Behind the New Orleans Pelicans disastrous season, lies a not so hidden truth; injuries. They have been primarily responsible for getting the high flying Pelicans, fresh off a surprise run to the last year’s playoffs before getting swept in the first round by Steph Curry’s All-Conquering Golden State Warriors team, a dysfunctional unit that will miss out on the playoffs this year after making the necessary adjustments to take the next step to be considered serious contenders.
Despite being one of the youngest teams in the NBA, the Pelicans ranked as one of the slowest teams in the league, failing to make use of young legs in a world where weary legs but experienced minds of Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Andre Miller to name a few, are treasured more than those of Gorgui Dieng and D’Angelo Russell. The team was 27th out of 30 in pace per basketballreference.com for last season under former coach Monty Williams.
The slow paced style mimicked that of Williams’ former team, San Antonio Spurs where he played for two seasons in the mid 90’s before departing for Denver Nuggets in 1999. The Pelicans also needed a solid presence in the paint not named Omer Asik behind franchise cornerstone Anthony Davis to man the frontcourt to enable the elastic Power Forward do damage without worrying about what happens behind him. Both issues got addressed in the offseason with the additions of veteran Center Kendrick Perkins and Mike D’Antoni disciple, Alvin Gentry.
While Perkins addition has been inconsistent partly due to his share of the injury bug that has swept through the entire roster and according to foxsports.com, has caused players to miss games for 28 different ailments. It is also the reason the 6 foot 10 inch Center/ Power Forward might miss out on a bumper harvest after the season. New Orleans sits eight in the league for pace and tenth in scoring this season; six positions better than last season. The shining light of the Big Easy’ calamitous year has been 2012 first pick, Anthony Davis who averaged 24.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks before a shoulder injury ruled him out for the season’s remaining games.
Davis season as stellar as the numbers are has been unlike last season’s where he got in extensive Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the Year conversation. Such talk, bettered only by his ridiculous play, convinced the Pelicans to hand the 22 year old a maximum five year $145 million dollar contract during the offseason; the contract will be operational beginning next season. Straight as his contract seems- 145 divvied in five years means 29 million dollars per year-Davis contract comes with a caveat in the finals season. Should Davis fail to make the All-NBA team at the end of the season, he will lose $24 million dollars of the stipulated money during the five year period.
Judging by his plays and numbers, it will be difficult for Davis to make the All-NBA First Team like he did last year because there most likely will be Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell WestBrook and Kawhi Leonard in there . Due to his shoulder injury, Davis will unfortunately not have the chance to fight for a spot in the All-NBA Team’s two sublevel teams; the second team and third team. A few steps down the pecking order but still competitive and note worthy achievement all the same, but wonder how John Wall, Damian Lillard and Jimmy Butler miss out in the teams again this year plus DeMarcus Cousins and James Harden are not exiting the list any time soon.
Blake Griffin’s off court issues and Marc Gasol’s broken foot might lead Davis into the best of the best list but nothing can be guaranteed at this stage. The caveat in Davis’ contract isn’t peculiar rather it is a quite common contract in the NBA but rarely triggered. It is called the Derrick Rose Rule- named after the 2011 Most Valuable Player- who received the top award in only his third season while operating under the Rookie Scale Contract in the league. The other criteria that need to be satisfied to make a player coming off his rookie contract eligible for 30% of the team’s salary cap are for a player to be voted into the All Star Game starting line up twice or be voted an MVP all during their rookie contract.
Davis is a three time All Star but is yet to be voted as a starter ruling him out of the bumper kitty. His debut appearance was due to Kobe Bryant’s absence in the festivities due to injury and he suffered the same fate the following season as he got replaced by LaMarcus Aldridge and Dirk Nowitzki as he sat out injured. The 2016 All-Star Game -Bryant’s last-starting line up was released sans the Chicago native who came on as a substitute.
MVP awards for Anthony Davis came at a time where Curry and Harden played the best basketball of their lives; only, Curry has done the impossible by taking his play up a notch. Unlike his contemporaries Paul George (All-NBA Third Team member in 2013 and 2014) and Blake Griffin (All-NBA Second Team member in his second and third season), who have benefitted from such contracts, Davis, despite arguably being a better player than the names mentioned above- with a freak athleticism and talent -might not get such a deal.
Come season’s end, Anthony Davis can be 23 million dollars richer or poorer depending on an appearance on a list.