Preseason NBA Power Rankings: Philadelphia 76ers look like Eastern Elite

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NBA Power Rankings
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9. New Orleans Pelicans

After pulling off one of the more surprising midseason trades in recent memory to acquire DeMarcus ‘Boogie’ Cousins from the Sacramento Kings, the New Orleans Pelicans made a triumphant return to the playoffs with a roster absolutely loaded with intriguing pieces.

But now, less than six months removed from a spot in the Western Conference semifinals, the Pelicans are a completely different teams.

In a move that shocked the basketball world, the Pelicans opted to allow both Cousins and Rajon Rondo, a pair of starters the year before, to leave for California for free and opted to get younger by signing Elfrid Payton and Julius Randle to fill their incredibly large shoes.

I personally am onboard with the moves.

Now don’t get me wrong, Payton and Randle are nowhere the players that Rondo and Cousins are at this point in their careers, but they come with a much cheaper price tag, and will allow the team to continue to build up a formidable roster while retaining roughly the playing style that made the team so potent in 2017.

Much like Rondo, Payton is a pass-first combo guard who can help to optimize Jrue Holiday‘s workload on the defensive side of the ball even without a solid outside shot.

And in Randle, the Pelicans may have finally found the perfect frontcourt big to pair with Anthony Davis full-time. While Randle doesn’t possess Boogie’s offensive ingenuity, he is far more athletic and could conceivably help to switch off with Davis and keep the team’s best player fresh.

Add in another midseason acquisition in Nikola Mirotic and surprise breakout performer E’Twaun Moore and the Pelicans may have one of the most versatile rosters in basketball, with virtually every player in their rotation possessing the ability to switch off on the defensive end of the court.

While this formula likely won’t be enough to unseat the Warriors atop the Western Conference, it certainly could land the Pelicans in the top four if everything clicks.