New Orleans Pelicans information, analysis and discussion Thu, 28 May 2015 01:20:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Pelicans Head Coach Tournament Round Two: Kenny Atkinson vs. Ime Udoka Thu, 28 May 2015 01:20:18 +0000 The Case for Kenny Atkinson

By: Michael McNamara

Atkinson is going to get this team running and he is going to have the three-ball flying all over the pace. He will make every guard on this roster better and he is going to spread the court, and that means AD behind the line too. On top of that, he will want every guy to be a good passer that can move the ball around the perimeter and that includes big men. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a realistic idea of what Atkinson will want to build roster wise:

Starters: Jrue, Tyreke, W.Chandler, AD, Monroe

Bench: Cole, K. Bazemore, Q-Pon, Bargnani, Ajinca

The main move sees Eric Gordon and Omer Asik go out and Wilson Chandler and Greg Monroe come in. Chandler and Monroe are both high IQ players that can move the ball on offense and score in a multitude of ways. If Atkinson can do with Davis what the Hawks have done with Milsap, they could be amongst the top 3-point shooting teams in the NBA.

Defensively, they have three very good to great on ball defenders not he perimeter starting, with three more coming off the bench. AD and Monroe could have some issues, but they will be better than Milsap and Horford and they both can play the pick and roll in a multitude of ways.They can trap or hedge, play aggressive or lay back, and they will be able to turn defensive stops and steals into instant offense on the other end.

On offense, the lane will be wide open for Davis and the guards regardless of who is in the game. The Pelicans will have three big men who can hit from deep if Davis develops and, without a rim protector, Evans will be impossible to stop without major help coming from the strong side. Once that happens, he can kick to any number of shooters, and once teams try to take that away, we get AD lobs.

If Davis continues to develop and Atkinson gets the maximum output from he guards, it is entirely possible that the Pelicans join the Clippers and Warriors as one of the best offenses in the NBA.

The Case for Ime Udoka

By: Ryan Schwan

Udoka is going to go with what he knows.  He’s learned from Popovich and Budenholzer the last three years, and what they constructed in San Antonio will be what he’ll be aiming for here in New Orleans.  The Spurs have created the modern NBA offense, keeping two ballhandling edge players on the floor at all times, a single capable big man in the pick and roll, and a plethora of shooting options of all sizes.  To combat teams with defensive specialist big men, they keep a large wing or smallish big who can play power forward, draw that guy from the basket, and create plays for himself or others.

The Pelicans have some of those options.  In Jrue and Evans, they have a couple ballhandling attackers to approximate the first part of the assault.  In Davis, they have both shooting and a pick and roll player.  In Anderson and Gordon, they have two of the necessary shooters.  What they don’t have is a competent pick and roll big man to give Davis a rest. (Splitter in current Spurs world)  They also don’t have a multi-dimensional big wing who could guard a power forward in a pinch.

With those priorities this means Asik will probably be jettisoned and a pick and roll big man will be brought in on the cheap to provide 12 minutes a game – like Ayres and Baynes have by the Spurs.(or Kosta Koufus if the team decides to splurge a little here for longer minutes)  Then Dell will be asked to put his creative touch into grabbing someone like Jae Crowder, Wilson Chandler, Mike Dunleavy, or Thad Young to acquire a tweener forward with some playmaking skills.  Top off with some cheapish shooters(And Cole may have to be sacrificed to this need) and we’d end with a lineup something like:

Starters: Holiday, Gordon, Dunleavy, Anthony Davis, Koufus

Bench: Evans, Gerald Green/CJ Watson, Q-Pon, Anderson, Ajinca

That lets Udoka keep at least one, and probably two attacking wings on the court at all time.  Anderson, Q-Pon, Dunleavy and Watson or Green would provide the matchup-specific shooting necessary, and Koufus and Ajinca are both adequately talented offensive players they can’t just be left alone.

This team would probably take a lateral step defensively until Gordon and Evans could be moved for two-way players, but its offense would be nigh unstoppable.

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Head Coach Tournament: Jeff Van Gundy v. Ettore Messina Wed, 27 May 2015 13:00:09 +0000 The Case for Jeff Van Gundy

by: Mason Ginsberg

To view the previous round with Jeff Van Gundy, click here. 

We all know that Jeff Van Gundy is excellent on the defensive end; that’s not where the main question about his candidacy lies. If anything, it revolves around the fact that he hasn’t been a head coach since 2006, and the game has changed considerably since then. As a response to that reasonable concern, I provide to you the video above, which was recorded during the 2014 NBA Finals.

Within the first 30 seconds of describing his offensive strategy, Van Gundy hits on two key areas, one of which is especially important in relation to his historical coaching style. The first characteristic he points out is a team’s “level of unselfishness” while running an offense. In its simplest form, unselfishness means “making the extra pass.” As I mentioned in my first round argument, Van Gundy has shown an ability to adapt an offensive game plan based on personnel, as evidenced by the change in 3 point attempt rates between his Knicks and Rockets coaching gigs. Whether the shot comes from inside or outside of the 3-point line, he wants his team to get the best look possible based on the players on the floor at the time.

The second point he makes is my favorite, because it is not something that the Jeff Van Gundy of old was ever known for. He mentions “trying to pick an appropriate pace of play that your players can best function in” as one of the most important parts of designing an offense for a team. It is true that Van Gundy’s teams have notoriously played at a slow pace, but both of his prior head coaching stints featured all-time great big men (Ewing and Yao) who excelled in half court offenses. Why are we so quick to assume that a basketball mind as strong as Van Gundy’s would automatically revert back to a slow pace with this Pelicans team? He clearly realizes that pace can and should change based on a team’s roster, and if he were to take over the Pels, rest assured that he will not automatically revert to a similar pace as he did in the past.

The main takeaway for Jeff Van Gundy is this – don’t be deterred by the fact that he hasn’t coached in a while. It’s not like he has been living under a rock; quite the opposite, actually, as we all know he has been broadcasting NBA games on ESPN for quite some time. He is a very smart head coach (as evidenced by playoff appearances in all 9 of his head coaching seasons except for one injury-riddled year), and he has seen how the game has evolved. He will respond accordingly, and his reputation and league connections should bring in a solid coaching staff alongside him.

Ettore Messina

by: Chris Romaguera

To view the previous round with Ettore Messina Bracket, click here. 

To be on the court for Messina, you have to be an active agent on offense. The isolation basketball that New Orleans watched the Pelicans run this year does not fly for Messina. Neither will dribbling the ball at the top of the key for ten seconds before initiating a high pick and roll that results in (maybe) one pass and a shot. Messina wants his team constantly attacking the defense, forcing the defense to react, and having his own players read the defense and react. Under Messina, Jrue Holiday would be heavily utilized, for he has the ability to shoot from range, dribble drive and dish out, and is a true point guard. Eric Gordon would also be featured prominently, since his range gives him a lot of gravity, and he moves well without the ball and can dribble drive if he catches his defender leaning.

Messina’s preaching of getting about 20 shots a game out of touches from the middle of the court is huge as well, for it shows how the team will prominently feature Anthony Davis in the offense. Messina will want to get Davis the ball in the middle of the court and react to how the defense has to bend to him. Davis will get the chance to attack the defense in a variety of ways, in order to set the table for his teammates, and feast on any open space he may find in the middle.

Being in Greg Popovich’s program, Messina has written blog posts about how Popovich likes to be challenged by his assistants, which means if Messina is hired, a “defensive coordinator” will get his share of power along with the rest of the coaches.

