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Season in Review: Luke Babbitt
Luke Babbitt is a tougher player to review than any other on the Pelicans in the 2013-2014 season. His limited minutes and more or less one-dimensional skill set doesn’t leave a lot of room for individual analysis. Yet, when we were signing up to review players, I jumped at the chance to take Babbitt. Let me tell you why.
I had one metric when evaluating Babbitt: Did the team play better offensively when he was on the court?
The answer to that question tells us a lot more about the Pelicans’ offense than it does about Babbitt himself. It’s no secret that the Pelicans are three-point shot adverse, ranking 29th in 3-point shots taken. But, Babbitt is a 3-point specialist; when he is on the court does the extra spacing help the Pelicans? But before we get to that, let’s take a look at…
Where He Started
In Russia, actually. A free agent without any NBA teams interested in his services, Babbitt signed with Nizhny Novgorod. With Ryan Anderson out injured, the Pelicans announced on February 5th they had reached a buyout to bring Babbitt back to the States—presumably to fill in some of the deep-shooting void left by Anderson. The deal seems to have been for two years with the second year unguaranteed. The buyout money came from the profit of the Tyshawn Taylor trade with Brooklyn.
What Does His Season Tell Us
Well, first let’s focus on Babbitt for a moment—this is his season in review after all.
Babbitt’s PER wasn’t great at 12.1 but the great thing is that it does not need to be. He’s here to shoot threes, space the floor, get an inch on elevation on his jumps, flip his hair, and maybe chew some bubblegum. And he did all of that well. 37.9% shooting from behind the arc and 3.5 attempts from deep were needed once Anderson started missing time.
But, as I said before, I think Babbitt’s season tells us a lot more about the Pelicans than it does about him individually. That’s not a knock on Babbitt by any means, it’s more a factor of his paltry 473 minutes played.
However, those 473 minutes are far more important than you might realize.
Babbitt had an incredibly positive impact on the Pelicans when he played. His Net on court/off court offensive rating was +7.2 which is basically the best on the team when discount players appearing in less than 5 games. Taking it further his On Court Offensive Rating is 114.8, the highest on the team, while the Pelicans put up a 100.8 Offensive Rating while he was on the bench. It’s plain to see that while the team plays better when Babbitt specifically was on the court this extends more to how important three-point shooting is for this team to reach its offensive potential.
Monty Williams experimented with the lineup when the Pelicans played at home against Miami. In came Luke Babbitt as a starter, playing alongside Davis and Evans. The Pelicans won that game in an upset as Davis poured in 30 points while Evans added 16. Babbitt didn’t exactly have a breakout performance, scoring only 11 points and finishing with an individual offensive rating of 109. However his triple of three’s and 8 deep attempts allowed the rest of the starters to have offensive ratings of 126 or greater. Simply having a credible deep threat on the court gives more room to the rest of the team to operate. And the results of that experiment were pretty obvious.
While that start and resulting team performance are important for the Pelicans as a whole, it wasn’t the best for Babbitt. With the need to space the court more apparent, Monty tried different lineups to find the correct combination of players. This resulted in a fluctuation of minutes and DNP-CD’s for Babbitt. But it also opened up the door for another player to fill the same role: Anthony Morrow.
If you look at Morrow’s minutes over the course of the season there is a dramatic increase after that Miami game. Perhaps better suited for the floor spacing role than Babbitt, due to his ability to play small forward, Morrow received the majority of his starts after the upset win. This change in offensive philosophy coincided with some of the best play from Anthony Davis and particularly Tyreke Evans. That’s more important than Morrow or Babbitt themselves playing well.
While we should be happy that Babbitt helped the Pelicans realize they need to space the court more for their best players to be effective, it also isn’t a reason to bring him back. With both Morrow a free agent, the return of a health Ryan Anderson, it seems that Babbitt’s skill set is slightly redundant. With priorities elsewhere expect the Pelicans to cut ties with their shaggy-haired deep threat. However, if he goes unsigned (again) I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Pelicans pick him up during the next season like they did with Lou Amundson.
Babbitt may not have reaped the benefits in terms of playing time but he certainly sparked a change with his start against Miami. Good for the Pelicans; Unfortunate for Babbitt. But we should still be grateful for his time here.
For all of our already published Season In Review pieces, click here.
I think they will hold on to him because of his cheap contract and you need end of bench guys. Also they will keep him as a plan b if , hopefully not, Ryan gets traded for a traditional center that Monty wants so bad.
I am not saying Babbitt stays, but this team needs a number of not in the normal rotation end of the bench players on minimum contacts. Who will be making less than $1M next season besides Ajinca? Withey? Jackson? Miller's qualifying offer (QA) is $1.1M but will he return? What happens to Roberts with his QA no one w ill give him of $3+M?
With Anderson coming off of surgery, Babbitt's redundant skill set MAY be some very cheap 'health insurance' for Anderson for a year. (The Pelicans have a team option on Babbitt for next year for under $1M.)
I like Babbitt for the lone reason that he reminds me a bit of Ryan Anderson.
If we finally begin starting Brow at the 5, we should switch Anderson to the starting lineup and keep Babbitt as a backup 4. He's cheap and plays his role well.