Five Takeaways Monty Williams Will Take From This Season

Published: March 25, 2014

To get this out of the way, Pelicans Head-Coach Monty Williams will be back next season. Whether you think he should or not does not matter, your opinion on this will not affect the outcome. Maybe after next season, but as of right now it bears little in the discussion of building for this basketball club’s future.

Michael McNamara has said in our recent podcast that Monty Williams is the third most improved person on the Pelicans team. It’s a good point because we often forget that coaches also take time to grow into their role. This is Williams’ first time as a coach and while the rope is getting shorter it’s not as bad as we can make it out to be sometimes.

This season didn’t go the way the Pelicans planned. They suffered extensive injuries and continue to struggle defensively. However, there have been marked improvements of late and certain players have emerged.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at five takeaways that Williams can use headed towards next season.

1. Anthony Davis is the big cheese

This franchise was always going to be built around Davis, but before this season there were still plenty of questions as to whether he’d be leader of the pack. Well, after this season it’s safe to say he will be.

AD has put up stellar numbers: 21.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and 1.4 steals all on eFG% of 53% and PER of 27.2 (!). These numbers lead you to believe that Davis will be the world-pro that a team needs for championship aspirations.

Bigger than anything has been his 4th quarter performance. In the final period Davis has averaged 6.1 points (8th in the league), 2.7 rebounds and 0.6 blocks. In his last eight games he’s averaged (gasps) 32.25 points, 13.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals all on 58% shooting from the field.

Monty Williams can now safely build line-ups around Davis. Figuring out what kind of players work best with him will take a little bit more time, but we can already start to see who can and can’t play with him.

2. This team needs to stay healthy

It’s an easy thing to look at and say that health was a big detriment to this year’s record. The Pelicans were down two significant players and one major role player. New Orleans has gone through some severe growing pains.

Tyreke Evans couldn’t figure out his role on the team for a stretch. With Ryan Anderson out he found it tough to finish in the lane. But working better with Anthony Davis has served him well and the two have developed chemistry.

Austin Rivers and Anthony Morrow have stepped up in ways that might not have been possible had Jrue Holiday been around. Both guards have played significant roles both defensively and offensively and have shown their value to the team.

Having said all of this it’s imperative that New Orleans stays healthy. Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson add so much to the club. Developing on-court chemistry is vital in figuring out the team’s identity.

Many like me have blamed Williams for poor player-rotations. However injuries have certainly effected Williams’ ability to piece together groups of players that work well together. Slowly he’s showing signs of learning (like keeping Greg Stiemsma out of the game and giving Austin Rivers more playing time for defensive purposes).

Heading into next season Williams and his staff have to do all they can to ensure that this team stays healthy. Mainly this is up to the physicians, trainers (how players exercise in the gym), dietitians and (probably the biggest) the players. Health is a big reason why some teams are more successful than others. If the Pelicans want to make the playoffs next season they’ll have to do all they can to ensure they’re healthy.

3. There’s lots of work to do on defense

The Pelicans are a poor defensive ball-club and it must be upsetting to Williams to see the same mistakes being made time after time.

In seasons past big-men have hedged on pick and rolls trying to contain the ball handler. However, with Greg Stiemsma, Alexis Ajinca and Jeff Withey New Orleans have been vulnerable in the pick-and-roll game.

Earlier in the season the scheme was the same. The big-men hedged and attempted to contain the ball handler. The only issue here was that these big-men fouled at a ridiculously high rate.

The scheme was changed and it has since caused a multitude of issues. If a quality guard is able to lose his opponent he’s able to draw the big man and thus create a conundrum for the Pelicans who are unsure whether to help or not.

This anecdote is a microcosm for how the Pelicans have issues on the defensive side of the ball. They don’t communicate at times and are often unsure whether to help or stay on their man. There are various other aspects of the defensive game that New Orleans must improve in and Monty surely knows this.

Adding other pieces will help New Orleans adjust their scheme and put their players in the best position to succeed.

4. Eric Gordon does not fit

It’s been very pleasing to see Gordon get healthy this season. It’s always great to see a player who has been labelled an injury prone guy stick it out and play the vast majority of the season.

Prior, the question was whether three high usage guards could share the ball. Well at times it worked, but there have been a lot of times that it hasn’t.

Tyreke and Eric’s games are too similar, but Evans is a much better play-maker. While Gordon can shoot, he doesn’t possess the quick release you would desire as an off-ball guard. At $14 million a season would any team really desire an off-ball guard? No, because Gordon needs the ball in his hands and so does Evans.

The truth is that Gordon doesn’t fit on this roster and it might be best for this team to move in another direction. His scoring is good, but not great and his defense too. There has been times this season that he hasn’t received the calls he’s used to.

