New Orleans Pelicans Poised to be Latest Victim of Post-Superstar Doldrums

Updated: February 13, 2019
Anthony davis pic

New Orleans did not deal superstar Anthony Davis before last week’s trade deadline, but the Pelicans are just delaying the inevitable.

In a rare move, Davis publicly stated that he wants to move on from the mid-market team and take a shot at a title with a contender – and likely with another superstar or two.

Such is life for second-tier teams in today’s NBA.

Gone is the era of a superstar sticking with the same one (or two) teams for his entire career, building rivalries that become legendary and are still remembered today.

Now, if a team is lucky enough to draft a player that can transcend the league, they need to be on top of things right from the beginning to try and try to win immediately. Because chances are, that superstar is going to bolt for greener pastures after his rookie deal expires.

The NBA is unlike any other professional sport regarding one player being able to make so much of a difference.

Look no further than the Cleveland Cavaliers. With LeBron James (the first time), the Cavs were perennial contenders in the East. After he left for Miami in 2010, Cleveland fell into obscurity. Four years later “the King” returned home, and the Cavs went to the next four NBA Finals. Now, again without James, Cleveland is again one of the worst teams in the league.

The Orlando Magic enjoyed an excellent run of success a decade ago with budding superstar center Dwight Howard. With Howard’s presence in the paint drawing multiple defenders, then-coach Stan Van Gundy surrounded him with shooters – one of which was always open. Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis, Mickael Pietrus, and Hedo Turkoglu enjoyed the biggest success of their careers playing with Howard – culminating in a NBA Finals trip in 2009. After falling short to Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers, then-general manager Otis Smith tried to improve the club by dealing some of those parts for aging superstar Vince Carter. It didn’t work, and a series of further front office missteps (Gilbert Arenas, anyone?) led to Orlando falling further from the top of the conference and eventually led to Howard’s departure. While the next stage of Howard’s career didn’t pan out, Orlando still hasn’t recovered from his defection (and one could make the argument that firing Van Gundy was an even bigger mistake). The Magic have decent parts with Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon, and they’re hoping the recently acquired Markelle Fultz will be the point guard they desperately need to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

The Pelicans tried to field a competitive team with Davis. They traded for DeMarcus Cousins, and the Pels were looking to be able to challenge Houston or Golden State in 2018 before Cousins went out with an Achilles tear in January. New Orleans still swept Portland in the first round of the playoffs, before bowing out to the Warriors in five games.

Unfortunately for New Orleans, they are unlikely to reach even those modest heights for years to come, while Davis will likely enjoy success with a ready-to-win team next season.

Such is life in the current era of the NBA.

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