Season in review: Greg Stiemsma

Published: April 30, 2014

There’s an old mother’s saying that goes something like, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” For the New Orleans Pelicans Center Greg Stiemsma there wasn’t a whole lot to say.

Last off-season Dell Demps made a trade that sent Robin Lopez to Portland. In doing so the Pelicans needed to find a replacement, somebody who would block shots and play defense on the leagues bigger and stronger centers.

New Orleans then went on to sign Greg Stiemsma, somebody they had targeted the season before.

“Everybody I’ve talked to likes his game,” Williams said of Stiemsma. “I like him because he’s defensive-minded and can block shots.” – Monty Williams, August 14th 2013,, Jim Eichenhofer.

Bringing in Stiemsma was a logical move. He met the Monty Williams center criteria:

  1. Weighs over 250 pounds.
  2. Blocks shots.
  3. Is defensive minded.
  4. Plays with “physicality.”

With all of these reasons in mind let us investigate how Greg Stiemsma faired this season and whether he was the center that the Pelicans needed next to Anthony Davis

The Baseline for centers in the NBA

Every person who has a job will have certain KPI’s to measure themselves towards. Often these are quantitative metrics that can determine whether a person is doing a good enough job.

For the Pelicans a center needs to be able to rebound, block shots and do a good job playing defense.

Stiemsma vs the league

Table 1.1 — Greg Stiemsma vs. the average center for 2013-14.

The above table illustrates how Greg Stiemsma faired this season. Stiemsma was better than the average center at blocking shots. He was not a proficient rebounder. In addition he was terrible at maintaining possession turning the ball over nearly a quarter of the time when he was on the court.

Jeff Withey on the other hand was a better shot blocker and about the same at rebounding the ball. He was very good at not turning the ball over. Additionally he had a better PER than the average center.

Overall Stiemsma didn’t have his best season. He was a complete liability on offense as he couldn’t space the floor and he turned the ball over a cataclysmic amount of times. Even if he was “defensive minded” it doesn’t excuse the fact that he couldn’t help the team offensively.

How Did the Team Fair With Stiemsma on the court?

The Pelicans were a -8.8 points per 100 possessions with Stiemsma on the court. This was the worst of any player on the team. When we look at the top-5 lineups that Stiemsma played in, every single one of them scored less points than their opponent. Stiemsma lineups on the Pelicans

Table 1.2 – Pelican lineups involving Greg Stiemsma sort by minutes played. Each statistic is a net mark based on what New Orleans did subtracted by the opponents mark.

The most common lineup was Roberts-Gordon-Aminu-Davis-Stiemsma which played a total of 134 minutes this season. There were some surprising aspects about this lineup. They shot better from three and turned the ball over less than the opponent. However they didn’t attempt a lot of three’s (8.6 less than their opponents) and they generally missed more shots.

Overall most lineups that involved Stiemsma lacked the necessary spacing which would of mitigated his poor offensive game. Greg was put in a poor position to succeed because most lineups rarely involved more than one shooter.

Stiemsma’s most successful lineup involved multiple spot-up shooters. Babbitt, Morrow and Rivers all operated well with Evans as the ball handler. In this lineup Stiemsma’s poor offensive game meant little as there was sufficient space on the court to operate.

While overall it appears that whenever Greg hit the court the Pelicans did worse there’s also the notion that he wasn’t put in the best position to succeed with the lineups that he was involved in.  Stiemsma needed shooters around him to thrive which would let him focus his energy on defense and rebounding the ball. Unfortunately for the Pelicans this never really happened particularly due to injuries on the team.

What was the most disappointing?

Throughout the season there was rarely a time that you didn’t hear multiple whistles with Steamer on the court. He had a tough time defending without fouling, something that’s extremely difficult for most big-men in the league.

When you account for minutes played, Stiemsma was ranked 20th in the league in fouls per-36. He had 6 fouls per-36 which was 15th among centers.

While this isn’t very good it’s at least heartening to see that he’s not the worst. Alexis Ajinca ranked 4th among centers. Greg Oden was 1st among centers and Steven Adams was 11th.