For additions, you don’t have to look far from Messina’s Spurs team to see how Danny Green would fit perfectly. Green is a smart wing who can defend multiple positions, use his elite skill (shooting) to open up parts of his game for himself (the dribble drive) and for his team (extra space.) DeMarre Carroll and Jae Crowder also fit well. As for big men, Kosta Koufos and Gustavo Ayon both can fit as replacements if Asik leaves, or as backups. The return of Ayon in particular, with his elite court vision, would be great to see in Messina’s system.

Mostly, Messina will play a fun style that allows and teaches players to make live-action reads of the defense. He believes in building programs, and would be someone that would have a system in place for this team for a long time.


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A Look at Jeff Van Gundy’s Potential Staff if Hired Wed, 27 May 2015 12:37:34 +0000 We are all so focused on the coaching search, and rightfully so, but once that is completed that head coach will have to put together his staff, and that will be equally important. Jeff Van Gundy wants the Pelicans job, badly. I have reported as much since two days after Monty’s firing and recent conversations heard behind the scenes have been growing louder and louder. The question is whether he is Dell’s top guy. Part of Dell’s checklist for potential candidates includes the questions, “What kind of staff can you put together?”

According to a team source, Dell is looking to add more pace to the offense and some more spread principles, but he is also concerned about the defensive side of the ball, where the Pelicans finished 22nd last season. Many of the candidates have a strength on one side or the other, so that means they will have to balance out their staff with coaches who compliment their weaknesses. Van Gundy is an elite defensive coach, and has had some success on the offensive end, but has been out of coaching a while, so he might need some help on that side. The good thing for Van Gundy is that he is as familiar with today’s players and coaches as anybody, having worked for ESPN since leaving the Rockets.

The Van Gundy coaching tree is impressive, as Tom Thibodeau, Mike Malone, and Steve Clifford were all former assistants of his that eventually got head coaching jobs in the NBA. There are many branches off this tree that he can reach out to that can fill his staff, so let’s take a look at some of the names.

Mike Malone, ex-Kings Coach

This would be the dream pairing, as Malone has experience implementing both offenses and defenses, but it is hard to envision Malone taking the job. Not only would he be taking a step backwards by becoming an assistant coach, but he would also be stepping back by taking a job with Van Gundy and backwards towards New Orleans. On top of all of that, he would earn as much sitting on his couch next year just collecting checks from the Kings as he would putting in 60 hour weeks with he Pelicans.

Mike Longabardi, Phoenix Suns

If Van Gundy gets the job, I think Longabardi will be the first guy he calls. He was the guy getting a ton of credit for the Suns success last season, and he has connections to Van Gundy going back to Houston. In the past, JVG has said that he thinks Longabardi will eventually get a Head Coaching gig and “knock it out of the park.” Longabardi’s strength is more on the defensive side, but he has learned a lot from he Suns uptempo style these last few years, and can help Van Gundy implement that in New Orleans.

Andy Greer, Chicago Bulls

The Bulls coaching situation is a mess, but their assistant coaching staff is free to move around, and Van Gundy will likely go after Greer hard. Greer served with Van Gundy in both Houston and New York, and was actually given his first coaching job by Van Gundy’s father way back in 1983. He has been an NBA assistant for 14 years now, and while he leans defense as well, he ran some pretty creative stuff in his one chance as a Head Coach at Northern Illinois

Adrian Griffin, Chicago Bulls

Griffin is destined to be a hot coaching prospect in the next few years, and what better chance to shine than with a team that will have the top player in the league over the next few years? Griffin is the youngest guy on this list by quite a few years and if you want to find the guy most responsible for the ascension of Jimmy Butler, it is Griffin. Butler even singled out Griffin in his MIP acceptance speech, saying, “I think Griffin has a lot to do with who I am.” I’ll take some of that small forward development in New Orleans, please.

Tyronn Lue, Cleveland Cavaliers

This is a stretch, but Lue did play for Van Gundy, and maybe there is a chance that Lue is frustrated sitting behind Blatt in Cleveland. The chance to work with Van Gundy and run a system that is more to Lue’s liking could have some appeal, and move Lue one step closer to the head coaching job he seeks.

Dean Cooper, Idaho Stampede

Cooper has been everything from an assistant coach to a director of player development to a scout, and now a Head Coach in the D-League. He got his in Houston with Rudy Tomjanovich and stayed on with Van Gundy during his tenure in Houston> he moved on to Minnesota and worked with McHale, then to Portland. After a few seasons, he joined McHale’s staff in Houston, where he helped implement a lot of their space and pace principles. He has experience at every level, and connections to Van Gundy, so this would be a fantastic fit.

David Wesley, Fox New Orleans

How is this for out of the box? Wesley moves from the announce table to the coaches bench. Wesley played for Van Gundy in Houston and obviously knows this team as well as anybody. Wesley has gotten better as an announcer with time, but I would not be surprised if he wanted to move into coaching, and this would be an ideal fit for all involved.

Juwan Howard, Miami Heat

Howard has basically been a coach for the last few years in Miami, and he could bring a lot of the Heat’s spread principles to the Pelicans. Howard also played under Van Gundy in Houston, and has been said to be a terrific voice in the locker room. It would be a smooth transition for him, and he could also help AD’s development, both in the post and on the perimeter.

Countless Others

Honestly, this column can go on for days if we are looking for smart basketball minds with a connection to Van Gundy. From players like Tracy McGrady to Jon Barry that played with Van Gundy to guys like Jalen Rose who worked with him at ESPN, and assistants to guys he has influenced like Stephen Silas and Patrick Ewing, there are literally dozens of names Van Gundy can pull from. He is as connected as anybody in the NBA and his family has given tons of these guys their starts in the NBA, either directly or indirectly. He will have his choice of assistants, and in the end, that might make Van Gundy the most appealing hire for the New Orleans Pelicans.

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Head Coach Tournament: Tom Thibodeau v. Alvin Gentry Tue, 26 May 2015 03:24:40 +0000 In Round Two, we’ll be projecting what we think a coach would want as a line-up – using our players, or, if likely, players they may ask Dell to target.

The Case for Tom Thibodeau

by: Ryan Schwan

To view the previous bracket with Tom Thibodeau, click here. 

One thing matters in Tom Thibodeau’s world.  Defense.  Conservative, precision defense.  There must be a big capable of closing the paint.  There must be a high-minutes wing capable of a little offense and that wing must make the rotations at the right time and place every time to keep the perimeter defense as watertight as a whale’s arsehole.

This means, unless Jordan is somehow available, Asik will be back with little debate.  The Thibodeau defense takes months to assimilate – and Asik was introduced to the NBA in that very system.  This also means that everyone’s favorite wrecking ball, Tyreke Evans, will probably take the long walk.  Evans’ inability to make the right rotations all the time will make him borderline unplayable by Thibs – and that means the team must find a different sort of wing.  If there was some way to swing trades or sign Carroll, Matthews or Batum, I am sure that would be done in an instant – but the most likely would be some sort of deal that sent out Evans and brought back Loul Deng, who quietly had a nice season in Miami.  Again, defensive familiarity and perfection of execution is what matters.

The only other typical role Thibodeau has routinely liked is a small, quick shoot-first point guard that can simply attack second units and cause havoc while his main guys rest.  Aaron Brooks, Patty Mills, Bayless (Not Jimmer) – these guys can be had cheaply.

