An Indifferent Difference

By:
Published: January 5, 2014
Dollars

I will scream my lungs out ’til it fills this room
How much difference
How much difference
How much difference does it make?

— Pearl Jam, Indifference

New Orleans Pelicans News

Christmas treated the Pelicans relatively well, as they went 2-1 on the week, bringing the team to 13-15, one step closer to 0.500.

The 113-100 win over the Kings featured the once and former King, Tyreke Evans. Evans led all scorers with 25 points, while the starters contributed 63. The game was nip-and-tuck until the fourth, which is when the Pelicans showed resolve, outscoring the Kings 36-23. On the downside, Eric Gordon took a hard hit on the floor and did not return. The diagnosis was a hip contusion . . . a severe bruise.

The Pelicans fared better in this outing against the Nuggets than in the prior one, winning 105-89. The Pelicans not only won every quarter, but they led in just about every major statistical category. 4 players scored between 16 and 19 points, 3 more scored between 8 and 11 points.

The lone loss of the week came against the division rival Houston Rockets. The Pelicans and Rockets traded runs, though the Rockets were the only ones to build a significant lead, until the game was tied at 94 by a Lin 3-pointer with 3:39 left to play. After that, the Pelicans were outscored 13-4, losing the game 107-98. The Pelicans were 1 of 5 (Aminu hit a 3, one miss was blocked) and 1 of 2 from the line during that stretch, adding 2 turnovers and no offensive rebounds (meaning each missed shot was, in essence, a turnover). The Rockets scored on all but one possession (Davis rebound). Failing to close out at the end was on the Pelicans, but the game was largely influenced by the free throw disparity: the Pelicans were 6 or 8, the Rockets were 25 of 32 . . . 19 points in a 9 points loss.

Around Bourbon Street Shots

The Christmas edition of Trew 2 the Game takes on the appropriate theme of gifts and wishes.

As a gift to the readers, 4 writers address 5 questions about the Pelicans for a Christmas read.

In the first of some looks at the Pelicans’ crowded back court, Mike looks at some numbers that point to which high-dollar guard should be on his way out.

Mason dug into some opponents’ statistics and crafted a fairly specific conclusion about the Pelicans’ biggest problem.

Finally, with potential changes to the NBA Draft looming, the writers begin the long discussion of such changes.

`Voices’ of the People

Sorry but very inaccurate… Holiday has been lightyears better than Vasquez on offense and he’s just learning everything and assimilating with his new teammates. That’s not even mentioning how much better he’s been on defense. I can understand possibly questioning the Tyreke signing but the Jrue trade was great for the organization and personally I really like the Tyreke signing as well.

Vasquez is a decent backup, but he was a terrible defender. How can you say all points are the same when one of them gets his 15 much more efficiently. Also, Jrue defers to others much more because this team has a lot more scorers and even though he may not get an assist he is making the smart passes and plays rather than dribbling around the entire possession like Vasquez last year.

Tyreke is also going to continue to improve as he also gets more assimilated as he has been doing lately. He’s also been injured and that’s why his start was slow.

So that’s why we went and got those guys.

Frederick M

My assessment based on watching the games without using a calculator or consulting a spreadsheet is that the Pels have almost all the bodies they need to be better than average on D. (No knock on the advance stats guys. Just having a little fun.)

The Pels have a lot of long quick guys, a big PG that can really guard the ball and a couple of wing players (gordon and rivers) who can also be better than average on ball defenders. Yes, an Omer “Bill Russell” Asik defensive 5 would be great, but I think the guys we have in Smith, Ajinka, Withey, Steimsma, etc. could be adequate for a good defensive team. (The kind that has a top 5 offense and wins 50 games.)

The problem is that individually and collectively, our players play with a very low defensive IQ. Too many double teams of guys who don’t need to be double teamed (or at least not at the place on court where our guys are double teaming.) Too many guards fighting over picks against guards who cant shoot. Too many eyes losing track of the ball and their man. Defense is a lot about predicting what is going to happen and smartly positioning yourself before it happens. NBA players are too good to think you can just react to them and keep them from getting their shot. (Have seen some improvement since they stopped hedging every pick and roll play.)

Right now, our guys are defensive morons. They are trying hard, but that isn’t enough. You need some guile and right now they have none. Is that because the coach stinks? Or is it because the guys are young and need some time to get it together as a group? Or are some of our guys just too slow mentally to ever be good defenders? That is what I am trying to figure out this season.

