Golden State Warriors: Are the Pelicans the Next “Warriors”?


The regular season is nearly upon us, with the Golden State Warriors starting the defense of their NBA title against the New Orleans Pelicans. The game itself will take on multiple areas of significance – the Warriors will be receiving their rings that night, the game will also mark the return of former assistant head coach Alvin Gentry, who is now the Pelicans’ head coach after a sterling debut season with the Warriors.

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Another interesting thing of note between the two teams is how the Pelicans are on a similar path the Warriors took before they became champions. The Warriors really only had one real superstar (Stephen Curry), were coached by a relatively inexperienced coach who had seemingly done his best with the team, and were a young team on the cusp of breaking out.

The Pelicans are somewhat similar – Anthony Davis is being touted as the successor to LeBron James’ throne as the best player in the league, coach Monty Williams was fired after the front office decided that he had taken them as far as he could, and the Pelicans are a good blend of young and veteran talent.

And with coach Gentry about to take over, the Pelicans’ offense is slated for a major improvement. The Clippers were the league’s best offense the year he took over as assistant, and the Warriors were a close second last year when he was an assistant as well. He’s well known for his ability to drastically improve team’s offenses, and in his job interview with the Pelicans, he explained how Davis was being underutilised and that he had plans to maximise his full potential.

It seems likely that Gentry will have the Pelicans run a similar offense to the one the Warriors ran last season. So we can expect to see lots of running, off the ball movement, and an uptick in three-pointers from the Pelicans. Davis running the break will be a truly nightmarish sight to see – he was after all, a point guard, during his younger days. And even if Davis isn’t the one leading the fastbreak, you can be sure that he’ll clean up any misses as the trailing big man. The Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday is also an adept pick-and-roll player, and the pick-and-roll with Davis will be tough to defend. Sprinkle some three point shooters in Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, and Tyreke Evans, and you’ll have a lineup that is a close facsimile of what the Warriors were last season – a pick-and-roll-centric, run-and-gun motion offense that emphasizes off-the-ball movement and three-point shooting.

So, on paper, the Pelicans have the makings of the Warriors’ blueprint to success. But often, carrying out a plan is much more difficult that the planning itself. The Warriors were able to capture lightning in a bottle with the team, the coaching staff, and the front office. The defining factor was that the Warriors were in a position to take full advantage of the opportunity given to them – whether it be the run of great health they had, the injuries that hurt their opponents in the playoffs, or even the way the ball bounced for them in games.

In a quick Reddit “Ask Me Anything”, Bill Simmons made his triumphant return to the NBA subreddit. When he was asked if the Warriors’ title win was due to luck or talent, he responded with a very well-thought out response:

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While some diehard fans might get upset at the notion that the Warriors needed “luck” to win, Simmons isn’t wrong. Every champion has needed some luck to win the title at one stage or another, whether fans like to hear it or not.

And that’s the biggest thing the Pelicans need now – luck. Their luck with injuries over the past few years has been atrocious, and has effectively ended their playoff hopes on multiple occasions. With Davis really coming into his own as a superstar, the Pelicans will be a force to be reckoned with over the next few years. The deciding factor will then be putting all the separate parts together – Davis’ growth, the coaching, health, and the rest of the team.

The Pelicans are definitely a team on the rise, and could take everyone by surprise next season. No one saw the Warriors going on the run they went on last season, and it could very well be the Pelicans’ turn now. It does, however, seem unlikely. The squad is already suffering from injuries which could derail their playoff aspirations, but let’s not forget that the Warriors didn’t go from playoff hopefuls to title contenders in the space of a single season.

The Warriors broke the mold when they won the title last season – up until they did it, no team had ever won the title by being so reliant on the three-point shot. Like many trailblazers before them, the Warriors’ blueprint to success will be copied and adapted by many other teams. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so the Warrior should feel very flattered.

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