Offensively, Thibodeau has always tried to use power forwards who can be a bit stretchy – using Boozer, Gasol, and Mirotic in those roles.  He will happily find a role for Anderson in that case, and – this last bit will surprise you – run the offense through Davis hands.  Thibs likes to run a pick and roll to get the big the ball at the elbow moving towards the basket.  If clear, that big blitzes the rim, if not, they pause and the offense flexes around the elbow.  Either the off-guard will set a pick for the big and flare – or cutters will go through the middle to try to force the big’s guy to fade a little and give him room.

Davis would thrive in that offense.  Noah played this role last year and was dropping dimes like crazy because he was a small threat to drive and score.  Imagine if Davis was filling that role.  The pressure on the defense to account for him would force double teams – which would allow the team to move the ball side to side and kick off the second part of Thibs offense – the wing assault on the paint. (filled by Rose or Butler in Chicago)

There is no question a Thibs team won’t be a fast-moving team.  They will, however, play crushing, tight defense, and cater to Davis’ development as a creative and primary option.

I would take that in a heartbeat.

The Case for Alvin Gentry

by: Chris Romaguera

To view the previous bracket with Alvin Gentry, click here. 

Alvin Gentry has been on the staff of the last two number one rated offenses in the NBA. The last time he had a head coaching job, in his first year, he took a 40+ win team and led them to the Western Conference Finals. Those are two trends he’d like to continue.

Gentry’s teams play with a faster pace, and will probe the defense early. Not 7 seconds or less, but 12 seconds or fewer. Based on how the Clippers used Griffin in his year there, Gentry will give the ball to Anthony Davis early, and let him probe the defense. Davis will work a lot out of horns, and be a triple threat from 16 feet from the basket.

Jrue Holiday will also greatly be utilized, with his ability to run a pick and roll and fire from beyond the arc at a solid rate off the bounce will keep opposing defenses honest. Gentry’s teams utilize the pick and roll often, and you can expect Gentry to get a lot out of pick and rolls with Holiday and Davis. Holiday’s ability to hit threes off the dribble, as well as find open teammates, is exactly what Gentry looks for in a point guard. Eric Gordon also fits Gentry’s system perfectly, and can fill the role of Klay Thompson for Gentry. In an interesting twist, Gordon signed the offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns in 2012 when Gentry was their head coach, so the two are quite familiar with each other, with both valuing the other (Gordon specifically cited Gentry as one of the reasons he had wanted to go to Phoenix after signing the offer sheet.)

As for additions, a bigger wing who can cover multiple positions would be a priority. Gentry was an assistant during Shawn Marion’s prime, when he covered nearly anyone on the court. For the Warriors, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala have been crucial. Dream list wise, a wing like Tobias Harris would be perfect, for he continues to get better at shooting, can dribble drive, defend multiple positions, and rebounds extremely well. DeMarre Carrol is another strong option. With Holiday, Davis, and Harris/Carroll, Gentry can implement a switch heavy defense similar to the one Golden State used this year.

A deep bench is also key to Gentry, based off of his Suns teams (which unearthed Goran Dragic) and this Warriors team. This Warriors team has two players under rookie contracts, so expect the team to start keeping draft picks in order to fit valuable players under the cap. You may also see some role players added from Gentry’s past, such as Jared Dudley.


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Season in Review: Eric Gordon Mon, 25 May 2015 23:46:25 +0000 Fair or not, Eric Gordon’s tenure in New Orleans will always be connected to the expectations that came with the Chris Paul trade in 2011. It is easy to understand why. He was, in many ways, the centerpiece of a trade that saw New Orleans’ most decorated player leave the team. Expectations for Gordon were high. Those expectations were raised even higher when he signed a max contract the next offseason. After 4 seasons of struggling to stay healthy, most fans’ favor has turned on Mr. Gordon.

But this review isn’t about the Chris Paul trade, Gordon’s contract, unreasonable expectations, or even his entire tenure in New Orleans. No, today we are talking about his most recent season in New Orleans. For now, let’s put aside our frustrations and our hot takes. Let’s just talk about Eric Gordon the basketball player during the 2014-15 NBA season.

2014-15 Season

Gordon played in 61 and started 60 games last season. That was good enough for his second best total in New Orleans. Though he was more available last year than his first two years in NOLA, he still struggled with some injury issues. The good news is that it wasn’t an injury to one of his knees, which have been his main problem.

This year it was a fluky torn labrum in his left shoulder that resulted in him missing 21 games. It is hard to be excited about a guy missing over a quarter of the season, but then again, this seems like one of those random things. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to think that it is something systemic that will pop up again. Pels fans might have reason to be optimistic that Gordon is finally turning the corner with his health issues. Also, let’s not forget that Gordon could have shut himself down and opted for surgery. It would have probably been the safer and smarter route. He opted to rehab and play. That’s impressive and deserves to be acknowledged.

Besides just being healthy this year, 2014-15 was also big year for Gordon because he finally got his first chance to play in a NBA playoff series. Gordon is often treated by the team, media, and fans as the oldest young guy in the locker room. It’s easy to forget that despite his 7 season in the NBA, he hasn’t gotten the chance to achieve a lot or really reach his potential. He’s been a part of two rebuilding franchises and has had to rebuild himself several times. It’s not easy for me to feel sorry for a millionaire, but I was excited that Gordon finally got a chance to play under those bright playoff lights. And, he played pretty well.

Let’s move beyond the brief summaries and overviews on to the real basketball.

Oh and one more thing, Eric also did this one thing that was pretty cool.


To say Eric Gordon got off to a rough start this season would be a dramatic understatement. During his first 6 games, Gordon shot 29.3% from the field and an abysmal 19% from 3. For the amount of minutes he was playing, he was also averaging a pretty low number of assists (1.16), especially given his number of turnovers (1.6). Things weren’t great. Jake Madison did a great job of cataloging those early season struggles and suggesting how Gordon might improve here. It is worth going back and taking a look at that piece to really get a feel of how the season was going at that point.

Things actually began to turn around pretty quickly for Eric. In the next 6 games, his shooting percentages went way up, his assists went up, turnovers went down, and his points per game began approach what you’d like to see out of a starting 2 guard. Then, bam! The should injury happens, and we are reminded that, as Pelicans fans, it is really hard for us to have nice things. That started the 21 game hiatus mentioned earlier. 12 games is really not enough to make any sweeping generalizations about a player. So let’s zoom out a bit and look at his performance after he came back, and then the season as a whole.

When Gordon finally came back in early January it was hard to know what to expect. For one, he’d missed the better part of November and all of December. To make matters worse, the last image we had of Gordon on the court was him struggling to find his stride early in the season. I’m not sure anyone was expecting Gordon to light a fire on the court. We were just hoping for some type of impact, but he quickly turned it around in a big way. The rest of the season Gordon shot 41.3% from the field and 46.4% from 3, which leads me to the big thing I want to discuss about Gordon’s season on offense.


After all the injuries and missed games the last few years, some serious questions were beginning to be raised about what type of player Gordon would eventually become. Coming out of college, many believed that he could eventually turn into the focal point of a NBA offense, not just because of his shooting ability, but also due to his knack for getting to the line in college and slashing to the lane. It is unclear if Gordon will ever become that type of slasher or creator in the NBA. Frankly, it doesn’t look likely. However, at least for the Pelicans, that might not matter. The Pelicans have needed a spot up shooter for years, and Eric Gordon has a lights out shooter.

According to, 36.7% of Gordon’s shots were catch and shoot 3’s this season. He made those shots at a 48.2% rate. That’s fantastic. Of course, he was great overall from behind the arch this season (44.8% on all 3PAs). Still, things go to a different level when he gets a little bit of space and doesn’t need to use a dribble.

