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.


  1. Pelinets_Fan

    July 21, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Good write up I now see why the stat guys were so down on these moves and I can respect that opinion. However we would have been left with less depth and a bunch of question marks on that chart had we simply taken Noel and went with it. I wonder how the more advanced stat writers would have felt about our offseason then? We had to start building a contending team now or else risk losing the talent we had acquired (Davis) in the very near future. I guess I just don’t buy into this whole “we’re trying to rebuild too fast” or “you need to rebuild through the draft” thing, and being a Pelicans fan I might be a little biased with Dell’s moves. The thing is at what pace should a team rebuild? Why should a small market team or any team rebuilding for that matter be limited to rebuilding through the draft (or as I like to call it become the farm teams for the rest of the NBA)? 
    So while I understand why the moves are not exactly impressive to the stat guys I really just wonder what they would have thought about the alternatives? Also I think it is generally agreed upon that this is a good trade for Philly. Why does that necessarily mean its a bad trade for us? Anyways that’s my two cents.

    • CoReMeGa

      July 21, 2013 at 12:21 pm

      Pelinets_Fan in one of ESPN’s 5on5’s they asked which teams from the East and West had made the best moves. One of the writers picked Philly for the East and NO for the West because it was basically a Gr8 trade for both teams.. each heading in different directions.
      The Pelicans of coarse moving in the direction of Gr8ness and Philly rebuilding. Could be looked at in a couple years like the George Hill/ Kawhi Leonard trade which landed the teams that made it in the final 4 this year!

    • mateor

      July 21, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      I have had my gripes with some of the moves…but I don’t think that there is any scenario where we could have kept Nerlens. By the time he is healthy and seasoned enough to emerge, Ryan Andersen’s contract is over, Anthony Davis is getting his second extension, Eric Gordon is an expiring, etc…

      That only makes sense if you think Nerlens Noel is the quality that necessitates a complete rebooting. Again. Keeping Nerlens is aiming for the lottery for two more years, I don’t see any new ownsership being that patient, especially the new Benson, now used to winning.

  2. Arabi

    July 21, 2013 at 9:54 am

    The advanced stat writers are neglecting that Jrue and Reke were both the best players on bad teams last year. Together this group will do well.

  3. Hank_

    July 21, 2013 at 9:56 am

    The thing these advanced stats dont take into consideration is how bad the teams are. Tyreke Evans was on a dysfunctional Kings team in which he was forced to play 3 different positions and Jrue Holiday was on possibly the least talented team in the NBA, which he actually led almost single handedly to a decent record in the first half of the season. Neither team had the players around them necessary to succeed. Both should benefit greatly from having players around them because their assists should go up and turnovers should go down. they can also make a greater defensive impact because now theyre on a team that should play much better team defense

    • Pelinets_Fan

      July 21, 2013 at 10:39 am

      Hank_ The only problem with the “they were on a bad team” argument (at least when it comes to debating stat guys) is that both Evans and Holiday were getting monster mins. and were given a lot of opportunity as they were the go to guys on each of their teams. Their mins will go down in NOLA but like you said it can be argued that with a better supporting cast we may actually see these numbers improve. I think when evaluating the Pels’ moves you can’t look at these individual players and assign a grade, you have to look at the work as a whole. When you do that you can’t help but see an outstanding backcourt with amazing depth annnndddd (I love this part especially) the average of this backcourt, nay this whole team is under 24 (ok I know when its 23.6667 you’re supposed to round up but give me a break)! I’m not expecting a juggernaut this year but we should surprise a lot of people.

      • Roger.That.

        July 21, 2013 at 1:18 pm

        Pelinets_Fan Hank_ fewer minutes played almost always increases productivity/PER.  Look at Andray Blatche for goodness sakes.

  4. CoReMeGa

    July 21, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    I think that the most important point of all of these numbers is that they occurred last season.. when these players weren’t all playing together. I think that this team was created to learn and grow together and that playing together these numbers will get better. This team has Gr8 potential, it might take a season and I still think that we sneak into the playoffs as the 8th seed this year.
    Next season though… with a full year to gel together and Anthony Davis entering his 3rd year… this team will be special!!!

  5. 504ever

    July 21, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Ryan, Iove this article and the facts it injects into the discussion of predicting the Pelican’s 2013-14 season.  
    I want to suggest another factual context for a future article on understanding the possible outcomes for the Pelicans next season: how frequently NBA teams improve by approximately 20 wins (that approximates how many wins it will take to make the playoffs in the Western Conference) in one season and go from a lottery team to a playoff team.  Off the top of my head, I can only think of one situation: the Spurs the year David Robinson (and Sean Elliot?) missed almost the entire season and they drafted Tim Duncan.  The Spurs had a vast upswing in talent to accomplish that huge improvement.
    I personally believe that the Pelicans will be in the playoff hunt all season long and I hope they make the playoffs in year one as a 8th seed.  I understand that for the Pelicans to make the playoffs, they will go from the a team just inside the bottom 20% of NBA teams to a team just inside the top 50% of NBA teams.  That is a swing of over 30 percentage points in just one season!
    I also understand the Pelicans will play four each games against division foes San Antonio, Houston, Memphis, and Dallas.  Dallas, the worst of the four, could be a 0.500 team again this year if Dirk stays healthy. The Pelicans also play four games against six of their 10 remaining Western Conference foes, three games against the other four Western conference foes, and only two games against every (L)Eastern Conference team.  (I don’t believe the schedule is out so we don’t know which Western Conference teams we play only three times.  Hope it is strong ones!)
    Again, personally, I see the Pelicans as being a NBA Championship contending team in the near future and I’d love to see them make the playoffs in the 2013-14 season.  But I know that is a huge step in one year up the ladder and over ten teams of NBA professionals trying to make the playoffs, too.  
    In Dell (and Monty) I trust!

