, however, he’s looking to add something a little different to what people might be used to. He’s looking to step into a role as more of a veteran leader for the Pelicans. Although he didn’t play, Crawford spent much of the summer in Las Vegas with the Pelicans summer league team acting as a mentor of sorts to the younger guys. He also worked out with Cousins and Davis at Impact Basketball.
“I want to bring confidence, leadership, and maturity,” Crawford told Basketball Insiders. “Just a side of confidence and allowing us to not just be a good team but to actually do something.”
In order for the Pelicans to actually do something this season, one of the key moves they needed to make was to re-sign starting point guard Jrue Holiday. Holiday has battled injuries throughout his career, but he’s been a borderline All-Star caliber talent his whole career thus far.
He played in 67 games last season, the most he’s played in since the 2012-2013 season when he was still with the Philadelphia 76ers. That season ended up being his lone All-Star season.
“It was big, Jrue is a big part of the team,” Crawford told Basketball Insiders. “I think the whole team wanted him back and it was good that he and his family wanted to come back the New Orleans to be a part of something good.”
How good the Pelicans can be, however, remains to be seen. The initial pairing of Cousins and Davis following last season’s All-Star Break was not as smooth as intended. But with a full training camp and preseason together, perhaps this season will be different.
The Western Conference is a lot tougher than it was last season. Plenty of other teams stacked up in hopes of keeping pace with the Golden State Warriors. While there appear to be a few teams that look safe to pencil into the top spots in the West, the bottom half is a bit more open.
“It’s definitely playoffs and strive for something more,” Crawford told Basketball Insiders. “From coaches to players, everybody’s kind of being looked at to really take the next step, so we have no choice.”
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