Maybe Gordon could still become a ball dominate guard, but that’s not what the Pelicans need with Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday on the roster. For years, they’ve need that release valve. They’ve need that guy who could burn broken down defenses from behind the line. Contract issues aside, Eric Gordon looks like he could easily take on that role.


I love starting all of my defensive reviews with NBA tracking data. I don’t see any reason to break the trend. Take a look at the table below to see how Gordon faired, when compared to an average NBA defender, according to the NBA’s tracking data.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 4.45.45 PM

I feel like that is about what we would expect. Overall, Gordon is a bit below average as a defender. The closer his opponent gets to the basket the worse he becomes as a defender. Again, nothing too shocking. His lack of size alone will prevent him from ever contending with a lot of drives inside 6 feet.

Now, if we look at other advanced statistics like DBPM, things seem a bit worse. In that category, Gordon posted a -2.0. For guards who played in at least 41 games, that would put him at 82 of 133, according to basketball reference. That isn’t too good, but it also isn’t outright awful.

We could repeat this exercise with other advanced stats, but the verdict would be pretty much the same. He just isn’t a great defender. Still, we can’t completely turn offense and defense into discrete parts of the game. Sure, he doesn’t do much for you on defense, but is it worth the tradeoff of taking him off the floor? You’re losing a lot of shooting when Gordon is on the bench, and most of our other perimeter shooters over the years have struggled to defend much more than Gordon. He wasn’t a great defender this year, and that isn’t likely to change going into next year. But he is close to average, and that might just be good enough for the time being.

The Future

At this point, it is impossible to discuss Eric Gordon and the Pelicans without mentioning his contract. So here it is. I won’t break anything down, because other writers on this site (more intelligent than I about the NBA CBA) have done it before. Let me simply say two things. First, something will happen with Eric Gordon’s contract. Eventually, it will run out, or he will be traded. It may require a certain amount of patience, but this isn’t forever. It is temporary.

Second, we’ve all, as fans, had moments of frustration with Gordon. That’s just the simple truth. Some of those frustrations were justified. Some were not. I think it is time to move on. Gordon may never become the player we hoped he would be we he joined the team in the Chris Paul trade. But he has become a valuable player. He is an on the court asset to this team.

Final Word

Growing up is hard on parents and loved ones. Young people do dumb stuff. It is just a part of life. Young  and rebuilding basketball teams also do dumb stuff, and it frustrates their fans to see their beloved team struggle to come of age. For parents, they eventually find a scape goat. They blame your silly or dumb behavior on music, a girl or boyfriend, or a bad influence. For Pelicans fans, Eric Gordon has been the scape goat for a while. I’m not suggestion all of it was misplaced, but the disappointment and frustration eventually got out of hand. I hope this season puts an end to that. For one, the Pelicans made the playoffs. They’re growing up. Also, Gordon played well and he played often. He might not be the player we once wanted, but he is a player. The Pelicans were lucky to have him this season.

Let me say one last thing for this review, the Pelicans owe part of their success this season to Gordon. He was a significant player who filled a role well. We could add some other filler, but I think at this point it is time to just say, “Thanks for the great season EJ.”

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Pelicans Head Coach Tournament Round Two: Sean Miller vs. Fred Hoiberg Mon, 25 May 2015 14:02:58 +0000 The Case for Sean Miller

By: Beckett West

To view the previous bracket with Sean Miller, click here.

In this round, we are supposed to give you a peak at what the team might look like in the next year or two with our guy as head coach. Well, I have looked into the future with Sean Miller on the sidelines, and to quote Will Ferrell, “It looks glorious.” Sean Miller is going to fill this roster with tough guys up front next to AD and dynamic wing players. He is going to suffocate teams defensively and run once they get the boards. So, imagine a team that looked like this

Starters: Jrue, Tyreke, D. Carroll, AD, Koufos

Bench: Cole, G. Henderson, Q-Pon, Cunningham, Biyombo

Miller wants to get the ball into the post from time to time and a guy like Koufos has some skills down there. Jonas Valanciunas is a possibility as well if Dell can swing a deal for him. Either way, Miller wants a guy who can score in the post and control the boards. Those guys fit that profile. The major change comes on the wings where Gordon is out and Demarre Carroll and Gerald Henderson are in. Now, the Pelicans have 4 big wings who can defend (assuming Miller continues Tyreke’s evolution).

With Miller at the helm and these upgrades on the perimeter, the Pelicans can be a top 5-8 defense overnight. And don’t sleep on the offense. Obviously AD is going to get his 23-26, and Tyreke is going to benefit from getting out and running off of misses. In the half court, you can’t ignore Koufos like you can Asik, and Jrue, Carroll, and AD can be knock down shooters if you leave them. You also have guys who can attack the rim, which Miller loves to do, as evidenced by the fact that Arizona led the NCAA in FT attempts last year.

Yes, it will be sad to part with Ryan Anderson, but this team will all be about toughness, defense, and an offense that attacks relentlessly. Every board will be gobbled up, and the paint will be a no fly zone in the rare instances that opponents get by our first line of defense. Davis will win multiple defensive player of the year awards to go with his MVP’s, and a champion will be born in New Orleans with the arrival of Mr. Miller.

The Case for Fred Hoiberg

By: Michael McNamara

To view the previous bracket with Fred Hoiberg, click here. 

Hoiberg is going to play with pace and spread the court like few others in the NBA. He runs a lot of 5-out sets, which opens so much up for our guards and Anthony Davis. But, like Miller, Holberg would want to make some changes. He too loves dynamic wings who can shoot and get out and run. He also loves stretch 4’s, and if we can get Ryno right, he could have the best stretch 4 in the NBA from day 1. He’ll take guys who are not prototypical sizes and get them to play bigger than their measurable. With that in mind, Holberg’s roster can look something like this:

Starters: Jrue, Gordon, G. Green, AD, G. Dieng

Bench: Cole, K. Martin, Q-Pon, Ryno, Plumlee (either one)

The Pelicans swing a major trade that brings Dieng and Martin in while sending Tyreke out. They also target one of the Plumlee’s to be an athletic big off the bench. Ryan Anderson wins 6th Man of the Year easily in Holberg’s spread offense and the Pelicans get out and run up and down the court regardless of what five guys they put on the floor. Long term, they can either bring Gordon back on a discount or go and get a more dynamic wing in 2016.

On defense, they have two athletic bigs that can cover the entire floor and block shots at the rim. Jrue, Cole, and Q-Pon can all pressure the ball, and they have the speed and athleticism to cover sideline to sideline once they understand their defensive schemes. More than anything, though, this team will be one that players want to come to in the future with Hoiberg’s style, so the guys you can surround AD with will likely be dynamic in the open court. Hoiberg will get them to play 100 miles per hour and that energy and effort will just wear on opponents. Not to mention, more possessions mean more opportunities for Davis to impose his will, and when you have the best player on the court, you want to give him as many opportunities as possible.

Hoiberg would do just that.


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Pelicans Head Coach Tournament First Round Results Sun, 24 May 2015 15:43:25 +0000 The results of the first round are in and it is time to get ready for round two. There were some lopsided matchups and a few that went down to the wire. Without further adieu, here are the results for the first round

Fred Hoiberg (62%) defeats Kevin Ollie (38%)

Sean Miller (63%) defeats Tony Bennett (37%)

Jeff Van Gundy (80%) defeats Mark Jackson (20%)

Ettore Messina (76%) defeats Mike D’Antoni (24%)

Alvin Gentry (54%) defeats Mike Malone (46%)

Tom Thibodeau (72%) defeats Scott Brooks (28%)

Kenny Atkinson (79%) defeats Tyronn Lue (21%)

Ime Udoka (53%) defeats Stephen Silas (47%)

Round two will begin tomorrow, as the matchup will focus on what kind of team the head coach will try to build with Dell Demps, and focus on the style of play as well.


