How the Pelicans have changed

Published: November 24, 2016

I had a lot of questions this summer stemming from the subtraction of Anderson and Gordon.  How was the team going to replace all those threes?  Would the team maintain its good turnover rate?  Who would dribble off his own foot 5 times a game?  Would the free throw rate increase?  Could the steal rate possibly be any worse with new guys?  Without turnstiles on the perimeter, would the general foul rate decrease?  Why do melee weapons in video games do so much more damage than guns?

Well, here’s some answers:

  • First – you need to take pre-game averages with a grain of salt.  In raw terms, the team is getting more steals, grabbing more rebounds, shooting more threes, generating more assists, and a bunch of other things.  But they are also generating about 3 more possessions per game.  I’ll try to stick to rates rather than raw numbers so we can compare apples to apples.
  • Thanks to strong three point rates by Galloway, Hield and Moore and smaller upticks from Cunningham, Davis and Frazier, the team actually takes more threes this season than last, but only barely, shooting threes on 28% of its possessions.  Last year, it was 27%.  So generating those looks haven’t been the hard part.
  • The hard part has been hitting them.  The Pels are finally out of the cellar in three point % after a few strong games, but they still sit at 31.6% as a team, 4.4% below where they were last year.
  • Part of the bounce back to respectability for the Pelicans defense has been a giant decrease in foul rates for the team.  Marginalizing Ajinca and his average of about 753 fouls per game has helped dramatically, but last year Dante, Gee, Douglas, Cole, Babbitt, Perkins and Ajinca, Evans, Ennis and Frazier all had worse than average foul rates.  This year, only Frazier, Ajinca and Hill qualify. (Anthony Brown too, but I’ll give him a pass for now)  The result is an 11% drop in the number of free throws opponents get.  Nice.
  • Surprisingly, the Pelicans steal rate has normalized almost to almost exactly what it was last year.   The major difference is everyone is contributing across the board this year – with only three players posting weak steal rates (Cunningham, Frazier and Asik)  The rest of the team is pretty strong, and Jrue’s numbers will push the total higher.  (Also if Frazier could return to what he was doing last year, it would be helpful.  His steal rate is nearly 40% lower so far)
  • Much has been said about the Pelicans bad rebounding – and while it’s true their offensive rebound rate is abysmal, their defensive rebound rate remains in the top 10 – and is pretty much stable from last year.
  • I should mention this.  The Pelicans offensive rebound rate is 17.1% right now.  This is a systematic decision by the coaching staff, but that rate is Historically low.  Last year’s Atlanta team posted a 19.1% offensive rebound rate as the lowest full season in NBA history.  The Pels are destroying that record.  (Side note: This years 76ers and Hornets are also destroying it, posting 18.7 and 18.5 rates so far.  The league keeps skewing away from offensive rebounding.)
  • Despite a spike in turnovers from Davis as he’s taken on more offensive duties, the team as a whole remains very good at keeping hold of the ball.  Despite dropping two non-passing finishers, the teams replacements have been great and holding on to the rock.  Only Terrence Jones and Buddy have bad turnover rates for their positions and how often they handle the ball.  Hill is on the edge.  Net result is a small improvement in turnover rate so far, one of the teams primary strengths last season
  • The biggest spike on this team?  Shot blocking.  And I mean, it’s a huge difference.  The Pelicans have increased their block rate by 60% over last year.  Davis has been all over the place, but Hill has been way better than any wing player from last year at impacting shots, Jones has been good when he’s actually in the right position, Asik is having a little bit of a bounce back year, and Moore is pretty good at contesting shots.  Though there isn’t a direct correlation to shot blocking, it is probably related that the Pelicans eFG% defense has been much stronger this year too.
  • People have been focusing on the Pelicans high number of assists, particularly during the broadcast.  The team has increased it’s assist rate by 6.7% this season – which is actually a pretty massive improvement.  It’s essentially the difference between the most assist-focused team, and the 14th.  In related news, the Pelicans were 17th in this stat last year.  They are 2nd right now.

That’s it for now!  Have a happy Thanksgiving weekend!


Oh, and melee weapons have to be stronger for game balance.  If guns do the most damage and can be fired from distance, what’s the point of having a cool katana or hammer?  Cuz those things are cool.

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