The fouls were not enjoyable from anyone’s perspective. What was the most discouraging to see was that Stiemsma’s block percentage and rebound rate were down. These were the two areas that he was supposed to be above average and yet he struggled.

Monty Williams has continually aired his desire to get a guy that defends the league’s best centers. For Stiemsma there was plenty of opportunities to show that he can defend strong, low-post opponents.

Of defensive possessions faced Greg Stiemsma faced post-up situations 45 per cent of the time. His opponents had a 0.86 PPP (points per-possession) which ranked 140th in the NBA.

Comparitively Ajinca’s opponents had a 0.79 PPP (79th in the NBA) and Withey’s had 0.69 (33rd in the NBA).

If we take a look at one example here we see Stiemsma matched up against Marc Gasol. Now, Coach Williams has explicitly expressed Gasol as one of the players he think the Pelicans have a tough time of guarding. Marc Gasol 1

Gasol gets excellent position on Stiemsma. No help is coming and Gasol takes his time to assess the situation.

Marc Gasol 2


Gasol spins baseline and easily rips past Stiemsma which results in…

Marc Gasol 3

This is just one example, but it is very discouraging to see that the player that’s “supposed” to guard the big-men in the NBA gets easily out-positioned. It begs the question, “if your centers do this, why not just play Anthony Davis?”

There is a fear that Davis can’t withstand the hits and that he doesn’t match up well with stronger players. Having Stiemsma on the court seemed like a necessity, though this makes little sense. One player cannot directly affect the injury status on the other. There’s little evidence from sport studies that shows a player will be healthier when paired next to another.

Additionally how many of these players that should be feared are there around the league? Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, DeMarcus Cousins, Tim Duncan could be considered.

What was his best game of the season?

There were two games that stood out this season as Stiemsma’s best. The first of these was on the road in Cleveland. Stiemsma came off the bench for an outstanding 9 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. He had a sweet touch pass to Anthony Davis which was promptly slammed home. The Pelicans went on to beat the Cavs 100-89.

Individually I would say that Stiemsma’s second best game came on the road against Boston. In the game he was setting nice screens and finishing strong around the basket. As well he had a nice base-line jumper that splashed home. It was one of those nights where you just knew that the Pelicans couldn’t lose.

What Brought His Release?

Stiemsma had a poor season, even by his standards. However what brought his release was not his play on the court, but his injury status throughout 2013-14. Coach Williams said that Stiemsma battled through injured knees all season long but just couldn’t finish the season out.

Asked if he has given the physicality the team expects for a center Williams mulled, “He has in stretches.”

Moving into the future it appears unlikely that Stiemsma will be brought back. His offensive game negates the skills of others and his defensive impact does not come even close to overriding this.

But, perspective is a must here. The center position is a priority heading into this season. Stiemsma’s role was never meant to be very big. The negativity from Pelican fans was just, but a little out of whack with the role that he brought to the court. At times it seemed like the outrage was directed at that of an NBA Superstar.

Most of our outrage was that the evidence clearly showed that Stiemsma should not of seen the playing time that he did. Consistently he saw the floor over alternatives that could of given the Pelicans much more. I would like to think this is more to do with a coaches decision than it is the players fault. There is little surprise that when Stiemsma was released that Tyreke Evans flourished even more than he was before.

The Pelicans unsuccessful playoff quest did not hinge on Stiemsma and he should not be brought to blame for that. The positive out of all of this is that the front-office now has a better idea of what it desires from the position.

Greg Stiemsma played right in line with his value in the NBA. He toughed it all season long for a team suffering a multitude of injuries. He’s a had a very solid career in the NBA moving up from the D-League to prove that he’s a solid shot blocker. Unfortunately this season he was asked to do too much too often.

Heading into next season it’s paramount that the position is looked at, but not to the vexation for the other talent on the roster.

I’m aware of those games midway through the year where you play against Charlotte and Al Jefferson goes for 30 then the next day you play against Nene and he goes for big-numbers. Those are tough games to swallow because you’d like to have somebody in the middle on a night in and night out basis that you don’t have to help out as much on defense. And I think those are the best defensive teams where they have a guy at the center position that can hold his own… So it’s not just a defensive presence, that guy also has to be able to play both ends of the floor. – Monty Williams 17th April 2014,


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