Following a disappointing blowout loss at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers, the Sixers head to New Orleans looking to bounce back against the Pelicans. If you haven't noticed, the Pelicans have been in the news recently. I talked to Oleh Kosel, who writes about the Pelicans for The Bird Writes, about the past, present and future of the team.
Question #1: My first question has to be about Anthony Davis. His trade request sent shockwaves through the sports world, and has sparked plenty of drama around the league, not just in New Orleans, but also Los Angeles and Boston. There have continued to be tons of rumors about what the Pelicans will eventually get in return for AD: Jayson Tatum? Zion Williamson? Everybody who plays for the Lakers other than LeBron James? So, what are you hoping the Pelicans end up extracting when the inevitable becomes reality and Anthony Davis is moved?
I, like most in New Orleans, am not interested in enduring a long rebuild. Neither is the organization, it seems. So while the allure of Zion Williamson is extraordinarily strong, scoring the best collegiate talent would probably require taking back a package that includes other young unproven players. For instance, if the Knicks were to land the first pick in the lottery, that would mean a return of something like Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina or Dennis Smith Jr. and a combination of other inexperienced guys, players to make salary work and future draft picks. There’s great upside here, no doubt, but also an uncomfortably low floor.
With Jrue Holiday willing to ride out the new version of the Pelicans for perhaps a couple of seasons and other solid contributors in tow, New Orleans would best be suited to grab a guy who is one of the rising stars in the league, say Jayson Tatum. Throw in Marcus Smart, another young promising Celtic and a couple of first round picks and New Orleans could be poised to make a run at the playoffs as soon as next year. In my opinion, a package like this should be the plan in trading away Anthony Davis.
Question #2: You mentioned the other star player on the Pelicans, former Sixer Jrue Holiday. He’d be a seamless fit on just about any team, including if he returned to Philadelphia. He can play with and without the ball, while also being one of the very best defenders in the entire NBA. Do you see the Pelicans holding onto him moving forward, or will he be dangled in trade talks as well as the Pelicans kickstart their rebuild?
Prior to the trade deadline, the word on the street was that the Pelicans had absolutely no interest in moving Holiday. If New Orleans had serious qualms about him wanting to stay soon after Davis announced his trade request, they would have explored the trade market in earnest. Plus, as I just alluded to in the first answer, Jrue Holiday’s commitment to New Orleans beyond this season is growing. That’s great news for the Pelicans, and it gives them the option to rebuild on the fly, a route many assume the franchise will take. For instance, the organization and local media are already beginning to feature him as the face of the franchise, and his popularity in the city has never been higher.
Question #3: With the upcoming exodus of a superstar, bottoming out and building through the draft, or... gulps... tanking, seems like a logical path for the Pelicans moving forward. From what you can tell, how open are the fans to a complete overhaul?
The dedicated fans, those who are either season ticket holders or follow the team closely, are not interested in witnessing a long rebuild reminiscent of the recent one in Philly. In what’s shaping up to be another postseason whiff, New Orleans will miss out on the playoffs for a seventh time in the last ten years -- and it’s particularly disappointing considering the success enjoyed last year. The groans are loud. The city is ready to watch a winner on a nightly basis. So I wouldn’t anticipate any complete overhaul that requires more losing seasons.
Big thanks to Oleh for taking the time to answer our questions!