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10 Takeaways Through 10 Pelicans Wins

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Published: November 20, 2018

We’re officially past the 20% mark of the NBA season, which means it’s late enough to begin digging into certain trends and early enough to jump to conclusions about unsustainable starts (both good and bad). The Pelicans have won 10 games so far, so here are 10 takeaways from yours truly regarding what we’ve seen over the past month.

  • With the Pelicans’ victory last night, they now have (via Cleaning the Glass) the NBA’s 10th best net rating, the 3rd best offensive rating, and (per Basketball-Reference) the 10th most difficult strength of schedule. That in itself is impressive, but it also doesn’t capture how few breaks the Pelicans have experienced this year from a player health perspective – and I’m not even talking about the Pelicans’ 0-3 record without AD or Elfrid Payton’s extended absence. Every playoff contending team that the Pelicans have faced to date have been pretty close to full strength. Opponents like the Rockets (CP3/Harden), Nets (LeVert), Warriors (Steph/Draymond), Thunder (Westbrook), and Raptors (Kawhi) have all played games this year without some of their best players, but the Pels got them at their best (or very close to it). Obviously, the goal here is not to wish injuries on any team or to complain about it, but rather to simply point out that the Pelicans have kept pace in the standings despite facing a lot of tough competition. One of the biggest reasons for this strong play is…
  • Julius Randle has arguably been the Pelicans’ 3rd most important player this season (honorable mention to E’Twaun Moore). His ability to assume multiple roles for this Pelicans team despite significant fluctuation to the rotations has been essential, and he has been a scoring efficiency machine. Simply put, he has been Charles Barkley good. Speaking of that Moore character…
  • Who saw this coming? Moore’s excellent floater game has been written about at length by other prominent outlets, but what has impressed me most is his expanded offensive game this season. Last year, 36.2% of Moore’s shots came from 3-point range, and his eFG% was 58.5%. This year, only 29.6% of his shots have been 3-pointers, and yet his eFG% has increased to 64.1%. Even if he was making his 3s at his great 2017-18 clip (42.5%) instead of his Curry-esque 2018-19 rate (49.2%), his eFG% would still be higher than it was in 2017-18, despite a lower percentage of his shots coming from distance. Oh, and his turnover rate is at a career low. On the topic of turnovers…
  • The Pelicans are 6-6 in the 12 games since Payton’s first injury (during the Jazz game on October 27th). In the team’s 6 wins, its turnover rate is 13.5%, which would be a top-5 mark in the NBA this season. In their 6 losses, that number jumps to 16.3%, which would be a bottom-5 mark league-wide. Losing Payton certainly matters, but the Pelicans have proven that they can score efficiently while limiting turnovers even in his absence. But turnovers aren’t the only stat that varies significantly between wins and losses…
  • The Pelicans go from a slightly below average offensive rebounding team in their losses to an elite offensive rebounding rate in their wins. Last season, the Pelicans ranked 28th in the NBA in offensive rebound rate at 20%. This season, that’s up to 26.1%, which ranks 6th in the league. AD said that they have a goal of 12-15 offensive rebounds per game, and that added effort is paying off. However…
  • According to Cleaning the Glass, the Pels are giving up 1.276 points per play when their opponent turns a defensive rebound into a transition opportunity, which is third worst in the NBA. The good news is that such possessions aren’t happening often, as the team is allowing the 9th lowest frequency of transition opportunities after opponent defensive rebounds. Overall, it’s just worth recognizing that the uptick in offensive rebounding focus does have an associated cost, even though the net impact of that increased emphasis is pretty clearly positive. Why is it so clear? Well…
  • The Pelicans are – by FAR – the best team in the NBA at turning their own misses into points. New Orleans is scoring 27.7 points on putbacks for every 100 of their misses, which put them as far ahead of the #2 team (3.3) as the difference between that team (OKC) and 9th (Detroit). Additionally, they’re the best team in the league (1.282 points per play) in scoring on their actual putback attempts. The Pelicans are simply too good at this part of the game to go away from it, even if it has an adverse impact on the defensive end at times. Leading the charge here, obviously, is…
  • Anthony Davis. Despite the best 3-point percentage of his career (35.5%) and easily the highest free throw rate of his career (.482), AD’s true shooting percentage is currently lower than it has been in either of the past two seasons. Why? By process of elimination, it’s because his shooting percentages are down from everywhere besides the 3-point line. The percentage of his shots coming at the rim or beyond the arc are virtually identical to last season – his only real change in shot selection is swapping out some of his long 2s for closer (but still outside of the restricted area) 2s. He’s simply missing shots that he made last season – that should normalize. And once it does, AD’s stat lines will somehow look even more unbelievable than they already do. And there is no better time to start this trend than…
  • The Pelicans’ upcoming schedule should give the team a pretty good opportunity to make a jump in the tightly packed Western Conference. After the Wednesday night game at Philly, here is the team’s next 13 games: @ NYK, @ WAS, vs. BOS, vs. WAS, @ MIA, @ CHA, vs. LAC, vs. DAL, vs. MEM, @ DET, @ BOS, vs. OKC, vs. MIA. The Pels could be favored in every one of those games (with the possible exception of Boston if they finally put things together offensively). The only game that the Pelicans have lost this season that they were favored to win was their loss in Minnesota, and the spread was only 1.5 points. If that type of success in winnable games continues, this team could find themselves near the top of the conference a month from now. It’s up to the team to make it happen, but not just the team…
  • Fans! Listen, believe me, I get it. The Pelicans’ neighbor in the Superdome is the best team in the NFL right now, and that’s exciting. But this New Orleans NBA squad is pretty damn exciting in its own right, and there are exactly zero Pels home games on the same day as a Saints game from now through Superbowl Sunday. Get to the Smoothie King Center and keep showing this team that basketball season doesn’t just start “whenever the Saints’ season ends.” Let’s appreciate and enjoy the successes of both teams, and maybe in a few months’ time, that one extra December win that the home crowd pushed the Pelicans to steal also pushes them to a higher playoff seed that extends their post-season even further.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday, everyone.

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