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New Orleans Pelicans Season in Review: Jimmer Fredette Fri, 22 May 2015 14:00:40 +0000 Allow me to start out Jimmer Fredette’s season review with this player comparison table. Time to play a little game I like to call “guess that player”!

Screenshot 2015-05-21 at 12.37.58 PM

If you guessed “the same guy”, you’re right! Player X is Jimmer Fredette in his most recent season before coming to New Orleans. Jimmer finished the 2013-14 NBA season doing some of the best shooting of his career, and with the departure of Anthony Morrow to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Pelicans brought him in largely to replace Morrow’s shooting off the bench. Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly go the way that the Pelicans or Jimmer planned, as the fourth year sharp shooter out of BYU suffered easily the worst shooting season of his career. Given his limited skill set outside of his perimeter shooting, these struggles translated to inconsistent minutes and the worst overall season of his career.

Instead of just listing out all of the ways in which Jimmer under performed, I decided to take a different approach. Below, I’ll look at some of the reasons why Jimmer may have failed to meet expectations as a Pelican, along with suggestions about how he can learn from them.

The Rationale

Small Sample Size

When I list “small sample size” as a good thing, I don’t necessarily mean that it was good to only have a small sample size of Jimmer. What I am trying to say is that the sample size for his statistical production this year was sufficiently small that it isn’t really possible to draw tons of definite conclusions about his ability overall. We can use his entire career and fairly easily point to his strengths and weaknesses, but given the type of player Jimmer is, doing so is more difficult with a sample size of only about 500 minutes played. Sure, Jimmer was atrocious from the 3-point line this season, but you know what? He was also lights out in roughly the same number of minutes last season. Don’t get me wrong, Fredette was unquestionably a below replacement level player this season, but he had some bad luck as well. As long as Jimmer stays confident and trusts his shot, the switch could easily flip back in the opposite direction next season.

Poor Usage

First, a table to show the relationship between Fredette’s 3-point attempt rate, 3-point percentage, usage rate, and player efficiency rating in each of his four NBA seasons:

Screenshot 2015-05-21 at 1.28.02 PM

As you can see, Fredette attempted far fewer 3-pointers as a percentage of his total shot attempts in 2014-15 than he did during any other season in his career. While there is likely some deflation to his first year PER due to the rookie learning curve, it appears as if Jimmer is at his best offensively when he is attempting close to 40% of his shots from the 3-point line. That number dipped significantly in 2014-15 with the Pelicans, and his efficiency dropped right along with it.  There is certainly a case to be made that the Pelicans failed to put Fredette in the best position to succeed, but if Jimmer wants to be considered among the best shooters in the league, he has to improve upon his consistency.

Contested Shot/Shot Creation Performance

In the 2013-14 NBA season, Jimmer Fredette made 10 of his 16 attempts in which the defender was within 4 feet of him when he released his shot. This year, he made just 1 out of 10 such attempts. Fredette shot a far lower percentage on open three pointers as well, but over the long run, that is more bad luck than anything else, as we have seen throughout Jimmer’s career that he is capable of converting open looks. Additionally, Jimmer converted on 19 out of 41 attempts (46.3%) in the 2013-14 season with the the ball in his hands for at least two seconds before shooting (highly correlated to whether the shot was assisted or created by himself). In 2014-15, he made just 1 out of 12 (8.3%) such shots. A huge value add for Jimmer in 2013-14 was his ability to make long range shots without needing to be set up by teammates, something he simply could not do this season. As in the usage section above, this decline in success does not all fall on Fredette, as team offensive design must be taken into account as well. However, making contested shots and creating shots are real skills, and Fredette’s inability to do so this season undoubtedly hurt his chances at extended playing time.


Let’s face the facts here: Jimmer Fredette is, at best, a guy you bring in off the bench when you need to add shooting and floor-spacing to your offense. His career real plus-minus and adjusted plus-minus numbers on the defensive end indicate that he’ll always be a net negative on that end of the floor, and the eye test typically supports that. While Jimmer certainly is not as bad as his 2014-15 season with the Pelicans makes him seem, his weaknesses were especially exposed, and his inconsistency was put under the microscope. If Jimmer can improve his ability to come in cold off the bench and make shots at a reasonable clip, then he can have value as a situational player for quite a few NBA teams. If he only shoots well when given enough playing time for him get into a “rhythm”, though, he’ll struggle to find a roster spot because he has too many shortcomings in other aspects of his game, and will lose out to other more versatile players. More than anything else, proving that he can make shots consistently through stretches of sparse playing time may be the biggest key to Jimmer Fredette carving out a long-term place in the NBA.

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New Orleans Pelicans Head Coach Tournament: Tom Thibodeau vs. Scott Brooks Fri, 22 May 2015 02:44:59 +0000 The Case for Tom Thibodeau

By: Ryan Schwan

Thibodeau has caught a lot of flack the past couple years.  The Bulls, once a serious contender out east, have slid towards mediocrity from a crazy high back at the start of the decade.  Mostly, that is due to injury issues and a slow erosion of his team’s supporting staff. (Until this year, when Boozer went away and gave them some flexability again)  There is a narrative, however, that Thibodeau is the ultimate source of all the Bulls woes.  That his grinding, shouting, relentless personality and long minutes has bit by bit turned his players to hamburger, their ACLs to mush, and their mental faculties to pudding.  The theory has been popularized that he forces his team to play 100% all season long, and they have no more percentages to expend in the playoffs – while the coaches of other teams excrete percentage points from their posteriors and make the Bulls look silly.

That’s a theory.

Or there’s reality – which shows that Thibodeau gives big minutes to one player a season – and the rest of his rotations usually sit at 30-32 minutes, which is normal.  And that both times he’s coached a monster contender – he either had a major injury in the playoffs or ran into LeBron James and the Heat in the conference finals – hardly a disgrace.

But really, I don’t even want to focus on that.  I want to focus on one thing.  The Pelicans are slightly above average team.  They need to make the leap from average to great. 

And Thibodeau has already proven he could do that.

Thibodeau took over a 41-41 Bulls team and was gifted with new additions Carlos Boozer and rookie Omer Asik.  The result? The team went from the 27th ranked offense and 11th ranked defense to the 11th ranked offense and top defense in the league.  They went from a negative point differential to a +7.3.   He took ordinary and made it exceptional and he’s maintained much of it as the team has dealth with real turmoil.

He’s been an assistant coach or head coach on a top 10 defense in this league 15 times.  He’s been a coach for premier organizations – The Spurs, Rockets, Celtics, Chicago, and Team USA.  He’s respected around the league, and there’s an entire premier defensive system credited to him and him alone.

The guys a monster, and he’s already proven he can take a middle of the road team and make it matter, while greatly improving what is this team’s biggest weakness.  I don’t think there could be a more obvious choice for this squad than Thibodeau.  Don’t you?

