As preparations begin for the 2013-14 season, the New Orleans Pelicans have an opening at the small forward position.
Coming off a season with the fifth-worst record in the NBA, the franchise aims to get back to its winning ways with a qualified player in this area.
Candidates must be aware of the importance that comes with playing small forward. Needing experience in order for the franchise to contend, the Pelicans' search will start with a player who is not one-dimensional and can handle himself on defense.
Free agent-to-be Al-Farouq Aminu was a solid defender, though he struggled with consistency on the offensive end. While he shot 47.3 percent from the floor, Aminu was just 34-of-132 from outside the paint in 2012-13.
Lance Thomas and Darius Miller averaged 10.9 and 13.3 minutes per game, respectively. Both players have non-guaranteed contract options, furthering the need.
Can you be relied on to knock down a jumper while possessing the ability to create chances with your ball-handling?
Does playing alongside former No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Davis and the explosive Eric Gordon intrigue you?
Are you tired of watching opposing small forwards have a field day with their shooting? Can you play perimeter defense and help around the post?
If so, New Orleans may be the destination for you. But in order to qualify, you must meet certain criteria.
The ideal candidate will complement Gordon in his scoring duties (yes, he’s still the No. 1 scoring option), easing the pressure off of him. In an injury-riddled season, Gordon led the team with 17 points per game.
In 2012-13, New Orleans’ small forwards ranked dead last in points per game (12.0), per Hoopsstats.com.
The candidate doesn’t need to be a Kevin Durant-type scorer, merely a player capable of knocking down a jumper. This will force the defense to play with some respect—not a few feet off the ball in an effort to help inside.
Additionally, you need to be able to see the floor. If the ball is in your hands on the wing, it is a must to make sound decisions. This includes whether to drive the lane, find an open man or create space for a high-percentage jump shot.
Now, there’s no room on this team for limited defense. The coaches already have their work cut out for them in improving the defense of the guards’ perimeter play. With Davis and Robin Lopez clogging the paint, the interior defense isn't an immediate concern.
Last season, the Pelicans were tied for 26th in opponents’ field-goal percentage as opposing teams knocked down 47.1 percent of their shots and ranked 27th in opponents’ three-point field-goal percentage (37.4).
At the 3, the selected candidate will be up against top scoring competition.
This wing player will be able to contain some of the league’s best players, including Durant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and the up-and-coming Paul George. If you're not able to stifle the game plan of your opponent and force awkward, contested shots, you should start looking elsewhere.
Ball-handling will not be overlooked. Aminu’s turnover ratio last season was 15.4, the worst among 70 qualified small forwards, per ESPN’s Hollinger Stats. For a position that isn’t facilitating the offense, turnovers simply won’t be accepted.
Rounding out an offense on the verge of becoming contenders, playing above-average defense and taking care of the ball are all on the forefront of duties for this candidate.
In addition to meeting the above criteria, the Pelicans are in need of a leader. Someone who can mold and guide this team into becoming contenders.
Being in the draft lottery for consecutive seasons, the candidate awarded this position will be the player to change the identity of the team. This player won't change the fact Gordon is the franchise player or Davis is the face of the franchise, but he will change the way this team runs its plays.
Well on its way with a talented young squad, New Orleans will look for a candidate with a proven track record. Being an established veteran will give you an edge in the selection process (i.e., Andre Iguodala and Josh Smith).
The candidate doesn’t need to have been “the man” per se, but he must be capable of keeping this group on the same page for 48 minutes per game and making himself heard in the locker room. Voice your concerns, change cancer-type attitudes and use your basketball knowledge to help others succeed.
There are going to be expectations, and the organization does not want to let its fans down.
The Pelicans have a head coach in Monty Williams and general manager in Dell Demps who are committed to contend for a championship year in and year out.
There is a loyal fanbase eager to accept a new small forward and a strong core of young players who are on the verge of accomplishing their goals.
New Orleans is, in all likelihood, just one player away from becoming a force in the Western Conference (if the team can remain healthy).
Are you that player? Please, contact Dell Demps to see if you’re what New Orleans is looking for.