Anthony Davis has requested a trade from the Pelicans, becoming the latest superstar to hit the trade market in an effort to join a contending team. Even though the Pelicans went 240-302 in six and a half seasons with Davis (as of Tuesday morning), last season’s playoff run gave the organization hope for this year.
Unfortunately for New Orleans, the franchise is currently 22-28 and 13th in the Western Conference. With Davis likely on the way out, let’s recap how the Pelicans consistently failed to surround AD with talented teammates in the Big Easy.
JUNE 28, 2012 – New Orleans Selects Anthony Davis No. 1 Overall
This was a great day for the rebuilding franchise after it shipped Chris Paul out midseason. The then-Hornets had a 13.7 percent chance to land the top pick and fortune was smiling on them that day. New Orleans took Davis, who had just led Kentucky to a national title behind a dominant season. He averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game during his Naismith College Player of the Year campaign, looking like a generational big man. The franchise had found its building block.
JUNE 28, 2012 – New Orleans Selects Austin Rivers No. 10 Overall
Rivers was supposed to be the ideal point guard for Davis as he shot 36.5 percent from 3-point range and averaged 15.5 points per game in his lone season at Duke. New Orleans expected both players to grow together and serve as foundational pieces for the franchise, but Rivers never developed into the franchise player the Pelicans hoped for and was traded after three injury-plagued seasons to the Clippers.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but New Orleans ended up missing out on some gems in the early second round as players like Draymond Green, Jae Crowder, Khris Middleton and Will Barton all went off the board.
JULY 11, 2012 – New Orleans Acquires Ryan Anderson in a Sign-and-Trade With the Magic
Anderson was the first piece acquired in an effort to surround Davis with talent. He was a veteran power forward who could stretch the floor and fit well with New Orleans’ prized rookie. Anderson struggled with injuries, but he had a successful tenure with the Pelicans. He starred in a bench role during the latter three seasons of his time there, but eventually left the Pelicans to sign with the Rockets.
JULY 14, 2012 – New Orleans Matches Offer Sheet for Eric Gordon
The team brought Gordon, acquired in the Paul trade, back despite him playing just nine games that season. Gordon consistently missed time in his four and a half seasons with the team, but he was great when he played.
JUNE 27, 2013 – New Orleans Trades Nerlens Noel and a Protected 2014 First-Round Pick for Jrue Holiday and Pierre Jackson
New Orleans officially re-branded itself as the “Pelicans” this season and Noel was the first draft pick under the new name. The shot-blocking big man had fans salivating over the prospect of him and Davis anchoring a defense. The Pelicans then traded Noel and a protected 2014 first-round pick for All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday and Pierre Jackson. Holiday was dealt by the 76ers, who had just implemented their “Trust the Process” protocol.
Holiday would soon suffer a season-ending injury in February 2014, one of the many setbacks he has experienced during his time in New Orleans. Fast-forwarding to last season, Holiday, who was rewarded with a five-year, $131 million extension in 2017, played 81 games and had a career year in which he averaged 19.0 points, 6.0 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game before stepping it up to another level in the playoffs. Holiday was the reason the Pelicans were able to sweep the Trail Blazers in their first-round series last season, but now his future with the franchise is very much in doubt.
JULY 10, 2013 – New Orleans Acquires Tyreke Evans From Kings
Evans was named Rookie of the Year in 2010, but failed to improve upon that in Sacramento. The Pelicans acquired him in an effort to surround Davis with capable playmakers on the perimeter. Evans had two strong seasons in New Orleans before injuries cut the following two seasons short, which resulted in the Pelicans trading him back to Sacramento in 2017.
JULY 18, 2013 – New Orleans Signs Anthony Morrow in Free Agency
The Pelicans gave Morrow, a 3-point specialist, a one-year deal and the forward responded by hitting 45.1 percent of his shots from behind the arc. New Orleans did not bring Morrow back after his strong season.
JUNE 26, 2014 – New Orleans Conveys First-Round Pick to 76ers
The Pelicans conveyed their protected pick to the 76ers, who made a trade with the Magic on draft night. Luckily for New Orleans, the 2014 draft class has produced exactly one All-Star player to this point. However, the Pelicans could’ve easily used a player like Zach LaVine, Gary Harris or T.J. Warren to deploy with Davis.
