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Friday, 06 October 2017 18:16

New Orleans Pelicans vs. Boston Celtics: 2017-18 NBA Season Preview

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New Orleans Pelicans vs. Boston Celtics: 2017-18 NBA Season Preview | Powered by CLNS Media

Boston Celtics Newsfeed 2017-18 NBA Season Preview

Boston Celtics vs. New Orleans Pelicans

2016-17 Round-up: The Pelicans finished last season 33-48, in 10th place in the Western Conference. A hard push for the postseason with a monster midseason trade went for naught.

On Feb. 20, New Orleans dealt rookie Buddy Hield along with Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and both its first and second round picks in the 2017 draft to bring in DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi. Thus began the intriguing front court pairing of Cousins and young star Anthony Davis.

In 17 games with the Pelicans, Cousins averaged 24.4 points and 12.5 rebounds, while posting solid shooting splits and hitting 36-of-96 three-point shots. Still, with him on the floor New Orleans went 7-10 and he missed eight games down the stretch either due to technical fouls, tendonitis or an ankle injury.

Davis played in 75 games, averaging 28 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. He missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five NBA seasons.

Offseason Grades: In an effort to ensure their twin towers had a point guard to run the offense and distribute, the Pelicans levied a massive offer to Jrue Holiday. Holiday played in 67 games last season, missing time to care for his wife, but that was still the most he’s been on the court since 2012-13. The 27-year-old signed a five-year, $150 million deal, making him the team’s highest paid player until Davis’ contract increases in 2019.

On the same day Holiday signed, the Pelicans also inked point guards Rajon Rodno (one year, $3.3 million) and No. 31 overall pick Frank Jackson (three year, $3.8 million) to backup deals.

Finally, they brought in veterans Tony Allen, Ian Clark and Dante Cunningham on cheap, one-year deals.

Training Camp Questions: Holiday appears healthy entering the season, as do Davis and Cousins. The three started Game 1 of the preseason along with Rondo and Cunningham.

Both Davis and Cousins registered double-doubles and combined to total 44 points and 20 rebounds. The question here is whether there will be enough floor-spacing for this pairing to work. Davis shot five threes in the game, hitting one. He averaged just 1.8 a game last year and less than one for his career. If he is pushing outside like Cousins is already capable of that adds a wrinkle.

The other item to take note of is whether Rondo is the long-term starter at point guard, sliding Holiday into more of a shooter/scorer role.

Elsewhere this team is tough to figure out. How much will they rely on guys like E’Twuan Moore, Clark and even Jordan Crawford.

Next Move They Make: This is also a crapshoot. Cousins is in the final year of his deal, paying him $18 million, but the market may be soft given the Warriors dominance and teams Eastern Conference teams like the Wizards figuring they could just sign him in free agency next summer. If things go sour with his attitude, the Pelicans are put in a very precarious position. Giving up on Cousins might deeply affect Davis and his mentality about staying in New Orleans long-term.

Also, the Holiday contract is a risky one, paying north of $25 million a year for a league-average point guard. The Pelicans are also still locked into Omer Asik for over $10 million the next two years and he may never play again. Then there is Solomon Hill, who is likely out until February  at over $12 million a year through 2020.

How they Beat the Boston Celtics: The Celtics missed playing Davis and Cousins last season, splitting with the Pelicans in November and January before the trade. New Orleans tagged Boston with a one-point loss in a game that Jae Crowder and Al Horford missed. Davis ran amok for 25 and 16, while Galloway got hot off the bench.

Back in Boston, the Celtics scored a 117-108 win behind 38 Isaiah Thomas points, which out-dueled Davis’ 36 and 16. He has been a major problem for the Celtics and Horford was held to eight points on 3-of-18 shooting in that one. However, Horford had some of his better games last year against Cousins, so if the Celtics can get enough offense to keep pace with Davis, I don’t see Boogie being a major difference-maker in this matchup.

Also, Rondo was a difference-maker against the Celtics last year in the playoffs and he and Cousins have some sort of rapport from their time in Sacramento.

Trending: There is at least a small chance that this pairing of dominant big men works like gang-busters and the Pelicans blast off into a bottom-half playoff team in the hellacious west. However, given the temperaments involved, lack of depth and doubts I have about Holiday getting that money, this may be another lost season for Davis’ growth.

I’ll be pulling for it to work out, because two dominant seven-footers who can shoot and rebound is awesome for the league, but this team is precariously perched with a lot needing to go right to succeed and trend upward.

Final Record/Standings Prediction: 41-41, ninth in Western Conference

Mike Walsh

Mike Walsh is the CLNS Media Network's Boston Celtics Content and Newsfeed Manager.

Mike is a graduate of Marist College with a degree in sports communications. He spent three years as a NBA Featured Columnist with Bleacher Report, where he was the site's top Boston Celtics writer.

Mike is a full-time sports writer with The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. He can be reached by email to MikeW@CLNSMedia.com or via Twitter @CLNS_Walsh.

Personal Website: www.WalshWrites.com