I do not think that trading Anderson – who is a special player that can really cause opponents problems — for a good defensive center that cant catch the ball on offense is the answer. I think that is short term overreaction. Plus you make Houston almost unbeatable.

I see more promise in Ajinca than most. He will adjust to the way the game is called. I like his size and the way he is moving his feet on defense and getting in position where he is ready to come over and help. He’s shown a higher defensive IQ than J. Smith or Davis in that regard.

LateNite504FC

Nice article.

You and Lowe are both absolutely correct. The rotations have been better, but nearly everyone on the team falls asleep on defense and makes dumb errors every night. Part of that is youth. Part of it is that Monty’s scheme needs to be tweaked given the players on the roster.

The hard hedge on pick and rolls needs to be shelved for a bit. Anderson, Smith, Anjica don’t have the quickness or the smarts to do this. Even Davis makes terrible mistakes hedging 25 feet from the hoop. I’ve seen more sagging from bigs the last month than I have in a long time. Hopefully that continues.

Another thing is that Aminu needs to play more. His rebounding is vital to the weak frontcourt. Aminu and Anderson should play together as much as possible. Their skills complement each other nicely. They have a solid +5.6 in Net Rating together. +7 when it’s Aminu, Anderson, and Davis. To McNamara’s article, 3 Man lineups with Aminu and Anderson are positive with every legitimate player except Gordon.

#freealfarouq

thouse

42 Sense

Based on the recent frequency of free throw attempts coming up in discussion (first Denver game, the Houston game, more), I decided to take another looking at the Pelicans’ free throw shooting. This time, I decided to look at how often the Pelicans are getting to the line compared to their opponents.

Previously, bulk team stats were examined to see if the Pelicans were getting to line as much as other teams by looking at number of FTA per FGA. This time, we look at the FTA differential in the Pelicans’ games, ignoring what the opponents do in other games.

The data is presented below. The blue circles are wins; the red circles are losses. Each point represents the FTA difference (Pelicans’ less opponents’) by game, in game order.

In 32 games this season, the Pelicans have attempted 110 fewer free throws than their opponents, allowing 63 more points to come from the line. The three largest FTA deficits resulted in losses (24 against Houston, 19 against the Jazz, 16 against the Clippers), but defeated the Kings despite giving up 13 more FTA, the fourth largest deficit. The two largest surpluses came in wins (17 against Cleveland, 13 against the Jazz), but lost to the Lakers despite 12 more FTA than the victorious team.

Clearly, a large disparity correlates strongly to wins and losses, but overall, the disparity does not matter. The correlation between outcome and differential is weak whether the extrema are included or trimmed. The correlation is slightly higher when actual makes are considered, but this is expected since are points, not potential points. Also, this is muddied by FT%, which is important to wins, but not as important to the question of whether getting to the line more or less actually matters.

Additionally, there is no clear trend through the season . . . there are been 20 instances of deficits, 12 of surpluses (from the Pelicans’ perspective) . . . there have been runs above and below the 0-line of expected lengths given the overall population.

One may ask at this point, despite demonstration that these disparities are not strong contributions to the Pelicans’ overall record, why is this disparity present. Monty has said that he does not fouling if it sets a tone . . . he wants this team to play with physicality. He clarified that he does not mean roughly, but he wants players to use their bodies, to make opponents react more to their presence. Of course, he also said that some guys need to realize that it’s ok to “unleash the beast.” His attitude toward fouling on the way to becoming a a more physical defense, and perhaps continuing once they become such a defense, is one explanation for why opposing teams have more FTA.

Another reason is the makeup of the team. The Pelicans players commit about 3.21 fouls per 36 minutes. The Timberwolves commit the fewest (2.57) while the Kings commit the most (3.39). The NBA average is 3.06 fouls per 36 minutes. To further illustrate the lack of direct connection to record, the four best teams are, in order, the Timberwolves, the Spurs, the Trail Blazers, and the Bobcats (2.80); the four worst are the Kings, the Knickerbockers, the Thunder, and the Warriors (3.34).

The Pelicans do in fact foul more (leading to the increased FTA by opponents), but the difference leads to about 1 more foul per game, which can be interpreted as 2 FTA per game (since the extra foul would be “at the end” . . . shots due to the bonus), but the Pelicans give up closer to 4 more FTA per game.

The inference is then that the Pelicans actually give up more shooting fouls over the course of the game.

Note also that the players with less NBA experience are also fouling more.

