The Pelicans won’t impress your average NBA stat guy

Published: July 21, 2013

A lot of us are pretty high on the Pelicans latest team transformation. In a single off-season the physical profile of the team has changed dramatically as Dell Demps has added young athletes and shooters to a perimeter that was devoid of them. For the first time in a decade, the team now has multiple players with a reputation for creating their own shots. The Pelicans were one of three teams that acquired an All-star player – and a former ROY. Exciting stuff!

So what sound do we hear from most of the advanced stats writers out there?


Why? Because to them there is nothing to get excited about. The Pelicans just spent big money to pack the team with a bunch of mediocre players. Their models tell them that players like Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon have been, at their best, barely better than average. The rest of the team, minus Anthony Davis, is essentially in the same boat. What is there to get excited about?

Here’s a collection of general overall ratings from last season for the 8 players I expect will get the lion’s share of minutes this season.  You’ll notice that other than in PER, the numbers are not great.

Player Win Shares/48 Wins Prod/48 PER Adjusted +/-
Average Player 0.100 0.100 15.00 0.00
Al Farouq Aminu 0.073 0.217 13.7 0.64
Anthony Davis 0.159 0.174 21.7 2.77
Austin Rivers -0.038 -0.093 5.9 -4.97
Eric Gordon 0.042 -0.040 15.4 -1.01
Jason Smith 0.095 -0.013 16.8 -1.55
Jrue Holiday 0.055 0.066 16.7 0.91
Ryan Anderson 0.125 0.065 18.1 -0.02
Tyreke Evans 0.105 0.167 18.1 1.1

(Please see the end of the post for a basic description of the four stats above if you are interested.)

This is why the most you’ve seen written about the Pelicans are that they gave too much up to get Holiday. That they overpaid Tyreke. That they are in “win now” mode, and that they are “panicking.” If you believe in the data models behind these numbers, and the Pelicans post similar ratings next season, the team would be more likely to win 35 games than get into the playoffs.

And these ratings aren’t just made up – they generally have a kernel of truth hidden in them. This team does have the potential to struggle badly to reach its goals next year. Those of you expecting a juggernaut will probably be disappointed at the very least.

Now, on that sobering note, I will say that I don’t buy into the general ambivalence. I’ll be posting about that in a day or two.

I just wanted to get the numbers out there.


  • Win Shares per 48 – This metric takes a teams efficiency while a player is on the court and uses the player’s individual ratings to assign credit – or blame – for the team’s performance .  A team made up entirely of players with a .100 rating would win 41 games.
  • Wins Produced per 48 – from Wages of wins, this system assigns a position to a player and then grades them on how well they perform above the NBA average for other players at that position.  Like Win shares, A team made up entirely of players with a .100 rating would win 41 games.
  • PER – takes a series of analytical stats and assigns a combined overall rating.  Generally more offense focused – and weighted in favor of players with a high usage.
  • Adjusted +/- – the more wizardly of the stats, attempts to take team performance when a player plays, and then isolate the player from the other players on the court.  If a player earns a rating of 5.00, it would mean that if he was surrounded by perfectly average players and played 48 minutes, his team would win by 5 points.


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