Offensive Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Published: December 6, 2013

This offseason was one of changes. From the New Orleans Hornets to the New Orleans Pelicans; Trades and free agent signings revamped the roster; Even the New Orleans Arena got a makeover. But there was another change hinted this offseason that fans needed to wait on.

The team’s offense.

Head coach Monty Williams wanted to open up his playbook more than he has in the past. He wanted to get out and run a little more. There were going to be fun changes, more exciting basketball. So with 18 games gone so far let’s take a look at what’s different than last season.

As I mentioned the other day the Pelicans are looking for the roll man in the pick and roll less than they were last season. Thanks to we can see that the numbers are 7% this year compared to 9% previously. It’s slightly surprising given how devastating Anthony Davis is on the pick and roll and the fact that the team scores 1.13 points per possession when the play ends with the roll man which is good for 3rd in the league.

There are a few factors that contribute to this. First, there are now three guards who like to look to shoot. Jrue Holiday, while the team’s point guard, has also looked to shoot first and pass second as most of his shot attempts have come early in the shot clock—though over the past 10 or so games he has certainly improved on this.

Early shot clock usage is also true for the rest of the team. breaks down shot clock usage into increments of 0-10, 11-15, 16-20 and 21+ seconds elapsed. 0-10 seconds is often transition scores so the more telling number is percentage of early half court offense.

This season the Pelicans attempt 28% of their shots with between 11-15 seconds elapsed. That’s a 4% increase over last year. Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans are both guards who have tremendous confidence in their shot. If they think they have some enough space they have no problem going with the pull up jumper. While there are times when this offensive strategy works, the Pelicans’ pick and roll ball handlers are only scoring .71 ppp this season which ranks 24th.

Another factor is with the loss of Robin Lopez, there aren’t any bigmen who are great at rim running other than Anthony Davis. Jason Smith is more of a pick and pop shooter (and the stats above don’t factor in that type of play), and while Ryan Anderson sets many high screens however he usually pops out to the three point line. The lack of another under the basket type bigman has forced Monty Williams to change the team’s emphasis when it comes to first options on the pick and roll.

The departure of Lopez also has factored into the Pelicans post play. Post up possessions are down 1.5% this season and are currently the Pelicans 2nd worst offensive category at .69 ppp (28th in the league). This is hardly a surprise with the team’s current front court players. Even Davis prefers to shoot his mid range jumper than play with his back to the basket.

But the Pelicans have the fifth best offensive rating in the NBA so it isn’t all bad.

The Pelicans have improved their rankings in isolation plays by 4 this season despite the percentage basically staying the same. Most likely this is attributable to the troika of guards brought together this offseason. Gordon, Evans and Holiday all have a tremendous ability to get to the rim and finish, often times slicing the defense up at will.

And then there is transition offense.

This other than off cuts this is the Pelicans highest point per possession category. With the athleticism and speed that the Pelicans have on the court with the revamped roster they  17.1% of their offense comes in transition which is up from 10% last year. Attacking while defenses are not set, or while on a fast break, leads to efficient offense.

There is a cliche which goes good defense leads to easy offense. Well the Pelicans are not playing good defense this year they certainly are forcing steals and blocking shots. Both of these lead to transition offense and it’s nice to see Monty let his team get up the court as opposed to letting the defense get set.

The final verdict on many of the offseason changes has yet to be made. Just like the offense, it might take a whole season before any decision can be fully made. But there certainly is a lot to like.


  1. NOEngineer

    December 6, 2013 at 11:09 am

    What about Withey as a big man that will stay near the basket?  Coincidentally, I cam across this article today:

    Simply put, it says don’t give minutes to your unproductive players.  The Wins Produced metric they use includes points, rebounds, steals, blocks, and turnovers in determining who is productive and who isn’t.   Team defense contribution is not well accounted for, I admit.    Our negatively productive players are Darius Miller (maybe due to rust), Lou Amundson, Brian Roberts, and Jason Smith.    Lance was wildly negative and  but he is gone.    Every other Pelicans player is at least mildly productive, with Davis, Aminu, Anderson, Holliday, and WITHEY being highly productive per minute.   Evans started out way negative, but has been steadily improving as his rust wears off.  Smith, however, has always been borderline despite all of the little things he does that we love.   He hasn’t demonstrated the ability to improve.   Same with Amundson, and probably Roberts.   Morrow is actually about double the per-minute productivity as Gordon, but I don’t expect that to factor in to Monty’s decision making due to salary and defense.  Withey, however, has a good defensive reputation that I would love to see proven or disproven.   Even if you hate statistics, you can come to the same conclusions watching everyone but Withey, since they don’t let us watch him.    It would be awesome to see this approach tried by the Pelicans for a few games.  It probably won’t happen, but I can hope…..

  2. Kempleton

    December 6, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Not related to this article but seeing Randy Ayers and Eric Gordon together in the photo of this article reminds me the following:

    Warriors game, 4th quarter. Eric Gordon fails to stand in front of his man (SG, probably Thompson) and lets him go past. Jermaine O’Neal’s man has to slide to guard the attacking SG, Defense gets unbalanced, SG passes to O’Neal. Gordon tries to stop O’Neal but he cannot. O’Neal scores.

    Right after the play Randy Ayers says something to Gordon. Apparently he tells him the mistake he did on defense. Gordon reacts in a way as if he did nothing wrong and everything right. They exchange a few words. Ayers gives up or he gets fed up and makes a hand gesture asking Gordon to just go to the offense.

    Gordon obviously failed on that play but he still was not admitting his fault. Can he learn from his mistakes and improve? As long as he is in this mindset, I do not think so…

    Sorry Gordon, I think will never be able to like you and your caliber…

  3. mazonmafia

    December 6, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Missing Robin Lopez… But if lopez was here, we would be likely looking for an upgrade eventually.
    Still wish we could get Asik from the Rockets.  I hear it’s rumored that they want two 1st rd picks for him.  I doubt they get their asking price, but if we can offer one 1st rd-er (since we have a plethora of picks) and Jason Smith, that might do the trick.
    I’m not sure on the salary cap ramifications and how to make the salaries get close enough, but I’m sure something could be worked out.

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