The Wild and The Young

Published: March 6, 2014

The wild and the young
They all have their dreams
The wild and the young
They’ve got to be free
The sun never sets
For souls on the run
The wild and the young

— Quiet Riot, The Wild and the Young

The New Orleans Pelicans have been giving more minutes to their NBA-young players. These players come two varieties: those that are actually young, and those who have been journeyman. In this article, I ignore Anthony Davis (since he is special), and I draw an arbitrary line at 3 years of NBA experience. The reason to is to see how the team is using these players who are less-established.

Here, we just look at minutes played by game and glean what we can. Attempts to measure quality of play are not made.

Here is a minute chart of the 7 players of interest: Ajinca, Babbitt, Miller, Rivers, Roberts, Stiemsma, and Withey. Note well, this is well over half the healthy roster.

The chart is hard to read in detail, but that’s ok. The point is the overall message: The worse players have been playing substantially more since mid-January, which is when the swarm of injury bugs bit, clamped down, and would not let go. The team is 10-22 in 2014 thanks in large part to not one, but two, eight-game losing streaks.

Bear in mind that 6 of players on this list foul at the 6 highest rates per minute among the healthy roster; Roberts is the exception. There are prices for having a young team, and this is one.

Let’s wade into the data now.

We’ll start with Miller and Babbitt. This chart is pretty easy to understand. Miller did not start playing in games until December due to an offseason injury, and Babbitt did not start playing games in New Orleans until February to due playing in Russia.

My read here is two-fold. First Babbitt took minutes from Miller. Then, the Evans-Aminu switch got both of them some minutes then took their minutes . . . so their role is still in flux as things shake out.

The benching of Miller (for the most part) seems to say “we’ve seen enough” of Miller in games. What that means is something else entirely. He’s gone. He’s a lock to stay. Who can tell? Given that more than half of his attempts are from 3 (38 of 66 and this 3P% is below NBA-average (0.342), it may be more the former. This would also explain Babbitt’s numbers in the same categories: 39 of 58 attempts are from 3, 0.385 make rate, and in far fewer minutes. Frankly, given the sample sizes, the guys are not too different, but Babbitt at least takes the shots. There’s value in trying when success is not an option.

On to the guards.

This is pretty clear. Both guys got a bump in minutes when Holiday went down. Looking back, Rivers was getting time similar to that of Roberts when he played but just did not play in as many games. Taking that as a point of departure, the increase Rivers got once Holiday took is madatory vacation is more significant that simply saying “he’s the second string guard instead of the third string guard” or somesuch. Rather, he’s playing nightly AND he’s getting more minutes than Roberts got as the backup. Also, in recent games there may be a slight uptick from that level, as well. It’s something to keep an eye on.

Lastly, the front court.

The story with the non-Davis big men is, appropriately, messy. This crew is making a total of about $4m and they are filling starter and backup minutes. Once is rookie, two are journeymen.

Of note is that Ajinca has played in every game since he first set foot on the floor. Both Withey and Stiemsma have had nights off. None of the three get more than 24 minutes on a regular basis. I’m picking at 24 minutes because this means a player is one the court for half the game and is occupying a significant spot in the rotation. It should also be noted that Withey is getting more time, albeit in a come-here-go-away sort of way.

New Orleans Pelicans News

These articles a good bit removed from their typical weekly context. All-Star Weekend took some time, and it was freely given. The cost is delaying these posts. Such is life. Sorry for the inconvenience. The point of this news stuff is to give a perspective that is apart from the in-the-moment one, so that holds.

The last full week before the All-Star break treated the New Orleans Pelicans well, as they went 2-1, 22-27 on the season.

In their 102-95 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the Pelicans had a 12-point lead in the fourth, but went scoreless for 4 minutes while allowing 12 points by the Spurs. This was on the back of three-points and free throws. Once the game was tied at 87, the Spurs went on a 10-2 run led by Parker and Duncan. That’s pretty much the end of it: the Pelicans let them back in and could not stand up to the Hall of Fame talent.

The first win of the week was a 105-100 win over the Atlanta Hawks. Despite the 3-point differential (9 more for the Hawks, so 9 more points relative to 2-point shots), the Pelicans were able to manage an even bigger differential at the line (10 more for the Pelicans) and snuck in two extra baskets beyond that. The Hawks 15 free attempts on 14 fouls by the Pelicans was really quite a rare feat by the Pelicans, as they tend not only to foul, but also foul for shots more than a typical team.

The 98-91 victory over the Timberwolves was pretty much the opposite of the win over the Hawks. The Wolves were going to the line like they were giving away bags of money (31 of 37 on 28 fouls), while the Pelicans’ stripe had more of a DMV feel (12 of 16 on 14 fouls). The Pelicans made up the gap by making 4 more 3-pointers (8 of 15 compared to 4 of 18) and buried seven more 2-pointers to win the night.

The Pelicans added to their roster by signing Luke Babbitt for the rest of the season. They have an option to keep him next season, as well.

Pelicans fans got an answer from Commissioner Silver to the question of whether Davis would be selected to the All-Star Game roster as an injury replacement for Anthony Davis: Yes.

On the business front, the Smoothie King purchased the naming rights to the New Orleans Arena, now named the Smoothie King Center.

Around Bourbon Street Shots

On In the NO, Ryan and Michael discussed the changing tactics of the team in the face of the injuries the team has suffered and some of the surprising recent results.

On the player front, we asked two questions: What’s wrong with Tyreke, and is Austin Rivers better?

We had 2 Trew 2 the Game editions: The first looked at some of Anthony Davis’ commercials, the second considered just how this Smoothie King thing could play out.

We also had two video contributions. The first was a midseason review.

Lastly, but not leastly, Andrew put together another one of his game day videos.

`Voices’ of the People

Ok, I got thatout of my system. Davis couldn’t put a jumper in 2nite, yet he had an impact on the game. Why did Miller get thrown into the 4th quarter cold? This one had me wanting to throw the remote at my tv: why in the foxtrot was Davis on Bonner while Ajincia was getting reamed by that pick and roll? Splitter wasn’t on the floor, throw AD on Duncan for that final 4 minutes.


Babbitt is 24 and fits the Pelicans age profile if he works out beyond this season. If not, there is very little risk here, as the second year is a team option and the entire contract is for the minimum. So bring him in for now and, if he works out longer term, great.

I like the move and hope to see him play tonight.


If this means I can get a Muscle Punch while enjoying live action, I am all for it! Can’t wait!



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