Over the coming weeks, we at FanSided will do a team-by-team breakdown of each NBA franchise’s fantasy prospects for the 2017-18 season. Let’s continue today with the New Orleans Pelicans.
The New Orleans Pelicans enter the 2017-18 season on shaky footing. That creates uncertainty for fantasy basketball owners, as an early-season slide could lead to a drastic shakeup as February’s trade deadline approaches.
DeMarcus Cousins’ looming date with unrestricted free agency next summer is looming over the Pelicans like an executioner’s axe. After trading Buddy Hield and a lightly protected first-round pick for Boogie in February, New Orleans should be committed to making his partnership with Anthony Davis flourish. If the two prove incompatible, however, the Pelicans could be enticed to ship Cousins out by the trade deadline to ensure they don’t lose him for nothing in free agency.
The Pelicans’ backcourt and wing rotation is also a giant question mark. Solomon Hill recently suffered a hamstring injury that could cause him to miss “much of [the] regular season,” according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, which leaves a woefully thin wing rotation in even worse shape. New Orleans reportedly plans on starting Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo alongside one another in the backcourt, per Mason Ginsberg of Bourbon Street Shots, but it lacks point guard depth behind those two.
Which Pelicans players should fantasy owners target with early-, mid- and late-round picks, and who should be left on the waiver wire? Let’s take a look.
Anthony Davis, PF: There may be no greater risk/reward pick than Anthony Davis among first-rounders this year. Davis trailed only Kevin Durant in terms of per-game value in nine-category leagues last season, as he boasted career-high averages of 28.0 points on 50.5 percent shooting, 11.8 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals in 36.1 minutes. Even after Cousins’ arrival in New Orleans, Davis was still the fourth-ranked player on a per-game basis over his final 22 outings. Though he picked up occasional bumps and bruises along the way, the Brow also appeared in 75 games last season, which was the first time he crossed the 70-game threshold. Injury risk always looms large over Davis, but for those willing to roll the dice on his body holding up, he makes for a strong mid-first-round pick.
DeMarcus Cousins, C: Cousins played just 17 games in a New Orleans uniform last season, but the early returns should have fantasy owners intrigued. Despite being thrown right into the fire, Boogie went off for 24.4 points on 45.2 percent shooting, 12.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.1 3-pointers, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks in 33.8 minutes, good for 14th-ranked value on a per-game basis following the trade deadline. Since the Pelicans have precious little reliable frontcourt depth behind Cousins and Davis, both bigs should continue feasting on minutes this season, and Boogie lacks the terrifying injury history that Davis touts. With a full offseason, training camp and preseason to better ingratiate himself in New Orleans’ system—and vice versa—Cousins should easily put up second-round value this year.
Jrue Holiday, PG: While Davis didn’t lose any of his fantasy appeal upon Cousins’ arrival in New Orleans, the same can’t be said for Holiday. The UCLA product went from averaging 16.3 points on 46.9 percent shooting, 7.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.6 triples pre-Boogie to 13.8 points on 42.6 percent shooting, 7.0 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.4 treys and 1.3 steals post-Boogie. Over his final 25 games, Holiday was the 68th-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues, trailing the likes of D’Angelo Russell, Elfrid Payton and his new teammate, Rondo. Having a full offseason to acclimate to Cousins could help Holiday regain his foothold among the top 50, but owners would be better off grabbing him in the sixth round.
Rajon Rondo, PG: Despite finding his way into the doghouse of Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg last year, Rondo finished the season as the 127th-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues after averaging 7.8 points on 40.8 percent shooting, 6.7 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals in just 26.7 minutes. Considering the Pelicans’ depth chart woes at the point, he should nudge back above the 30-minute threshold in New Orleans this year. Though Rondo hardly contributes as a three-point shooter and is mediocre from the charity stripe, his ability to rack up steals, rebounds and assists gives him top-100 upside regardless. With two elite rim-rollers in Boogie and Brow playing alongside him, don’t be surprised if Rondo has a bounce-back season in the Big Easy.
Frank Jackson, PG
E’Twaun Moore, SG
Ian Clark, SG
Jordan Crawford, SG
Solomon Hill, SF
Darius Miller, SF
Cheick Diallo, PF
Alexis Ajinca, C
Omer Asik C
Sleeper: Rajon Rondo
Bust: Jrue Holiday
Other team breakdowns
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