The following players have / had significant fouls per 36 minutes: Amundson (9.6), Ajinca (8.0), and Stiemsma (6.0). The next tier consists of Miller (4.5) , Rivers (4.3), Onuaku (4.3), Smith (2.9), Withey (3.8), and Roberts (3.7). Everyone else currently on the team is more than 10% above the mean of the NBA: Davis (3.4) down to Gordon (1.8).

This ties directly in with Mason’s post above: defense in the paint. They guys that are roaming the paint, besides Davis, are fouling the most, and they are getting the minutes for that rate to become real, at least collectively.

Alone, these free throw difference may not matter. When you connect it to the lack of a good paint defender, at least potentially, it adds fuel to that fire.

11 comments
Sportnlyfe
Sportnlyfe

Great info on the free throw problem. Thanks for the detailed breakdown. The data points show that the team, over the season so far, is not radically out of line with league averages, raising the question of what's behind the huge recent disparities in free throws. Maybe the injuries to Smith, Davis, Gordon, Steimsma (though, one would expect the fouling to decrease with Steimsma out!) are bringing the less NBA-experienced Pelicans more playing time? Is Monty Williams stressing defensive intensity more, given that the team has moved closer to the eighth spot, having the negative effect of more desperation fouls? The eye test says the players are seemingly caught out of position more often, chronically late on rotations, and visibly confused about exactly where they should be. They're still in the unlearning phase with their old bad habits.

One of the consequences of this growing fouling and free throw discrepancy is the recent spate of techs on Anthony Davis. The more fouls the Pelicans get called for, the more agitated he seems to get about the no-calls while he's getting shoved around on play after play. I mention this because there was a moment against Indiana when the announcers were sure he was about to get tossed for a second "T" in the third quarter, when the game was still competitive score-wise. (On a side note, it strikes me how much grief our players get from former Hornets like West, Paul, and Jack, who seemingly look forward to shoving our current star players around. It's more than just hazing. For some reason, it seems like there's some active ill-will underneath it.) The good news is that Davis is getting a serious game face going. He used to be relatively impassive--a technician, rather than an artist. The NBA alpha-dog-pecking-order-friendly officiating is turning him bitter. Hopefully he channels that anger this summer into another 25 pounds, including below the waist, and a back to the basket game to go with his rim-running and set shots. In the meantime, we need a designated thug to send the response, not the Franchise.

RafaBrazil
RafaBrazil

Wow, what an article! This opened my eyes to the potential need of a big that can hold the fort inside alongside AD.. Never thought it would be needed... 


Congrats on the piece, really good!

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes moderator

I would guess that Smith leaving the lineup while Stiemsma and Ajinca (and Amundson) see more time is one reason... He left 8 game ago. Also, 5 of the last 7 were the on the road. Ajinca fouled out in 14 minutes in Sacramento, amd the team had 4 more fouls their opponents.

They just did not call anything on the Rockets.

I think it is just circumstances... Nothing major.

nmasri
nmasri

It is a compliment Jason. Way to stay humble.

RafaBrazil
RafaBrazil

@Jason Calmes @RafaBrazil No problem! I get it's about the FTs and so, but I think it's tied to our interior defense, and how we're unable to stop guys inside... and since our perimeter defense seems to be improved this season, the reason I believe is that we're lacking another big to patrol the paint alongside Davis. I might be wrong as well, but that's my thought..


Glad it was clarified! I respect and appreciate the work all you guys put on this website, been a reader since the 07-08 season, when a friend of mine went to to NOLA and told me about this site.


Keep up the good work!

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes moderator

@RafaBrazil @Jason Calmes My mistake and my apologies. I did not think it was about bigs, but if that's what you got out of it, then I'm glad it worked out. 

I just found the comment surprising, but I guess sometimes what strikes your fancy is not the same thing that strikes fine. 

I'm probably just jaded from reading too many message boards. 

i appreciate you coming back to clarify.

RafaBrazil
RafaBrazil

@Jason Calmes And in case you don't believe me, I really like the amount of info the piece brought, that's why I said congrats.. I know it takes some serious time to be done and put together, I write as well... 


No harm intended on that

RafaBrazil
RafaBrazil

@Jason Calmes That wasn't sarcasm, apologies if it looked like it was... But I've been one of the few that think AD is our C of the future, and that a big to pair with him isn't necessary... but reading it, it seems it is needed... That's what I meant

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes moderator

No, it was sarcasm and nesrly entirely off-tooic (like this comment on a comment on a comment). Being humble has nothing to do with it, as far as I can tell.