As free agency began, the New Orleans Pelicans roster was really re-shaped. They lost two of their starters from a year ago, and replaced them with free agents. Read below to examine how the new guys will compare to the originals.
Starting off, the Pelicans lost Rajon Rondo to the Lakers pretty early on. He was fantastic throughout the year, and especially in the postseason as an experienced floor general. His jump shot improved, and he’s well known as a playmaker. He had a 25-assist game last year, and constantly finished in double digits during the Pelicans playoff run. New Orleans lost him after just one season together, as Rondo will be joining his 6th team in five years.
Replacing him, on a one-year deal, will be Elfrid Payton. Known for his ridiculously high hair, Payton spent his first 3 ½ seasons as the primary starter for the Orlando Magic. He increased his point total every year, while averaging around five rebounds and six assists per game. The Magic traded him to the Suns at the trade deadline last year, where he started 19 games and his production stayed relatively the same. The Pelicans thinking here must have been that he’d be cheaper than Rondo and can rebound the ball as well as the small point guard, and can be a big playmaker for them.
Make no mistake though, Rondo is definitely better than Payton, and this will be a downgrade.
Last year in late January, the Pelicans lost their big man DeMarcus Cousins for the season to a torn Achilles. He had been averaging 25 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, and two blocks per game. He had a high turnover rate, but he could make plays in so many ways. The Pelicans didn’t offer him a deal in free agency, and he took his talents to the scariest place imaginable. The Golden State Warriors, that’s right. A starting lineup with five all stars. New Orleans actually offered him a 2-year deal worth $40 million during the season, which he declined.
Replacing Cousins is a player nobody expected to leave LA, Julius Randle. Playing all 82 games for the first time a year ago, Randle averaged a career-best 16 points per game, along with eight rebounds. He shot an incredible 55.8% from the floor, and his handles improved. It’s rare to have a big man who can handle the ball and make plays, so Randle is a luxury. New Orleans lured him in after he turned down a 1-year deal with the Lakers, with a 2-year, $18 million contract.
As good as Randle is and is capable of being when he’s at his best, he is no DeMarcus Cousins. To have a 7-footer who can spread the floor, pass like a point guard, and protect the rim, is something you hardly ever see in the league. Julius Randle is a fantastic player, but his jumper is very iffy and he can’t protect the rim along with Davis.