Over at VICE Sports, I took a deep dive into how superstars — LeBron and Durant in particular — and their teams made a leap in year three of their careers, and how this might translate to success for Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans next season.
You can read the entire piece here. An excerpt is below.
Of course, there’s no formula for which players in which years are ready to make the leap. LeBron and Durant were already great players in their first two seasons, but aside from individual improvement, their circumstances changed as well. Mike Brown took over from Paul Silas in Cleveland and eventually molded the Cavs into one of the strongest defensive units in the league, anchored by LeBron. Under Carlesimo, Durant spent time playing at the two, an experiment that was ended without ceremony when Brooks took over. The Thunder also drafted Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green in Durant’s second year, and had a much stronger core group by year three.
For the Pelicans, there are three main reasons to think why they will be much improved in year three of the Anthony Davis era. The team filled a need with the acquisition of Omer Asik from Houston. Even with Davis as the league leader in blocks, the Pelicans were a below average defensive team. They needed a rim protector, and acquired one of the best in the league.
The Pelicans will be better if their team can just stay relatively healthy. Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson— two of their core guys—missed 48 and 60 games last season, respectively. In the brief time that the five-man unit of Holiday, Anderson, Davis, Eric Gordon, and Tyreke Evans spent on the floor, they averaged 123.5 points per 100 possessions. It was a ridiculously small sample size—91 minutes spread over 12 games—and their defensive numbers were atrocious, but, if that lineup can stay on the court, and successfully incorporate Omer Asik, there’s a lot of potential to make it work on both ends of the court.