    • 504ever

      July 22, 2013 at 12:08 am

      Just to fill in the gaps is the schedule part of the playoffs equation.  Based on last year, we need to go 45-37 (four games over 0.500) to make the playoffs.  In 2013-14, I could see us going 17-13 against the (L)Eastern Conference which, coincidentally, happens to be four games over 0.500.  (Last year we went 12-18 against the (L)Eastern Conference.)  
      So all we might need to do is play 0.500 ball against the Western Conference.  But will that happen?  I could see us going 6-10 in the Division; that would mean we need to go 20-16 against the rest of the conference to hit 0.500 against the entire Western Conference.  (Last year we were 5-11 against our Division and 10-26 against the rest of the Western Conference, for a total of 15-37.)  Is that realistic?  I don’t know.

      I ask readers to look at the other teams in the NBA, many of whom also got stronger, and see how you think the Pelicans do in a series against each of them.  (It is harder than you think to find 45 wins in 2013-14!)

      • Houpgarou

        July 22, 2013 at 9:01 am

        If someone grows stronger. Someone else usually grows weaker. With rigging for Wiggins in full effect, There will be a lot of gimme wins for the taking by a disciplined team. Of course other playoff contenders will have that same opportunity, maybe moreso with tanking occuring in their division a luxury we don’t have

  6. Roger.That.

    July 21, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Numbers are a lagging indicator.  They wouldn’t have predicted the 2007 Hornets’ season as Tyson Chandler emerged as a top 20 player in the NBA and David West stepped up his game to a career best level as well.
    These Pelicans are all in their early 20’s and their best is in front of them.  Looking backwards to previous statistics and numbers isn’t very helpful.  I realize that’s implied in the tone of your delivery, but the sabermetrics dorks will swing and miss on the Pelicans.  We’re a playoff team.

  7. prpcpa1

    July 21, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    I’ll preface this by saying I’m a Dell Demps fan – his moves always seem to both improve our team and lead to a future move.  Having said that, while I like the stats a lot, I don’t think they truly take into account how young these guys are and what will happen when they show some growth together.  To me, the biggest question mark on this team is how fast will they come together?  I like the core group and the philosophy of having a young core grow together – will it happen in training camp or the first part of the season or take a year plus?  Should be fun to watch, whatever the answer.  I’m betting, with some good coaching, some obvious basketball intelligence, and (hoping for) the players buy-in/commitment, it will be sooner vs. later.

  8. dschmid4

    July 21, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    when the win share is calculated, does a player’s team’s actual winning percentage influence the number? 
    Meaning, if a player on a team that wins 10 games for the year will his win share be lower than an identical player with identical stats whose team wins 60 games?

    • ryanschwan

      July 21, 2013 at 11:17 pm

      dschmid4 No.  Win Shares are calculated with a combination of individual stats and the team’s efficiency performance when the player is on the floor.

    • GerryV

      July 23, 2013 at 11:07 am

      dschmid4 win share is impacted by the combination of players that are on the floor…impact on the game…usage… me it no way reflects on how the new players will impact the Pelicans….start over….

  9. lsucpolk

    July 21, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    I don’t think it will be immediate, but at some point in the 2013-14 season, barring major injuries, the Nola Pelicans will be a very dangerous team. As Jerry V points out, sometimes the eye test takes precedence over stats, and the eye test of a person with common sense says all the major acquisitions Dell made this offseason will make the Pelicans a team to be reckoned with in the upcoming seasons.

  10. 504ever

    July 21, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    I think Ryan covered all of that when he said: “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.”

    • ryanschwan

      July 22, 2013 at 10:05 am

      xman20002000 I wouldn’t throw them out the door.  These numbers can be predictive.  There are reasons we shouldn’t expect the same performance, but the reality is they are the starting point.  I’ll get into it more, but these guys aren’t blank slates.  They have established ways of playing and production – and they’d have to improve from there, if they improve.

    • kierantk

      July 23, 2013 at 5:03 am

      xman20002000 ryanschwan 
      So if we don’t use last years numbers, what do we use?  Should we just make up numbers for what we think Tyreke will put up and plug them in?

    • GerryV

      July 23, 2013 at 11:04 am

      ryanschwan xman20002000 ok not the ’bout the shares and the other stats measured the players in the atmosphere they existed under.. there are endless examples i could example would be…..a wing player who played with a non creative pt guard…that could impact his scoring chances..when and where he got the ball etc…now play him with a quick creative pt and the floor gets bigger for him…

    • GerryV

      July 23, 2013 at 11:05 am

      kierantk xman20002000 ryanschwan you use some numbers ..its the stats that were used that don’t tickle the ivory….combining players with different skill sets can improve a players performance…..

  11. GerryV

    July 22, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    I took all of those stats and used them to light my cigar… shares and per….etc etc….nah….toss ’em….its all a “do over now” plus those stats don’t bear out the influence the guys they played with had on the stats… advice is to have a cocktail and look forward to camp…..

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  13. GerryV

    July 23, 2013 at 11:09 am

    I just want to be held right now……anybody see my chick?

  14. Roger.That.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:32 am


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