The Case for Scott Brooks

By: Michael McNamara

Brooks was in the ultimate lose-lose situation in Oklahoma City, and he eventually became a punching bag for criticism when the Thunder didn’t break through. But, didn’t he help develop 3 of the top 6 NBA players in the world? Didn’t he help Serge Ibaka go from a raw piece of clay into one of the best defensive players on the planet, and an underrated offensive weapon? Didn’t Enes Kanter go from frustrating solid big man to a Norse God in his 3 months there? And isn’t it possible that we can be talking about Scott Brooks as a multiple time champion if not for some terrible injury luck these last few years?

Brooks, like most coaches who have been in such a high profile position, is not as flawed as some would have you believe. He is given the brunt of the criticism when something goes wrong, and when something goes well, all the praise is heaped on his players. Supposedly, he is flawed when it comes to X’s and O’s, and he can’t get the most out of his players, but with a roster that was no better than middle of the pack at best when KD and Ibaka went down, his team put up 109.9 points per game after the All-Star break, so he has to know a little bit about offense.

And the two years prior to this one, with a relatively healthy squad, produced a defense that was 4th in the league over that span. With regard to individual defenders, Ibaka was elite and Sefolosha was very good, but it is not like his teams were stacked personnel wise on that side of the ball, yet Brooks got them to be ultra effective. The bulk of the criticism seems to come from playing Kendrick Perkins too much, starting with the 2012 Finals against Miami. The analytical data says that the Thunder were much worse with him on the floor, and while Miami was on the floor, they should have probably played Nick Collison more. And maybe they should have, but sometimes coaches need to learn too and Brooks eventually did, though it was too late in that Miami series.

From then on, he played Perkins less and les, dropping his minutes from 26 in his first two years down to 19 in his final two seasons. The Thunder got him more athletic and skilled centers in Steven Adams and Enes Kanter, and both have taken off in the Thunder’s system. Remember, Adams was considered a project who hadn’t produced at all in college when OKC took him. Banter, meanwhile, had averaged 9.3 points per game in Utah; He put up 18.7 ppg in 26 games with the Thunder.

Now we can heap all the praise on the players, and only mention Brooks when it is time to look for a scapegoat, but there are just too many players who are developing in OKC to think it is a coincidence. He has gotten buy in from his stars on both sides of the ball, and won at a tremendous clip. Not to put down Thibodeau in any way, but when people cite him as the guy who the Pelicans need to target because of his track record, I can’t help but wonder why Brooks isn’t in the same conversation.

Thibodeau has a slightly higher regular season winning percentage (.647 to .620), but there is a huge gap in playoff win percentage in favor of Brooks (.534 to .451). And let’s not forget, only one of these guys coached in a real NBA conference. In fact, if you look at Thibodeau’s win percentage against the West (.550), it isn’t nearly as impressive. And in the last three years (.455), it has been downright horrible. So, if you actually want to make the argument that the Pelicans should go after the guy. Brooks teams have consistently won against Western Conference teams and playoff teams. Thibodeau has done neither of those things. Heck, Brooks won against Western Conference teams IN the playoffs.

Look, I don’t know if either of these guys tickle your fancy, but I don’t know how Thibodeau is considered this coach with an impressive resume, when Brooks has a better one on paper. You can argue that Brooks has had more talent, and he probably has up until this season, but he has had major injury issues too. He won a playoff series without Russell Westbrook – again, in the real conference. And this year, he had far less talent than Thibodeau, yet probably did a better job all things considered. He has made mistakes, but he seems to have learned from them, and has a track record for developing guys and being able to produce successful units on both ends of the floor.

Finally, he is found and seems to get the love from his players. He doesn’t wear on them mentally and run them into the ground physically. If you want to give a guy who has had success another shot, give it to Brooks.

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New Orleans Pelicans Head Coach Tournament: Tyronn Lue vs. Kenny Atkinson Thu, 21 May 2015 14:50:53 +0000 The Case for Tyronn Lue

By: Jake Madison

A smart mind for the game. Hard work. Tutored by Hall of Fame coaches. And nearly the guy the Cavaliers hired to coach LeBron James when he came back to Cleveland. That checks off a lot of boxes for me. And it’s the reason that Tyronn Lue is the highest paid assistant coach in the league.

As a former player, and one that shut down an in-his-prime Allen Iverson in the NBA Finals I might add, Lue understands locker room dynamics. It’s been noted on multiple occasions that Lue has been the main guy keeping the Cavs locker room together this season. Which is much harder than it sounds. X’s and O’s are important but an assistant can take care of most of those duties. A head coach needs to be able to manage player’s egos, personalities, and the like. Leadership like that is what is going to take the Pelicans to the next level, and Lue learned it under Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers.

But you cannot also discount Lue on the X’s and O’s part of coaching as well. As an assistant on Rivers’ staff the past few years, Lue is the guy who has spent tons of time in the film room looking to evaluate the Celtics and Clippers rosters. Rivers says, “He sees things in games a lot of people can’t see. He’d see opportunities for us — in games, watching film, observing — and would bring them to me. He has a chance to be very special.” Those adjustments are one of the key reasons the Clippers ranked number 1 on offense last season.

After years of Monty Williams failing to make in-game adjustments, Lue is the type of head coach who would make the Pelicans more dynamic during the flow of a game. With a roster filled with talent being able to read the ebbs and flows of a game and maximize the team’s potential is a difference maker. Lue has proven he is capable of this.

Remember how nearly the entire roster, and Anthony Davis in particular, loved Monty Williams? Players love Lue. He can relate to them as a former player who retired recently in 2009. If there is any one thing that will make the next Pelicans head coach successful right away, it’s getting the buy-in from this roster right away.

I’m not even remotely worried about that. So let’s check off another box. Oh and the one in the poll below.

The Case for Kenny Atkinson

By: Michael McNamara

A young, offensive minded coach who communicates well with players, has a European influence, and is tremendous at developing point guards – Is that something you might be interested in? There is no mystery as to why Atkinson topped the most recent list of guys most likely to get a first time NBA coaching gig. He is a former point guard who played in Europe before working under Mike D’Antoni, and then to Atlanta where he is the top assistant on the best team in the East this season.

But there are plenty of good pieces about Atkinson, including the link in the paragraph above and this one by The Bird Writes. I am not going to just repeat some of those things. Instead, I will expand upon some of the things I said on the podcast, and how they would be exactly what the Pelicans need. As most of you likely know by now, I have a friendship with someone who has worked with Atkinson the past three years, so I will put his unfiltered words about his co-worker here and allow you to decide.

Kenny is a terrific player developer, first and foremost. He is the guy most responsible for Jeff’s (Teague) recent jump. And there is no way Dennis (Schroeder) would be getting key minutes right now without Kenny. Works with those guys every day, and gets through to them. Pushes, but not overbearing. Heard he was a big influence on Lin too in New York. Works with swings and bigs too, but he is great with the guards.

Kenny is always pushing uptempo to our guys and our coaches. Loves to run; Heavy European influence. Loves to push, push, push, but in the half court he will be a heavy pick and roll guy with movement off the ball. Also, is a huge proponent of the three, maybe even more so than Bud (Mike Budenholzer). Defensively, he will work from the outside in. Wants to stop the ball before it gets into the paint, so will put a heavy emphasis on that.

So, there you go. That is Atkinson from someone who knows him well, and knows the game well. So, what excites me the most about Atkinson? Do I have to pick just one thing? I guess that if I had to, I would say it is his ability to improve guards, and more specifically point guards. Yes, it is mandatory that the next coach gets the most out of Anthony Davis, but he is on a trajectory to be the best player in the league regardless. What would really help him, and the team, out is to get some high level guard play on a consistent basis. Holiday and Evans have both shown flashes, but what it Atkinson could improve them but 10-15%? Is there anything that would help more when you look at the construction of this roster?