But with a healthy season under his belt Gordon will likely find plenty of teams willing to bring him on despite his big contract. His commitment isn’t as long as it used to be (two-years left after this, one if you discount the player-option).

While the Pelicans can still operate with Gordon on the roster their major needs at small-forward and center will continue to go unanswered with him on the roster.

5. The Pelicans have to push the ball

After this season if Monty Williams and his staff don’t see the glaring issue that’s staring them right in the face I’ll be flabbergasted. The New Orleans Pelicans have to push the ball.

Amin Elhassan has pointed this out on our podcast before that Monty Williams likes to run slow-paced teams. He’s highlighted that this could be his biggest issue as a head-coach moving into the future.

However with Tyreke Evans and Anthony Davis running the floor and with Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson to return at some point in the future it’s hard to imagine this team strategically deciding their best option is to slow the ball down.

Every time Evans pushes the ball good things happen. When it’s the half-court it’s clear to see that he struggles more. But it’s not just him: Austin Rivers, Anthony Morrow and yes even Al-Farouq Aminu all strive when the pace is increased.

Now, I understand that just saying “push the ball” doesn’t really mean much. The biggest causing factor that leads teams to push the ball is by getting blocks and steals.

Well there’s good news there: New Orleans is ranked 1st in the league in blocks and 12th in steals (down since the beginning of the year). If they can improve the scheme defensively their ability to push the ball will not hide behind their inability to generate blocks and steals.

There’s a whole lot to be excited about with this ball-club. They have their superstar and they have some pieces around them. While Williams has struggled with line-ups and had infatuations with certain players there are some takeaways from this season that can be implemented into the next.

What are some of your takeaways from this season? Where can the team improve and where do they look good currently? Leave a comment below. You can follow James on Twitter: @jsgrayson


  1. New City

    March 25, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    As you allude to in the piece, I hope a major takeaway for Monty is that he needs to coach to the talent he has not the system he desires. If not, the team’s potential growth will be stymied. This is a not a lock ’em down, run half court sets, grind it out, group. They are built for speed. Push the ball, look for Davis breaking ahead, check down to the secondary breakers at the three point line and let it fly. I think they can, and already have, gotten better at rotating on defense and Holiday is a solid on-ball defender, and Rivers is becoming one. Still, I don’t see this group, absent a signing or two,  becoming a top 10 defensive squad. They’ll naturally get better as they mature, but if Monty is making personnel and rotation decisions to try and get the team to play more like something it’s not, then he is going to have problems. Good coaches are flexible enough to coach to highest and best use of the talent they have.

  2. jmbell7

    March 25, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    So do you see Evans fitting into the long term plan for this team? I would like to see him stay, but we obviously have a log jam at guard. 

    I would love to be able to flip Gordon for a young center like Nikola Vucevic and a defensive wing like Moe Harkless. I haven’t looked into the metric stats for either of them, but Moe shoots 38% from 3, and I could see him becoming a 6’9″ 3&D guy. Vucevic is a double-double every night too. But I’m not sure if Orlando would even entertain this, since they have Oladipo and Afflalo at guard and lack another center. I wish we could acquire Harkless and Vucevic somehow though.

  3. thouse

    March 25, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    6. The NBA of today is a very different place from the NBA of even 10 years ago. Rules changes, (an acceptance of) a more diverse talent base, and the rise of analytics have altered strategies and created league wide trends. Disregard them at your own peril

  4. macs21

    March 25, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    New City Actually, I’d say the best coaches have enough say in personnel decisions that they are able to build rosters that suit their play style.
    Think guys like Pop, Jackson, Carlisle and George Karl when he was working with Ujiri. That’s probably something that has to do with their GM’s recognising that they could use certain players and asking for input as well.
    I take your point though, this is definitely a team built to play at at least a top 10 pace in the league

  5. mojart

    March 25, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    we need to flip EG10 contract to other teams or said to his face that next year he will be our 6th man…our manu type/crawford type player

  6. jsgrayson

    March 25, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    jmbell7  I do see him in their long-term plans. All three guards were brought in by Dell Demps, that is to say he made a decision to bring them in and they weren’t already on our roster. Of the three Eric Gordon is the most expensive and the highest tenured, but doesn’t bring enough different things to the team. 

    With the way that Evans has been playing with Davis it makes sense that he stays and Gordon goes. I don’t really like saying that a player should leave, but in this case it makes too much sense.

  7. Steven J

    March 25, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    jmbell7 If you take this seasons squad and look at it from afar, then we’d have 2 players that are a lock for our future. AD and Tyreke. I have Tyreke’s value just as high as Jrue’s value. The rest of the guys have to fight it out for being included in the long term plan.

