Pelicans additions bring array of strengths, skills

July 22, 2013

An All-Star point guard. A former Rookie of the Year award winner and double-digit scorer. One of the NBA’s most accurate three-point shooters. A pair of 7-footers known for their defensive intimidation in the paint. A dynamic young guard who can score or distribute.

It’s only July, but the New Orleans Pelicans have already crossed off numerous items on their offseason wish list. Since draft night on June 27, they’ve added six players to a roster that was in need of a talent infusion. Perhaps just as importantly, the majority of the team’s newcomers are in their early 20s, with plenty of room to continue to develop as they approach their primes.

Here’s a capsule look at the players New Orleans has officially added so far, with comments from the man who acquired them, Pelicans general manager Dell Demps:

Age: 23. The Los Angeles native played one college season at UCLA, before becoming the first-ever 1990s-born player to appear in an official NBA game. He spent his first four pro seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers, moving permanently into a starting role during his rookie year. He was an Eastern Conference All-Star last season.

What he brings to a team: A dual threat on the offensive end, Holiday is one of the NBA’s highest-scoring point guards, and also ranked fourth in assists per game, at 8.0, in 2012-13 with Philadelphia. One of the slickest ballhandlers in the sport, he was a runner-up to Damian Lillard in the 2013 skills challenge at All-Star weekend.

Dell Demps: “When we had the opportunity to get Jrue Holiday, we didn’t hesitate. He’s a quiet leader, he’s an All-Star. We’ve acquired a number of guys that are between the ages of 22 and 25, but yet they’re going into their fifth and sixth years in the league. They’re young guys at their athletic peak, but yet they’re experienced.”

Age: 23. After one standout year in college at the University of Memphis under head coach John Calipari, Evans was the fourth overall pick by Sacramento of the 2009 NBA Draft. The Philadelphia area native was the league’s undisputed top rookie in 2009-10.

What he brings to a team: His biggest strength in four NBA seasons has been the ability to create his own shot and get to the basket at will. Kings opponents have often geared their defensive schemes toward stopping Evans’ drives to the hoop, something New Orleans had not always done successfully. In 13 career games vs. NOLA, Evans has averaged 17.3 points and shot 47.3 percent from the field.

Dell Demps: “He’s a versatile player who can play multiple positions. He can handle the basketball and can really get to the rim. He’s a good passer and an improved shooter. We want to maximize all of his strengths. We also think he has the tools to become a very good defender.”

Age: 27. Undrafted out of Georgia Tech, the feared perimeter shooter made an immediate impact with Golden State, scoring 37 points in just his fourth career NBA game. He parlayed two productive seasons into a free-agent contract with the Nets, but has seen his playing time diminish. He split the 2012-13 season between Atlanta and Dallas, with injuries partly limiting him to 41 games and 383 minutes.

What he brings to a team: Morrow ranks fifth among all active NBA players in career three-point percentage (42.4). The only players ahead of him on that list are Stephen Curry, Steve Novak, Steve Nash and 2013 NBA Finals breakthrough performer Danny Green. The 46.7 and 45.6 percent he shot from beyond the arc in his first two NBA seasons, respectively, look like misprints.

Dell Demps: “One of the premier shooters in the NBA. He had some bad luck last year with some playing opportunities, but throughout his career, he’s one of the top-ranked three-point shooters currently in the NBA. We think that he can become a valuable piece for us, with his ability to spread the floor.”

Age: 27. A relative old-timer in this group of new Pelicans, it took him a few years to finally reach the NBA. He debuted during the lockout-shortened season as a Boston reserve, then played for Minnesota in 2012-13.

What he brings to a team: Shot-blocking, shot-blocking and more shot-blocking. Last season he ranked sixth among all NBA players in blocks per 48 minutes, at 3.57. The only players ahead of him in per-48 rejections were JaVale McGee, Larry Sanders, Serge Ibaka, Roy Hibbert and Tim Duncan. In 2011-12, Stiemsma finished second in the statistic.

Dell Demps: “He’s one of those guys that you hate him when he’s on the other team, but you want him on your team. He plays hard, is tough and physical. He protects the rim, bangs you. We’re excited to have him.”

Age: 23. After two developmental seasons to begin his college career at Kansas, Withey became an integral member of the rotation during the club’s run to the Final Four in 2011-2012. He was projected by many draft analysts to be a first-round pick last month, but lasted until Portland officially selected him at No. 39 overall.

What he brings to a team: Like Stiemsma, he’s defensive-oriented, projected to make a bigger impact on that end of the floor early in his NBA career. The 7-foot, 235-pounder from Kansas averaged 3.9 blocks per game during his senior year with the Jayhawks. During the ‘12 NCAA championship game vs. Kentucky in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Withey had four blocks. Incidentally, Anthony Davis rejected six shots in that game for Kentucky.

Dell Demps: “He’s a rim protector and shot-blocker who knows how to play. He’s coming to the NBA as an experienced college player from Kansas. He probably needs to add a little weight, but we think he can contribute.”

Age: 21. Jackson emerged out of relative obscurity as a college sophomore by leading Southern Idaho to the national juco championship. As a junior, Jackson was a key member of the Bears’ Elite Eight squad. He capped his college career by leading Baylor to the NIT title. He was the 42nd overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft, officially selected by Philadelphia.

What he brings to a team: A 5-foot-10 catalyst in the mold of Nate Robinson, Jackson accomplished the rare feat of ranking in the top 20 of NCAA Division I in scoring and assists last season. He may be the kind of point guard who can quicken pace and give a second unit a jolt of energy. The Las Vegas native plays with a chip on his shoulder, after overcoming skeptics of his size throughout his career.

Dell Demps: “Pierre is one of those tough, small point guards who can just change the game and impact the game with his speed and quickness. We think he’s a really good penetrator and a good shooter. It’s going to be fun to watch him grow and develop.”