APRIL 15, 2015 – New Orleans Makes the Playoffs for First Time in Davis’ Career
Davis, Gordon, Evans and Holiday led the Pelicans to their first playoff appearance in four seasons, sneaking into the postseason as the eighth seed. They won their final game against the Spurs behind a 31-point, 13-rebound effort from Davis. New Orleans fell to the eventual champion Warriors 4-0 in the first round, but Davis averaged 31.5 points and 11.0 rebounds in the four-game series. The franchise looked to be trending in the right direction.
JULY 9, 2015 – New Orleans Signs Davis to Five-Year, $145 Million Extension
The Pelicans lock up their star with a massive extension. While the 2015-16 season begins with promise, Davis ends up being shut down in March so that he can begin rehabbing a knee and shoulder injury, and New Orleans fails to make the playoffs for a consecutive season.
JULY 9, 2015 – New Orleans Brings Back Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca
The Pelicans roll the dice on two traditional centers as the league moves away from a back-to-the-basket big man. With Davis taking a beating in the paint, the Pelicans commit $58 million to Asik over five seasons and give Ajinca nearly $20 million over four seasons. Both players see their roles diminish as their careers progress in New Orleans, and the Pelicans eventually trade both players.
JUNE 23, 2016 – New Orleans Selects Buddy Hield No. 6 Overall
This was considered a strong selection at the time, but Hield was disappointing early in his rookie season. The Pelicans eventually use Hield as the centerpiece of a big trade for DeMarcus Cousins, but they probably want to have this decision back.
JULY 21, 2016 – New Orleans Signs Solomon Hill, E’Twaun Moore and Langston Galloway in Free Agency
This was the summer of the NBA’s massive cap spike due to the new TV deal, and the Pelicans went to work. They signed Hill to a four-year, $48 million deal despite him playing just 169 games in three seasons with Indiana. Moore inked a four-year, $34 million deal and Galloway signed a two-year, $10.6 million contract. Yes, the Pelicans attempted to surround Davis with reliable perimeter scorers, but they ultimately got nothing from them.
FEBRUARY 20, 2017 – New Orleans Trades Hield, Evans, Galloway, a 2017 First-Round Pick and a 2017 Second-Round Pick for Cousins and Omri Casspi
This was a blockbuster deal for the Pelicans and looked like an absolute steal at the time. Cousins was the ideal big man to pair with Davis and the tandem was superb during their time together. Although the Pelicans failed to make the playoffs this year, they looked to be a force for seasons to come with three stars in Davis, Cousins and Holiday.
JANUARY 26, 2018 – Cousins Tears His Achilles
This was a crushing blow for the Pelicans, who were 27-21 at the time and fighting for playoff position. Cousins would never play another game for New Orleans.
FEBRUARY 1, 2018 – New Orleans Trades 2018 First-Round Pick for Nikola Mirotic
With Cousins sidelined, the Pelicans acquired Mirotic at the expense of a first-round pick. He averaged 14.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in 30 appearances with New Orleans that season. The Pelicans went 21-13 after Cousins’ injury and swept Portland in the opening round of the playoffs.
JULY 6, 2018 – Cousins Signs One-Year Deal With Warriors
In his article for The Players’ Tribune, Cousins revealed he expected to be back in New Orleans despite the Achilles injury. However, the Pelicans were unsure about committing major money to him and passed — as did 28 other NBA teams. Cousins ended up signing a one-year, $5.34 million contract in the Bay Area and looks like his old self with the Warriors.
JANUARY 28, 2019 – Davis Requests Trade, Says He Won’t Sign Contract Extension
During Davis’ tenure, the Pelicans attempted to surround him with the right players to form a consistent contender. The franchise put in the effort, but was largely snake-bitten by untimely injuries — with Davis routinely missing time himself.
However, the Pelicans should definitely be held accountable for the error in their ways. Instead of targeting reliable options, they invested almost $93 million in Hill, Moore and Galloway in 2016 with little production in return. Before that, they committed money to Asik and Ajinca as the league shifted away from big men who can’t shoot. Excluding Davis, New Orleans has drafted three players in the first round since 2012. None of those three players are on the roster. The franchise also failed to bring Cousins back after trading for him.
What we know is that New Orleans consistently attempted to patch its roster with short-term, quick-fix solutions while sacrificing financial flexibility, proven talent and draft assets. The Pelicans now have to trade Davis to get something of value in return after failing to build a legitimate contender with him on the team.
In the end, injuries and failed signings will define Davis’ tenure in New Orleans. He deserved better than that.