  8. jsgrayson

    March 25, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    thouse  That’s a big issue I have with Monty is that he seems at times to be stuck in the 90’s. Playing Greg Stiemsma next to Davis is one of the most frustrating things to watch. Not just that, but have a lineup involving Stiemsma, Aminu and Evans really diminishes floor spacing and doesn’t add the defense needed to mitigate their poor offensive play. 
    I really hope an area that Monty continues to improve in is his lineups. Finding what works and what doesn’t is a must. It doesn’t even have to be analytically based, the eye-test is enough of a give away.

  9. jsgrayson

    March 25, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    mojart  That’d be very amusing if their roles would be reversed (Evans and Gordon). I really hope that some team gets desperate enough to take on his contract after they don’t land their dream FA. (Original thought goes to Michael McNamara on this).

  10. PelicanSaints

    March 25, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    No doubt Evans will be back….Gordon will either be moved to the bench or to another team. ..If Roberts gets a better deal elsewhere Gordon may stay, but still as a backup. …hopefully it won’t separate the locker room. …but with all that said,they might start Evans at the three along with Gordon,Holiday,AD and Withey. ..

  11. jmbell7

    March 25, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    jsgrayson jmbell7 Yeah I figure Gordon will be moved before the trade deadline of 2015. 
    I became a huge fan of Evans during his rookie season in SAC and I wished that we would have found a way to acquire him. Then he appeared to take a couple steps back his next three seasons and thought he might not ever live up to his potential. Even after we acquired him, I was a little disappointed with his development. But it’s been fun to see him find his rhythm here (post all-star break). I’m glad it looks like we’ll hang on to him.

  12. mateor

    March 25, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    jsgrayson jmbell7  I think we now have evidence that Tyreke needs to be starting next year.

  13. jmbell7

    March 25, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    jsgrayson jmbell7  Also, where does this leave Rivers? What are the chances he develops into the 6th man role we envisioned Evans filling?

  14. jmbell7

    March 25, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    xman20002000  I don’t think it’s hating on Gordon. It’s nothing personal. He just doesn’t fit the direction this team is headed. If he wasn’t so overpaid it wouldn’t be AS big of an issue. But it just doesn’t make sense to continue to pay a guy whose skills don’t fit the team or warrant his salary.

  15. jsgrayson

    March 25, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    xman20002000  There’s really no need to look at this from an emotionally charged perspective. Prior to this season the Pelicans were saying that this would be a dynamic backcourt and that the three guards could all work together. 
    Now this has since changed, which was the point of the article to highlight that we and probably Monty too have learnt this. 
    Gordon has proven that he can remain healthy for the majority of the season. His scoring is solid, but not great. He isn’t terribly efficient nor does he have a lot of assists. 
    Both Holiday and Evans were recently brought into the organisation within the last year. I doubt that Demps moves on from them. I’m sure that Monty and Dell have discussed how this team works together and from what we’ve seen this season it would appear that Holiday and Evans are the guards to move forward with this team should we base this off our premise that we can’t have three high-usage guards on the roster.
    I hope this explains it a bit.

  16. thouse

    March 26, 2014 at 6:57 am

    Would love for Monty to go to Rick Carlisle’s School of Rotations this summer.
    I know he’s been hampered by the injuries and the roster makeup itself, but he is one of the few guys who plays an all bench 5. That he couldn’t find 30+ mpg for Evans (to be fair, perhaps his ankle hampered him for a bit) off the bench is embarrassing.

  17. 504ever

    March 26, 2014 at 8:41 am

    After the 2014-15 season, Gordon renounces his player option for 2015-16 season and signs a $7.5/year 3-4 year deal to stay in N.O., continue to come off the bench, and play around 25 minutes/game.  Assume in 2014-15 and 2015-16 he plays a similar number of games (to this year), and has per 36 minute stats of 17pts, 4assists (with similar shooting percentages and offensive efficiency to this year), and a PER of 16 (above this year’s PER of 15 but well below his season high of 18.5 in 2011).  Anyone have a problem with Gordon at that point?

  18. LaNative

    March 26, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Tyreke and AD are building enormous chemistry.  I’m not sure that that chemistry exists between  he and EG10.  However, EG10’s contract makes it necessary to trade him because Tyreke can do what he does (although not as good of a scorer).  We’re have to upgrade the SF and C positions and Eric’s contract definitely hinders that. It’s definitely not personal.  He seems to have accepted playing in NOLA and even seems more comfortable talking with the press but most of all he’s remained healthy which will make him attractive to teams.

  19. Jason Quigley

    March 28, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    but that won’t happen

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