Jeff Teague’s PER jumped 35% since Atkinson arrival, Schroeder made a huge jump from last year and improved seemingly every month this season, and Jeremy Lin attributes much of his success to Atkinson. It’s also to be noted that Lin hasn’t been quite the same without Atkinson. And it won’t just be on the offensive end. As the quote above says, he wants to stop the ball at the first line of attack, before it even gets into the paint. He will make sure that the guards we have here perform on that end, or they will be gone.

And lastly, I feel like I don’t have to say it again, but I will – Anthony Davis and Uptempo… um, YES! I want Davis on the court with a team capable of playing at a fast pace and hitting a ton of three’s. Atkinson will demand both, and make sure Dell builds him the roster to be able to do both, if it isn’t in place already. Oh, and that three point shot AD wants to add? Atkinson will help him with it and encourage its usage. Not to an insane degree, mind you, but maybe three a game like Paul Milsap this season within a couple of years. That added dimension led to Milsap’s highest point per shot average of his career this season.

So, Atkinson not only makes AD more impossible to guard, but he also helps the team around him by shoring up its weaknesses. He will turn the Pelicans into a fun team to watch, and a nightmare to defend. He is young enough to grow with AD and will always keep pushing our players to continue their evolution. Can’t ask for much more than that.

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Season In Review: Norris Cole Wed, 20 May 2015 14:30:06 +0000 A two time NBA champion, Norris Cole was brought in from the Miami heat in a three-team trade that sent out John Salmons. The idea was that the Pelicans desperately needed backup point guard help. Jrue Holiday had been battling injuries, so too Tyreke Evans. New Orleans needed a guy to fill the “void” left by Austin Rivers.

Stop-gaps like Jimmer Fredette, Gal Mekel and Nate Wolters were not working. Cole’s experience was also a factor with many within the locker room labeling him the veteran voice, guiding them into and throughout their brief playoff run.

The most interesting tidbit is that Cole’s acquisition and performance is yet another example of Dell Demps acquiring a quarter for a dime. Sending out Salmons, who New Orleans picked up at the very end of free agency for a quality proven guard is nothing short of satisfying. Demps has proven over time he can make these moves and it will actually factor in to whether the Pelicans decide to bring back the Cleveland State shooter.


The toughest part about analyzing Cole is that he had spent all of his career playing alongside the best player in the world. Dan Le Batard (a Miami local) has said it on his radio show that Lebron makes the Cole’s, Dellavedova’s and JR Smith’s of the world significantly better.

However, Cole has progressed in each of his season’s and in some ways has evolved as a player. This was most evident on the Pelicans when he was asked to take on more responsibility.

Norris Cole per 36 numbers

I mean, take a look at the above. These are Cole’s per-36 numbers for each season since he entered the league. When he came to New Orleans everything went up. His field-goal attempts, his percentage, his three-point makes/attempts and his point and assist numbers.

It also is reflected in some of the advanced numbers as well. His usage percentage was 5% higher than when he was in Miami (20.6% in NOLA). And because his turnover rate declined to its lowest since entering the NBA his PER went up a career high (12.6). Because he was taking more and hitting more threes and a generally improved efficient offensive game his rating went up to over 100 for the first time in his career.

Which makes you wonder how good Anthony Davis is at offense? Because despite playing with Miami for his entire career, alongside the best NBA player on the face of the earth, Cole couldn’t break even the most basic advanced metric standards. When he came to New Orleans for the last 28 games of the season he improved in almost every offensive category.

Where he shoots from

I wanted to see, despite all the improvements why it didn’t seem like an entirely well rounded improvement on the offensive side of the ball. Norris would have some outstanding nights where he’d explode for 16 points only to come back a few nights later for a 2-8 field goal evening for 4 points.

This was sort of the crux of the dilemma of playing Cole and what’s clear is that while he was attempting (and hitting) the most 3-point field goals of his career, he was also taking more field-goals per-36 at any point of his time in the league.

Cole had a green light to shoot because often the team would pack the lane on Tyreke, double Anthony Davis and virtually ignore Omer Asik. He had a license to ki… shoot… basketballs…

Norris cole field goal attempts

Above is a table of Cole’s field-goal attempts by distance, by year. And there it is, the 16-24 foot range increased to 30% – the highest of his career. He also only attempted a meager 18% of his shots within 0-3 feet. That is a significant decline from when he played in Miami.

I blame for two things: one, Cole had to play in a congested world where Asik and Tyreke Evans would give defenses a reason to clog the paint. Which in turn would open up those long distant two-point field goal attempts.

The second reason is I think he just wanted to take more long range shots. He’s pretty good at them, as evident by some of his improved offensive numbers. But there were nights where he’d just rely on them too much and didn’t have the counter of a layup. 18 per cent is quite staggering and it’s not an aspect of his game, that should he remain with the team, we can get excited about.

Comparing to other backup point guards

Cole was brought in because there was a feeling around the organisation and fan-base that the guard position needed help. Rivers and an assortment of other guards weren’t doing what was require of Monty’s system – which is heavily reliant on the point guard being able to initiate the offense.

How much truth is there behind Cole’s performance of filling the void at this position. We’ve already talked about the offense, how does Norris stack up against the others?

norris cole against other pgs

*Career statistics (via Basketball Reference)

Norris cole against other pgs on pelicans

*On the Pelicans 2014-15 (via Basketball Reference)

The big takeout is that Cole’s differentiation probably isn’t as big as we think. Cole stood out by shooting well and hitting more of his shots than usual. Because of that his offensive efficiency was better.

But on the whole he really isn’t a significantly better player for the role asked by the Pelicans this season. His assist rating was high for his career, but wasn’t as high as it could have been (if he’d of taken less shots).

What stands out here the most is defense. None of the Pels guards, including Cole, performed defensively. This is a question that must get answered for the future, whether it’s the system or the player because all performed similarly in this respect.

It’s the area of his game that was probably the most disappointing. His energy and veteran experience was wonderful to have, but he could guard at the level required. Now again, it all comes back to a question I can’t really answer. Was it the coaching staff or was it indeed the lack of talent the Pelicans have acquired for the position?

I tend to lean more towards the latter. Holiday and even Toney Douglas at times, showed an ability to play strong perimeter defense. New Orleans’ steal rate declined throughout the season and that is a critique of Cole’s game whether it’s entirely valid or not – the numbers are not as encouraging as we’d like.

The contract situation

Norris Cole is a restricted free-agent this summer with a 3.2 million dollar qualifying offer available for the Pelicans. There will be a 3 million dollar cap hold against him which New Orleans could renounce. As the cap is likely to go up we could see Cole command a similar per-year amount on the open market.



As an overall assessment, Cole’s time with the Pelicans was very positive experience. He did a good job of making more of his shots than expected and he didn’t make a great deal of mistakes. His energy and experience were vital for the Pelicans in a successful playoff campaign – something Monty valued greatly.

However it does come back to the point about Dell Demps’ ability to bring in quarter’s when all you are giving up is a dime. Because of this I don’t foresee the Pelicans re-signing Cole as I would expect him to try and secure a long-term deal at a price that isn’t cost-effective for the team. By no means would it discredit the value he brought to the organisation, nor his performance while he was here.

I think the Pelicans will try to seek value elsewhere, potentially from the draft or even bringing in some players from Europe. The risk here is that NOLA could be ignoring a player that has improved each season since coming in to the league. Could the qualifying offer restrict New Orleans from getting the player it needs desperately? Or could the Pels be right back where they started, in desperate need of backup point-guard help?

