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One of The Small Things

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Published: March 7, 2014
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All the small things
True care, truth brings
I’ll take one lift
Your ride best trip

– Blink 182, All the Small Things

Ray Allen’s shot in the Finals (you know which one) is all you need to bring up to make the case that it’s not just the elite players that you need to have on your team to have a truly successful franchise. Rather, you need to be able to attract the best players at all salary levels. Allen was making $10m per year in Boston but took the tax-payer mid-level exception (about 1/3 of the money per year) to play with the Miami Heat. Much is made of some teams having to overpay free agents to get them to come while other teams get discounts on players like Allen.

There are too many variables to try to sort out what exactly is and is not overpaying, but we can turn the matter sideways and glean something interesting. Rather than look at how much which talents get paid, instead . . . pick a price point, then track which players a player gets at that price point. This perspective still shows the Heat signing Allen to be a good one, so it seems valid.

In this case, let’s look at minimum salary free agent acquisitions for the Pelicans in the past few season (including some Hornets seasons). Minimum salaries are fixed across the NBA, and that simplifies the market and the analysis of it. Also, since the Pelicans have used cap space the past few seasons, the other fixed prices in the NBA have not been used by the team. Take note that players like Miller and Withey were not free agents, and players like Carl Landry were not minimum salary players. This is a very specific group of players we’re looking at. Players with continuing service (like Thomas) will be addressed just once even if the were on multiple contracts.

2010-2011: Didier Ilunga-Mbenga, Joe Alexander, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Sasha Pavlovic (10-day), Patrick Ewing, Jr.

Of these players, only Pavlovic logged NBA minutes after playing with the team. He hung on in Boston for a while, then played some with the Trail Blazers. Ewing managed to make it into the next season before being waived by the then-Hornets. He was a backup on both squads and is not in the NBA this season. Nota bene: This team featured Chris Paul.

2011-2012: Lance Thomas, DaJuan Summers, Jeff Foote (10-day), Squeaky Johnson, Solomon Jones (10-day), and Donald Sloan (10-day), Jerome Dyson, Chris Johnson (Waiver claim), Darryl Finesse Watkins, Trey Johnson.

Thomas remained with the team (basically) until early into this season. Summers picked up gigs with the Bobcats in training camp and the Clippers in the regular season following his time in New Orleans. Chris Johnson pickup up a partial season in Minnesota. Dyson, Foote, the non-Chris Johnsons, Jones, and Watkins never played for another team. Sloan bounced around the NBA (including back to New Orleans), and is currently a backup with the Pacers and is currently the only player from this list still in the NBA.

2012-2013: Roger Mason, Brian Roberts, Lou Amundson, Dominic McGuire, Donald Sloan (10-day), Terrel Harris (10-day), Henry Sims (10-day)

Sloan was addressed above. McGuire played 12 minutes with the Pacers later that season, but is currently not in the NBA. Harris finished the season with the team, but has not logged a minute since being part of the Evans trade. Sims played with the Cavaliers and 76′ers this season. Mason signed with the Heat following his run with the then-Hornets, and has since been traded to the Kings for a conditional second-round pick. We all know the deal with Roberts.

2013-2014: Anthony Morrow, Alexis Ajinca, Luke Babbitt, Josh Childress, Lou Amundson, Arinze Onuaku

Onuaku had a short run in Cleveland after being let go from the Pelicans. Amundson and Childress have both been waived and have not played for another NBA team yet. Babbitt and Ajinca are both on their second chance in the NBA after being first round picks. Morrow is in his sixth season and has a player option for next season.

It’s tough to tell what the future holds for Morrow, but on this list and the ones above, he is the best name. Mason was brought to Miami to help with the 3′s (over 70% of his shots are from this distance) and he’s making about 35% of them. Morrow takes more shots, though less from 3 per 36 minutes, and makes his shots at a higher rate overall.

To me, it seems the Pelicans have not only lessened their minimum salary churning, but the player quality has improved. The effect of ownership is clear. The franchise had a star in 2010-2011, but no stability, and they had slim pickings. Today, they have both, and though the star is still rising, the minimum salary prospects are much better. Also, the prospects steadily improved, and this may be due to word spreading about the improving environment. This is a far cry from signing someone like Ray Allen to a steal of a contract, but it is progress. This is a small but clear sign that the esteem of the organization is improving even though the team’s record is not. Improving to normal is one thing; improving past normal is another matter entirely. At this point, the team is still shaking off some stink from the past in all likelihood.

This is the kind of thing both a casual observer and a hardened researcher might overlook due to the pace of the change and the relatively low-level effect these players have. These are exactly the kinds of things players watch, however, and that matters far more than what any one of us think we know about a franchise.

