The New Orleans Pelicans have entered the most enjoyable and challenging phase of building an NBA champion. A year and a half removed from landing star Anthony Davis in the 2012 draft, New Orleans is in the process of building around its first legitimate franchise player since Chris Paul. For Davis, it's not just about potential -- he's already been every bit as good as he was supposed to be, and is on target to become an annual MVP candidate. New Orleans has harpooned every franchise's white whale.
Last summer, with Davis in hand, the Pelicans accelerated their rebuilding project, for better or worse. New Orleans added veterans Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, dealt away its 2014 No. 1 pick, sent center Robin Lopez on his way to Portland and set about earning a postseason spot. With a roster heavy on guards, the hope was to craft a fast, attacking group to go with Davis, and on paper it didn't seem like terrible idea. My preseason projections had the Pelicans in the .500 range, with nothing but upside.
Things haven't worked out exactly as planned.
Holiday and Ryan Anderson have missed much of the season. Evans has also been hobbled, and coach Monty Williams has deployed 19 players and 10 different starters at various times. Unless they go on an amazing spree, the Pelicans are going to fall well short of their optimistic projection, and the playoffs. This time they may not have a lottery pick to redeem the lost season, with that aforementioned pick headed to Philadelphia unless it lands in the top five.
The Pelicans are still seeking to establish the style of play it hopes to be known for during Davis' era, but the good news is that the centerpiece is in place. So how do the Pelicans set the table around Davis and give New Orleans a championship contender?
Let's play GM for a day.