Difference Between Road Pelicans and Home Pelicans is Mind Boggling

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Published: December 28, 2015

Last year I wrote a piece chronicling the difference between Ryan Anderson at home and Ryan Anderson on the road. The splits were eye-opening, as home Ryno basically performed like Klay Thompson, while road Ryno played like a D-League bench player. It was an interesting piece for me to dive in to, because it is not the norm by any means. Yes, most guys play better at home, but it is a marginal difference. Same goes for most teams, as we can expect a gap between home and road performance with regard to record, offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency, etc. But the gap for the Pelicans this year is almost as mind-boggling as the gap between home and road Ryan Anderson last year.

Let’s start off with the base facts before we get more nuanced. The Pelicans are scoring 108.9 points per game at home this year. They are only putting up 97.6 on the road. You prefer offensive rating better as a measure? Fine, it’s about the same (109.1 home, 97.9 road). They play at an almost identical pace (98.83 home, 98.91 road), so that isn’t a factor. And when you look at percentage of open looks, where they take their shots from, etc. – there are no major differences there either. Basically, they take the same type of shots, at the same times in the shot clock, with the same type of contest rate, and at home they score like the Oklahoma City Thunder, while on the road they perform like the Lakers and Sixers.

To put this into context, I have gone back four years and have not found a single team with such a dramatic difference in road/home split on the offensive end of the court. For the sake of my own time and sanity, I decided against going back any further, but I feel safe in saying it is an abberation. There are teams that are similar to New Orleans when it comes to records at home and on the road Рthe Bucks for example. Milwaukee is 9-6 at home and a putrid 3-13 on the road, but their offensive rating only dips from 102 to 98. This is the norm, even for teams that are so much better at home. 3-5 points this way or that way on each end of the court, but never is a team this great offensively at home and then this terrible on the road.

So what the heck is going on around here? Well, let’s start with the major team differences and then go micro by looking into each individual player. The first thing that stands out is the difference in 3-point shooting. At home, they shoot 39%, while they shoot just 33% on the road. The three ball gives them 31 points per game at home, and just 23 on the road. That is your biggest individual gap, and accounts for about half of the gap in the home/road splits. As I said in the previous paragraph, the type of shot they take on the road isn’t much difference, as over 80% are either ‘open’ or ‘wide open’ according to NBA.com Stats. The difference is that they make that shot just 33.9% of the time on the road, compared to 42.1% of the time at home

The other thing that hurts them, is that when they do miss shots on the road, they are less likely to get those shots and score off a 2nd chance opportunity. At home, they rebound 21.4% of their own misses, while that number dips down to 17.9% on the road. At home, despite having less opportunity for offensive rebounds, they score 12.1 2nd chance points per game – compared to a measly 8.5 on the road.

But perhaps the biggest difference in this team’s offensive at home compared to on the road can be seen in the assist column on your daily box score. At home, this team racks up assists and minimizes turnovers, while on the road it is just the opposite. The assist to turnover ratio at home is amongst the best in the league (24.5 assists to just 12.9 turnovers). That 1.89 to 1 ratio would rank amongst the top 5 teams in the NBA. On the road, they put up just 19.1 assists to 14.9 turnovers, which would be a bottom five ratio in the league. At home, nearly 62% of all their made field goals are assisted on. On the road? Just 53%. Passes, in total, are down about 13% on the road, as the team plays more one-on-one basketball, with obviously inferior results.

So, that is what the numbers say in a nutshell: The Pelicans don’t move the ball, they can’t hit open shots, and when they do miss, they make little to no effort in rebounding their own misses. Sounds like the recipe for an absolutely terrible offense. But who are the main culprits of this disparity, and can it be fixed? Let’s look at each of the main cogs and the difference in their games at home vs. on the road.

Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis is shooting better on the road (50% vs. 47.3%) and is actually scoring more points per game on the road (25.1 vs. 22). So, not only does he seem immune, but then it really starts to blow your mind how much worse the rest of the team is doing on the road vs. home when you take their superstar out of the equation. This would mean that the non-AD Pelicans are putting up 87 points per game at home, but just 72.6 at home. He is getting nearly 17% less from his supporting cast every time they leave New Orleans. Can’t imagine how frustrating that must be. And it’s not like the home Pelicans are dominant. They have been just good enough to have a -0.2 net rating and squeeze off 7 wins vs 6 losses. And then, they get 17% worse when they go on the road? Recipe for disaster.

Tyreke Evans

Evans has a smaller sample size than others, but his 3-point shooting at home vs. on the road is similar to Ryno’s last year. He is a blistering 45.5% from deep at home this year on nearly 4 attempts per game, but shoots just 29.4% from deep on the road. Another huge difference for Evans, is that at home 25% of his made field goals are assisted, while on the road it is just 13%. At home, the number of shots takes with 0-2 dribbles goes way up, while on the road, the number of shots he takes after dribbling 3 or more times goes up. In simple terms, he is more likely to be a catch and shoot guy at home, or score on a quick cut to the rim, while on the road we see pound the ball Tyreke. And when he dribbles 3 or more times before shooting (something he does an even 60% of the time on the road), he has an effective field goal percentage of just 41.2%. Oh yeah, and remember that we don’t get 2nd chance points on the road, so the Kobe Assist can’t even make up for these terrible shots.