NBA players fought very hard and gave up significant salary in the most recent CBA negotiations in order to maintain their relatively slim rights to choose their team. They are slim for the good players who demand good salaries, at least. These choices, in the long run, have significant influence in how the various franchise perform. The Pelicans need to load those dice as much as possible.

New Orleans Pelicans News

In the short week leading up to All-Star Weekend, the New Orleans Pelicans went 1-2, leaving them at 23-29 over the break.

In the first of the two losses for the week, the Pelicans fell to the Nets, 93-81. The Nets had a strong 29 point first quarter, to which the Pelicans responded with a 28 point first half. The team just flat-out missed shots (30-83 field goals) and despite having 16 offensive rebounds off their 53 misses, they just could not get the game close enough to make it interesting. The Nets made their shots, and Plumlee was 8 of 10 from the field. Both teams shot poorly from the line, but the Pelicans had some room there they did not take advantage of. The Pelicans did allow an 11-0 run in the first 4:16 of the game. 11 points in just over 4 minutes . . . that’s some bad defense.

The second loss was to the surprising Toronto Raptors, 108-101. Though the Pelicans outshot the Raptors (36 of 76 v 39 of 77), efficiency bit the Pelicans. No . . . not 3′s (though that did not help) . . . 6 of 12 for the Pelicans, 10 of 24 for the Raptors. No, the issue was the line . . . 17 of 26 v 26 of 33. The game was within 1 point with 6:50 left to play. The subsequent 21-15 run featured just 1 made free throw for the Pelicans (Rivers, 1 of 2) compared to 8 of 10 for the Raptors (Hansbrough missed 2). The Pelicans made a pair of 3′s compared to just 1 for the Raptors, but that single extra point (relative to made 2′s) was not enough to overcome the free throw disparity which was 7 . . . not so coincidentally the margin of victory. Also, 21 points allowed in under 7 minutes . . . that’s some bad defense (only 2 free throw attempts allowed in the last 3 minutes, so intentional fouls did not inflate the points allowed).

The 102-98 victory over the Bucks was an ugly one, and sort of a funhouse mirror version of the Raptors loss. The game of runs showed very similar final stats (14 free throws made for each time, 6 3-pointers made for each team), but in the end it was just made buckets that made the difference, along with being able to perform in the final minutes. After allowing the Bucks to tie the game after a 8-1 run in the first 2:03 in the fourth, the Pelicans had a 96-95 lead with 2:08 left to play. The Pelicans hit a pair of 2-point shots, missed one, and made 2 free throws. The Bucks countered with a single made 3, missing the rest of their shots or turning the ball over. Still, 8 points allowed in 2 minutes . . . that’s some bad defense.

Around Bourbon Street Shots

This week featured 2 episodes of In the NO. The first one focuses on Evans’ role and that of a few other players. The second looked forward to the predictably slow trade deadline.

Mason advocated for Miller to be a starting forward in place of Aminu. This was just prior to Babbitt then Evans upsetting that apple cart.

Pierre’s surgery was the subject of Trew 2 the Game.

In the Trade Market series, Pellissier looks at the redundancy that is good and the redundancy that is bad.

`Voices’ of the People

We are NOT San Antonio.

We DO NOT have the culture/system that their team has.

Our BEST 5 should start games.

Our next best 5 should be the bench. (adjust with matchups)

Caffeinedisaster

I can see moving Gordon this summer, but I wouldn’t move Evans…I think finding a SF will be paramount..If we could find a SF who can hit the three That would open the floor for Evans and Holiday as a starting backcourt……..

PelicanSaints

I put this one on Monty, going with small-ball against their very large line-up, and getting stomped inside by Plumlee. We should have been playing Withey some alongside Babbit/Aminu and Davis/Stiemsma, especially after several consecutive dunks. Note: Withey zero fouls in 8 minutes, Stiemsma 4 fouls in 19 minutes, Ajinca 4 fouls in 11 minutes. On at least two occasions, Withey switched onto Rivers’ man and Rivers let the roll man go straight to the hole unguarded for the dunk, while Rivers guarded nobody.

Miller looked absolutely horrible. Several ineffective fouls for and-1s, hesitation to shoot the 3.

Yeah, the first half sucked. But, we were were only 7 points down when by buddy Dick Bavetta called a phantom 3-seconds followed by a bogus goaltending, both on Stiemsma. I wish Dick would just retire. Any time I see him I know we will lose.

I think we can’t handle success. That’s a youth problem, but also a coaching problem….

NOEngineer