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30 Teams, 30 Days: Pelicans put faith in Gentry, Davis

New Orleans has new coach, a new system and new expectations

POSTED: Sep 18, 2015 9:28 AM ET

By Shaun Powell

BY Shaun Powell


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Since the Warriors grabbed their first NBA title in 40 years in June, NBA teams have undergone a number of changes over the summer break. will evaluate the state of each franchise in the month of September with a look at 30 teams in 30 days.

Today's Team: New Orleans | All 30 Teams

Who's gone: Jimmer Fredette, Jeff Withey

Who's new: Coach Alvin Gentry, Kendrick Perkins

The Lowdown: For a team that didn't make any major changes this summer, the Pelicans are anticipating more than the status quo next season. And that's not because they added a new player. Rather, they're adding a new system.

Gone is coach Monty Williams, who squeezed out a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season, then got whisked away by the Warriors in the first round, then lost his job. It wasn't terribly surprising that Williams got the hook despite the playoff berth, the second during his era in New Orleans. The Pelicans had gone stale. And while Williams dealt with injuries and under-performing players, new ownership thought the team wasn't playing up to its level.

Also, ownership worried that if something wasn't done soon, Anthony Davis would get itchy.

Well, there's no reason to worry about Davis bolting town anytime soon. He was given a no-brainer max contract early in the summer and also a bonus: Alvin Gentry as the new coach.

It remains to be seen whether Gentry can turbo-charge the Pelicans and put them on a higher plane than Williams did, but the Pelicans feel a change in system was necessary. Gentry was an assistant coach and coach in Phoenix for nearly four seasons and under him, the Suns turned the scoreboard into a pinball machine. After serving under Doc Rivers in L.A., Gentry then was the brains behind the Warriors' offense last season, ensuring the Golden State machine ran smoothly all the way to the title.

Of course, in Phoenix he had Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire. In L.A. he had Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. With the Warriors, he had the Splash Brothers -- Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. With the exception of Davis, though, Gentry won't have as many lights-out scorers in New Orleans, and so the results are unlikely to be that drastic. Still, if he can get the max from Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday and blend their talents into a system that supports Davis, then New Orleans can make a leap in the standings.

Alvin Gentry on Pelicans

Alvin Gentry joins the NBA TV to talk Pelicans basketball.

Gentry has good 3-point shooters in Anderson, Holiday and Quincy Pondexter, and he also wants to make Davis a better threat from deep. Initially, that's what Gentry will try to exploit and make New Orleans stretch defenses.

New Orleans didn't make any major moves because management wanted to give Gentry the chance to see the talent on hand. The other reason the Pelicans stayed mostly pat? They'll wait until their big contracts evaporate. This season is the last for Anderson and Eric Gordon. Holiday and Evans have one more season after this. However, the Pelicans seemed to behave counter-productively when they gave big money this summer to their two-headed center, Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca.

Asik is a decent rebounder and interior defender, and his greatest asset is giving relief to Davis on the front line; Davis is free to roam and become a help defender without guarding centers. However, Asik has stone hands, commits silly mistakes and is a complete liability on offense. And, last season, the Davis-Asik combo didn't exactly light the world on fire defensively. Ajinca is limited and foul-prone. Yet New Orleans GM Dell Demps, for some reason, felt he needed to lock up both centers.

So that was the summer slogan for New Orleans: stability, with a catch. They have the same players but a new style, and this philosophy managed to win over Davis.

"I like the direction we're heading in," Davis said. "I have a lot of trust in our organization and what they're doing."

The truth? The Pelicans will indeed change personnel, starting next season, because they can't make serious inroads in the hyper-competitive West by staying with their current nucleus. The issue is trying to add new and improved pieces without a high lottery pick, because as long as Davis is around, New Orleans will never hit rock bottom or even close.

Davis is that good, a feared scorer both inside and out, with a knack for blocking shots and playing solid defense and finding teammates. He's the rare player without any flaws, and that's why the Pelicans gave him five years and $145 million.

That means they're on the clock for five years, and that clock starts now.

Coming Next: Washington

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Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

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