Jrue Holiday

Holiday is an interesting case because he has been forced to miss several road games due to his back-to-back restriction. He is the only Pelican who has played more home games than road, and it might be the reason his stats look so good as of late. Holiday is shooting lights out at home, both from deep and mid-range, but he hasn’t been able to connect from deep on the road. At home, he is a 49% three-point shooter, compared to just 33.3% on the road. The guy drills 44% of his open 3’s at home and an astounding 63.5% of his wide open attempts. On the road, those numbers fall to 29.4% and 43.8%, respectively. A big reason for this could be that the vast majority of his three-point makes at home are assisted, while on the road, he tries to create his own three-point looks at twice the rate.

Not surprisingly, like Tyreke, his assists go down while his turnovers stay about the same. One extra random little thing with Jrue is that he scores two more points per game off turnovers at home, which is another little thing the Pelicans do better at home than on the road.

Eric Gordon

Eric Gordon has been a very good shooter at home, and just an average shooter on the road. In that way, he has been more consistent than both Tyreke and Jrue. He doesn’t have their insane highs, but he doesn’t have their crazy lows either. He takes the exact same number of 3’s per game on the road as he does at home (6.8), and makes 2.8 of them at home, compared to just 2.4 on the road. Yes, it’s a difference, but not a major one. The 1.2 points per game difference there is actually negated by the fact that he gets to the line more on the road and scores 1.4 more points from the stripe on the road than he does at home. His assist to turnover ratio is in line with the Pelicans as a whole, with regard to home and road splits, and Gordon actually averages more points per game on the road than he does at home. But one constant trend remains – Gordon’s assisted field goals is much higher at home (70.1%) than it is on the road (53.3%).

Ryan Anderson

It’s not a massive as it was last year, but there is still quite a difference in home Ryno vs. road Ryno, and it is primarily due to him being a finisher at home and more of a creator on the road. Home Ryno never takes an unassisted three. Literally, never. On the road, he takes one 7% of the time. Not a big deal, but definitely a much bigger number than zero. On the road, less than half of his made field goals are unassisted. At home, that number is 69%. It is no wonder that he is shooting 7% better from the field and 8% better from three at home, and that he is averaging 19.3 points per game at home, compared to just 15.8 on the road. And with all his dribbles, he is only getting to the line o.3 more times per game on the road, so he is not making up the difference there.

At home, his touch time is less than two seconds on more than 60 percent of possessions. On the road, that number falls to 54%. His number of dribbles prior to shooting goes up, and his catch and shoot attempts go way down. And not surprisingly, his offensive rebounding takes a hit despite playing more minutes. So, the two things that Anderson does at an elite level – make assisted deep shots and offensive rebound – happen far less on the road, and the other things he does at an average rate go way up.

Others

There are some notable numbers amongst the other Pelicans role players, but they either aren’t a big enough factor to shift the overall numbers, or they are, but it doesn’t matter anymore because that player is on the 76ers now. Ish Smith had some fantastic home splits, shooting 50.6% from the field at home, compared to just 39.2% on the road, but he won’t factor into the equation moving forward. Alonzo Gee has actually performed slightly better on the road than at home, but his usage is so small that it really doesn’t matter. Same can be said for Asik, Dante Cunningham, and Ajinca. Yes, there numbers are better at home – specifically, Ajinca – but not enough where it moves the team needle significantly. Norris Cole has been bad everywhere, and nobody else on this roster has even played 300 minutes. Basically, the difference comes down to those main guys. And not even Davis or Gordon, really. It’s basically Holiday, Ish, Evans, and Anderson causing the majority of the variance.

Symptoms and Cures

The core of the problem is the lack of ball movement that Gentry has been begging for since arriving in New Orleans. Quite simply, when this team moves the ball, they get good shots and they usually knock down those shots. At home, they pass the ball, they get assists and somehow keep the turnovers down, but on the road we see far more dribbling and isolation, and it results in inefficient offense. Evans, Holiday, and Smith have been the primary creators for the team this year, and all three men dribble more, shoot off of multiple dribbles more, pass less, and make assisted shots less on the road.

Now, this is not the only issue, as the team also misses the same shots that ball movement creates when they do get them on the road. Guys like Jrue and Evans simply shoot better at home when taking the exact same shots. That’s just a mental thing, or some call it a “role player” thing. It has often been said that role players perform better at home than on the road, and maybe the Pelicans simply have a bevy of role players next to Anthony Davis. It takes effort and discipline to play the way your coach wants you to play when adversity strikes and you don’t have your home crowd behind you. It takes a killer instinct to step on your opponents throat on the road and revel in the crowd’s pain because of it.

When I talk about high effort, killer instinct, discipline, etc. – how many guys on this team come to mind immediately? Maybe when this offense becomes second nature to the players still trying to pick it up, the gap will close significantly, but until that happens, there is no reason to expect things to change. This offense is terrible on the road, both in its process and in its results. At home, they are the offense Gentry envisioned when he took the job. On the road, there is still a long way to go.

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