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Going small isn’t helping during crunch time

Published: November 10, 2016

The Pelicans have been in a lot of close games this season.  Only the Spurs game was an outright blowout, and the Pelicans have now logged the second highest number of “clutch” minutes (defined as last 5 minutes, within 5 of other team) in the league.  Obviously, with zero wins, the team hasn’t exactly been stellar in those minutes.  What is the difference there?  How can they play even for 45 minutes, and then just suck?

The answer is going small.  And it’s been terrible.

This is an Alvin Gentry coached team.  He’s thinking offense.  The Pelicans don’t have a lot of bigs with offensive skill – so he tries to cobble together a bunch of smalls who might be able to do something.

And that’s when he gets in trouble.  Over the off-season I looked through the pick and roll outcomes of the players we had acquired/re-signed. (Hill, Galloway, Frazier, Moore, but sans Buddy)  Do you know how many of those players ranked in the top 10% of the league when running a PnR? (Where someone scores – either them or the roller/screener)  Zero.  Top 20%?  Zero.  Frazier sat at the 73 percentile.  Do you know how many of those other guys joined him in the top half?  Zero.

We don’t have skilled ballhandlers on this team.  We don’t have quickness.  We have length, strength, and effort. (more on that in a bit)

So what happens when we eschew big players for limited offensive smalls ?  The defensive rebounding drops to 67% – 10% lower than usual.  The team’s turnover rate, the lone strength on this team’s offense, increases by 50% as guys try to do too much.  The true shooting percentage declines 10% from an already abysmal number as shots are forced.

It’s ugly, and there isn’t an easy answer to this.  At some point, though, I expect Gentry is going to have to try just leaving the bigs in there and hoping for rebounds on all the misses, because going small isn’t working.

At least, I think Gentry will do that.  He will, won’t he?

Other oddbits

Every year, the NBA stats tools get a little bit better.  They are downright amazing compared to where we were just 5 years ago.  Well, this year they updated their player tracking to capture more “hustle” stats.  These little tidbits paint an interesting picture about the Pelicans so far this season.

  • The new crew has definitely improved this teams ability to disrupt an offense.  They are third in the league in deflections, tipping 18.3 passes per game away from their target.
  • They are also absolutely willing to get on the floor – something I’ve seen Hill, Moore, Galloway, Frazier and Stephenson do with regularity.  They are currently ranked 2nd in the league in loose balls recovered.
  • As mentioned in the defense piece earlier this week – the Pelicans do well in contesting shots, forcing opponents to shoot more than 1% worse on contested looks.  They are also 6th in the league in the NUMBER of shots they contest.  They get hands in faces.
  • The Pels are awful at scoring off screens. (kinda noted above in the poor quality of our PnR ballhandlers)  They are 27th in the league at scoring off of a screen – only getting 6.3 buckets a game when the ballhandler uses a screen.  That’s a pretty mind numbing number.  Of course, other than Asik, who actually sets a screen on this team?  Maybe Dante?  Everyone else slips to score.

Anyways, it’s been a tough week.   Would be nice to get off the snide.  Not predicting that, but it would be nice.



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