Suns Face Another New-Look Team at New Orleans
On Tuesday night the Suns will visit perhaps the only team that has altered its image more than they have. That’s what happens with a team name and mascot change.
The newly-dubbed New Orleans Pelicans have made significant roster changes as well, most notably in the backcourt. The team traded the No. 6 overall pick of this year’s draft to Philadelphia in exchange for All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday (17.7 ppg, 8.0 apg, 4.2 rpg in 2012-13). They also signed former Kings guard Tyreke Evans to a four-year deal.
Those moves made a once-thin backcourt very deep in talented scorers, though the Pelicans (1-2) are in the process of figuring out how to have them mesh in a manner that produces wins.
Such growing pains are easier to bear in light of Anthony Davis’ recent work. The second-year big man could be at the start of a breakout season after averaging 23.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 4.0 blocks and 2.7 steals through the first three games.
Pelicans starting two-guard Eric Gordon has seen his production fluctuate through the first three games of the season. His scoring peaked at 25 points in the opener and bottomed out at seven in New Orleans’ lone win over Charlotte, though Evans received the bulk of playing time at off-guard in that game.
With Goran Dragic out due to a sprained ankle, Gerald Green will get the start alongside Eric Bledsoe for Phoenix. Like Gordon, Green can get hot in a hurry on offense. On the other end, the Suns’ swingman’s height (6-8) would ideally make life difficult for Gordon (6-4) to get a shot off.
How much pressure Green applies on both sides of the floor will be key for Phoenix to win the battle of potentially game-swinging players.
Like the Suns, New Orleans has shown it can win the rebounding battle as a team. Davis is the obvious one to watch, but Jrue Holiday, Greg Stiemsma, Jason Smith, Al-Farouq Aminue and Tyreke Evans have all shown they can be effective on the glass.
Both the Suns and Pelicans are ranked in the top ten in the league in offensive rebounds. New Orleans is fourth-best at preventing them, while Phoenix is currently third-worst, largely a result of yielding 22 offensive boards to Utah last week.
Hustle stats like offensive rebounds usually show up early, so keep an eye on who’s winning this particular battle in the beginning stages.
Dragic’s injury doesn’t help the Suns’ dual point guard experiment, but it does give Head Coach Jeff Hornacek the opportunity to further evaluate and develop some of the other talent at that position.
Green showed plenty of promise in the Suns’ narrow defeat at Oklahoma City, pouring in 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting in 33 minutes. Other beneficiaries could include rookie guard Archie Goodwin, who showed glimpses of his slashing ability and recover defense (two blocks) against Utah on Friday.