4 Thoughts Through 4 Games

Published: November 2, 2016

The Pelicans have started the season a demoralizing 0-4 despite playing two very winnable games against the Denver Nuggets and the Milwaukee Bucks. In both games the Pelicans put themselves in position to win but in both cases they couldn’t “get over the hump” to pull it out. The Pelicans have paper thin margins for error, and every game it seems they just can’t get it right enough of the time. They’ll give themselves a chance and then waste it. Forcing turnovers but not capitalizing, getting stops but missing rebounds or giving it right back, ill-timed breakdowns, through 4 games I’ve seen plenty. Here are some thoughts on the start to the season:

  1. An 0-4 start, while disappointing, shouldn’t be surprising. This team does not have enough good players on it right now to win in the NBA. They started 1-11 WITH Jrue Holiday getting minutes last season. Michael McNamara mentioned it on the last In The NO podcast, the Pels have the #1 guy on the court, but the other team has 2-6 or more, and I can’t disagree. The thing to remember is this year was never going to be anything special for the Pelicans’ franchise. This season isn’t about winning, though I’m sure everyone is dying for some W’s. This season is about “the process,” didn’t you hear? Figuring out what fits, who is in, who is out, incremental  improvements, etc etc. If your are living and dying every game over the final result, you are going to be really dead by the end of the season.  Sure, I was hoping for the playoffs, but more so I was hoping to get something that looked like it could be a good basketball team going forward. The things they struggled with last night against the Bucks are correctable (missing layups, turnovers, miscommunication, etc), will they correct them is the question.
  2. The defense is still a work in progress. Communication has improved but (as we saw last night) it isn’t nearly consistent enough. Perimeter defense has “improved” with all the new additions, but without Holiday, Evans, or Pondexter it is thin. Once help returns (and it will) there shouldn’t be any excuse for no improvement. Getting the top guys healthy remains the biggest hinderance to the Pelicans right now. The guys hurting the team the most are guys at the end of the rotation currently getting more minutes than they should. Langston Galloway, Buddy Hield, Lance Stephenson are getting about 10 minutes together a night and are just getting torched (-20.4 net-rating). Holiday coming back immediately puts either himself or Frazier out there over Galloway or Stephenson. Buddy especially would benefit from playing more with a real point. Incremental improvements.
  3. The next step in the process will be replacing the front court players. Dante Cunningham simply can’t get 40 minutes in an NBA game you want to win, but when you are choosing between him and Terrence Jones at the 4, well, it is somewhat understandable. Alexis Ajinca has been with the team since 2013-14, Asik since 2014-15, and Dante Cunningham since halfway through 2014-15. The roster overhaul will continue, but will all 3 be out? Asik has the worst contract of the 3 but has shown that he can at least do something on the court (and probably has the most room for improvement, we’ve seen more from him before). Cunningham is cheap and can help if in the right role. Ajinca is the obvious odd man out despite his claim that he’d be a starter this season. Will any of that change over the course of the season?
  4. As frustrations grow, how will the team react? We saw a team fall apart last season, will this team do the same? Will they continue to fight those up hill battles? Will Davis continue to lead both in voice and by example? If this team wants to be good, it needs to show that it can stay together, hang tough, and battle through. Last season they failed in that regard. It may sound cliche but it is true. At the end of the day there are no excuses. They have managed to keep games close and give themselves a shot at the end of games. That needs to continue to be the norm. If that is the norm when help returns, the help could actually help. If help returns to a team that has given up, there is no help.

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