The Pelicans are squarely on the wide shoulders of Davis to carry the team to its first playoff spot in four seasons. of that pain of having Tyreke go against small forwards who are 6-8, 6-9 or even 6-10. That puts him in a difficult spot and that’s what I was trying to avoid.” New Orleans’ starting five of Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Davis and Asik appears rock solid. However, Williams could put Evans at the two, sending Gordon to the bench, a role he’s already said he would accept. And if Evans moves to his more natural position, where he played last year while Gordon was injured, veteran John Salmons is next man up at the three. “That’s a big question mark,” Demps said of the three spot. “I think we can do it by committee. I think we have a number of guys D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images that can play there. I think competition is going to be great.” Depth remains a problem, which makes this a crucial year with the organization for Austin Rivers, New Orleans’ top pick (10th overall) in the 2012 draft who will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Along with newcomer Jimmer Fredette, Rivers will be an important backcourt player off the bench. “I’m excited to see Austin Rivers. He’s been spending a lot of time in the gym. He’s been here late at night, early in the morning. His body looks great,” Demps said. “I think he’s really going to compete for minutes off the bench.” If Rivers and Fredette can provide some scoring punch in the second unit, expect the Pelicans to fare better; otherwise, the team’s lack of bench scoring to keep them from making any improvement in a crowded West field. OUTLOOK One thing Demps, Williams and the entire organization hope for is fewer injuries. But considering that Evans suffered a hamstring injury that was expected to keep him off the floor for at least a month prior to preseason, the new season already took an unfavorable tone by losing a member of the starting five so early. But even with Evans out, Williams remains optimistic the Pelicans can stay relatively healthy. “Just having guys healthy, that to me is like a free agent signing,” Williams said. “Just having Ryan Anderson back, having him in the gym and watching him work out has been pretty cool.” If New Orleans can stay healthy, then they could surprise some people and maybe push for a seven or eight seed in the West. Their thin bench will continue to be an achilles heel. If they continue to struggle and miss the playoffs again, expect talk of a coaching change to ramp up considerably. SPOTLIGHT: Anthony Davis He might be an obvious choice, but this is shaping up to be a big year for Davis, who comes off a big summer after playing for Team USA, an experience which could have immense benefits going forward. The long (in arms and brows) player has already accomplished a lot in his rather short NBA career, but considering how humble and unassuming the Chicago native is, it’s not hard to see why his teammates, fans in the Big Easy and around the Association are drawn to this young phenom. It’s hard not to. After being the prize of the 2012 draft, Davis started out his NBA career as a string-bean forward who had the potential to be disruptive force on both ends with his combination of length, quickness and work ethic. The hope was that he’d fill out, learn the nuances of the NBA game and develop some offensive moves. Davis has not disappointed in all three fronts. The defense has been his calling card and now with his newfound confidence on offense, he’s become the best emerging under-25 player in the NBA. Demps might have summed up Davis and what he means to the organization in one simple quote from media day. “He has that ability on and off the court with his personality to lift up an organization. He’s only 21-years-old and the leadership that he brings to us is going to be really important,” Demps said. But maybe the most impressive thing about this youngster is that even with all he’s already accomplished in the League, he still has a neverending hunger and work ethic to always keep improving, not only himself but his team. And the fact that he added some mass to his rather wiry frame is definitely good news for Williams and his teammates and bad news to those beating and banging with him in the paint this season. “I gained like 15 pounds. I feel a lot stronger. I just got a little confidence. I definitely got a lot stronger and I definitely feel it,” he said.
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