Even with the playoff dreams dashed, the final games of the New Orleans Pelicans’ season will shine quite a light on the future of the franchise.
New Orleans Pelicans fans may think there is nothing left to see in the final four games of the season.
Not so fast.
The final four games of the season are not a complete wash. New Orleans is going to be away from home, for four games that will dictate a lot of talk towards the future.
This offseason is one of major decisions, that will decide the direction of the franchise. Management has had quite a long time and lots of evidence to make those calls. However, the easiest impressions to remember are the ones most recent.
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There are three in the Pelicans’ organization that will have a bright light on them in the final stretch of games. The first is Head Coach Alvin Gentry. Alvin has only been in New Orleans for two years. However, the expectations on him have not been met as of yet.
After last year’s injury chaos, Gentry could not get the team to his goals. The offense became too focused on superstars, while the supporting crew never filled Gentry’s offensive roles. Defensively, the team did not start to get a rhythm, until the end of the season. However, last game’s 134 points surrendered to Denver does not shed a good light on that.
Alvin will likely need to have a strong stretch late, in order to keep his role. New Orleans is under extreme pressure to win right now, in order to keep the core of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins in tact. If he does not leave a good light on management in these final games that he can turn this into a winning team night in and night out, he will more than likely be replaced.
Speaking of the core, another player on the hot seat is Jrue Holiday. Fans are still unhappy with Holiday’s overall effect on the game, since the trade for Boogie. Jrue has had an okay statistical season, even with his absence early on. Holiday will likely play in the final four games this year. That will put up at 67 games played this year. If he does play in all those games, it will be a two-game increase from last year.
However, Jrue now faces the question of his current fit in the system. Gentry is running Jrue as the shooting guard now. Gentry believes it fits his game better, with a point next to him. However, his numbers since the move have been as up-and-down as the entire season. Fans are starting to seriously question his role as a higher-tier point guard at the NBA level.
In one way, it is easy to see that argument. Jrue has not looked great this year, even in what can be considered a healthy year for him. His game is not currently translating well to the new team and Boogie’s integration.
On the other hand, it might be something that an offseason with Boogie and A.D. can fix. Remember, this is a move done right in the middle of the season. Completely changing your game halfway through an important campaign like the NBA grind is a tall task.
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However, these final games could shed a different light. If Jrue can start to show his promise, like he did Tuesday night before the turnover collapses, New Orleans might be more inclined to bring him back. His production next to Tim Frazier needs to establish his promise as a “Key Starter” for this team. Four games is tough to highlight that promise, but it is up to him to make the case on the court.
The decision itself will likely come down to the Pelicans’ management’s confidence in Jrue. If New Orleans sees Holiday as the third piece to the puzzle, they will do whatever they can to keep him. If they do not, this offseason could get very, VERY interesting.
The final person in the “hot seat” is General Manager Dell Demps. This completes his seventh season as the GM of the Pelicans. Demps has one playoff appearance to show for it. With a guy like Anthony Davis at the helm, that might not be enough for him to stay at that post.
Demps has moved a lot of pieces, in order to try and build a contending roster. This year alone, the Pelicans have been involved in numerous 10-day contracts, in order to find sleeper players. The biggest positives going forward for Demps is the Boogie deal, E’Twaun Moore‘s production and the low-key signing of Jordan Crawford.
While those moves have done wonders for the Pelicans, his poor decisions could still lead to his downfall. The Omer Asik contract still stings in the hearts of Pelicans fans. Letting Omri Casspi walk for nothing is something that did not look good around the league. Not to mention the grand disappointment of a signing Solomon Hill became this season.
It comes down to if the higher ups think that Demps’ move for Boogie is a sign of the future. If they believe it was purely a luck find that the Kings gifted Demps, they might put someone else in charge. Yet if they’re confident in Dell, he could stick around for one more go round.
These final games could show the higher management what Dell Demps’ overall plan for the long-term future looks like. It they play up to expectations and close out tough teams, including Golden State, they could see it as progress. However, if it continues to be disappointing, the plan could look flawed enough to ax Demps now.
Demps’ decision could make the decision for the other two. If Dell Demps is gone, then Alvin Gentry will likely be gone as well. That will also put re-signing Jrue Holiday on the back burner, until the new GM and coach discuss a plan for the future.
At the end of the day, all of these decisions could be influenced by this final stretch. The New Orleans Pelicans want fans to buy into being a contender in the near future. That means showing them a finished project on the road late, even without much to play for. Well, for Jrue, Dell and Alvin, they might be playing for their future jobs by the Bayou.