Cole provides a distinct value as a player who can, on volume, hit the open look, run your offense and not make poor decisions too often. He needs work defensively, but a new coaching staff will need to analyse if he can improve to the level required to stop the deepest position in the league.

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New Orleans Pelicans Head Coaching Tournament: Ettore Messina v. Mike D’Antoni Tue, 19 May 2015 19:42:41 +0000 Ettore Messina

By: Christopher Louis Romaguera

Theoretically, Ettore Messina has the most interesting and effective offensive schemes out of any of the potential head coaches for the New Orleans Pelicans. He also may be the biggest gamble, having never been a head coach in the NBA or collegiate level. Messina has coached in nearly every European league imaginable, and as decorated as they come in Europe. Messina has won: 4 Euroleague championships, 4 Italian League Championships, 7 Italian Cup Championships, 5 Russian League Championships, 2 Russian Cup Championships, and 2 VTB United League Championships in his last two seasons in Europe. Messina has also been awarded Euroleague Coach of the Year twice, and was named one of the “50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors” in 2008.

Unlike David Blatt (comparisons will be inevitable), Messina would come into a head coaching position with a little NBA experience, having been a full-time consultant for the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2011-2012 NBA season under Mike Brown, and being the lead assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs this past season. Messina was the head coach for the Spurs for a few games this season when head coach Greg Popovich couldn’t give it a go.

For all intents and purposes, Messina has taken the San Antonio Spurs job in order to learn from Pop (and use that experience to propel him to a head coaching job in the NBA.) He has written blog posts about his experience, showing a humility and eagerness to learn that Blatt did not by accepting an assistant coach position. After signing Messina last year, Pop said “I am honored to have such an accomplished individual join our program…Coach Messina is an exceptional coach, a great leader and someone we can all learn from.”

Messina is a diehard basketball lover, and X’s and O’s savant, to the point where he published a paper on his offensive philosophy. Unlike Monty Williams, who often sent messages about not having the personnel for his defense or offense, Messina talks about utilizing the players he has, saying it is on the coach to put players “into the best conditions to be dangerous on offense: we want to be effective using the players’ skills.”

Messina places an emphasis on the team playing uptempo, moving like “a wave.” The team is expected to get into the break via “the defense and it starts from a recovered or stolen ball. Other times, the action begins from a defensive rebound or after an opponent’s scored basket. We play an organized transition, changing the ball side, and finally getting the ball inside to the center.” Everything Messina does on offense is based off of catching the defense off-guard in order to find an advantage. With Messina, there is no excuse when it comes to slowing down the game.

Messina also preaches getting the ball into the middle of the court, something that would greatly benefit Anthony Davis. Messina stresses “Our first goal is to give the ball to the center after penetrating inside the defense. In this way, we create a situation where the defense must react and where we now have a precise rhythm for our offense after the ball has gone inside.” He also stated “For our offensive rhythm, it is critical that the ball find its way to our inside player. Playing the ball only on the perimeter creates a lot of difficulties for our offense and, as a result, it becomes harder to win game” (I imagine many Pelicans fans will be nodding after watching the offense last season.).

The Pelicans got rid of Williams because of he wasn’t the long-term fit for the franchise. Quotes like this from Messina let you know this is a coach with the longview in mind:

“Players must understand what needs to be done after the defense gets to work. They need to know what happens when the center is double teamed, how to move off the pick-and-roll, and how to position themselves in order to attack the weak points of their opponents. This is not an immediate process, but something that is built gradually as the young players learn the game. They must come to learn that at every ball possession, we must produce something, whether it be through a series of well-executed passes, or by reading a mismatch on the court and quickly exploiting it.”

This understanding that offense isn’t about play calls, but a unit’s understanding of time and place, is exactly the kind of offense that works in today’s NBA. If the Pelicans were to build an offense like that, they would be much more free flowing, and create open and good looks within the flow of the offense.

If the Pelicans really are trying to build off the Spurs model, which can be deducted by Dell Demps and Williams being a part of the fabric for the past five years, Messina may be the perfect coach. The biggest issue with European based coaches is getting used to the rigor of the NBA schedule, but Messina just got a crash course from the best in  the business by being under Pop for the past year.

The biggest Messina specific criticism is that he is hard on his players, and may lose them. But the same was/can still be said of Popovich. But Pop got credibility by winning, and having his best player buy-in. Assuming Davis buys in to Messina, it is easy to see how the rest of the team will fall into line. Messina has taken note how Pop calls the team a program, and if he has taken that lesson to heart, the Pelicans could possibly see Messina build something permanent in New Orleans. A system like that, with a superstar like Davis, could be ripe for a longterm dynasty.


Mike D’Antoni

By Joe Gerrity

When you think of Pelicans basketball over the Monty Williams era, one word comes to mind– boring. Despite having teams that were young, fast, and ideally suited athletically for a 21st century style offense, Monty’s coaching resulted in the Pelicans playing the slowest basketball in the NBA over his tenure.

While winning a title is obviously the first priority, it’s not the only one. Fans want to see fun, exciting basketball. They want to see fast breaks, three pointers and epic dunkathons. With D’Antoni and a talented young team, there’s little doubt that you’re going to get to see the Smoothie King Center erupt with excitement on a regular basis.

D’Antoni has arguably impacted offensive strategy in the NBA more than anyone else in the past 15 years. His run and gun style and often positionless offense are utilized by coaches around the league, and both are ideally suited to the skill set of Anthony Davis. There are few big men in the league who can hang with Davis on a coast to coast sprint, and we’ve already seen how good he is at catching around the rim and finishing. It’s a mouthful, but the “throw the ball to Anthony Davis as he runs past his lumbering opponent” offense is damn effective. It’s a shame we haven’t seen more of it.

Last year the Pelicans were 24th in fast break points per game, scoring just 10.7, a pathetic total for such a young, athletic team. For reference, the Warriors notched 21 per game and the Rockets 18.8. In order to move forward the Pelicans need to take advantage of their speed and athleticism. They need to run, and nobody knows that game better than D’Antoni.

Haters (and my opposition) will argue that D’Antoni has rather objectively failed in his last two high profile coaching jobs, but it’s not hard to see why– the personel was simply not a good match for his system. You can blame him for not game planning better and altering his strategy to mesh with his players, and that’s fair criticism, but in New Orleans he would have the personnel to go back to his bread and butter style of basketball.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m concerned about defense as well, but as others have noted there are plenty of defensive minded assistant coaches on the market who would kill to work under Mike D’Antoni and with Anthony Davis. Also, if I may cross sports for a minute, the Saints championship defense was hardly great in a traditional sense, but they forced a lot of turnovers and the team took full advantage of them on the other end.

I see the Pelicans operating in a similar manner under D’Antoni. They might get burned on occasion defensively, but if the focus is on steals and forcing turnovers, and they are capable getting out in transition and finishing at a high percentage, then I’m willing to overlook some of the detriments of the run and gun. Especially since it’s so fun to watch.

Just picture Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday running the high pick and roll with Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon on the outside ready to fire long balls at a moments notice, with no hesitation. Do you really leave Holiday and Davis essentially in a 2v2 situation time and time again, or do you have your wings cheat off the Pelicans deep threats? It’s a no-win situation for a defense, and it’s something Monty just didn’t effectively run.

If the Pelicans go with D’Antoni, fans will never be bored again, and it’s possible we’ll witness some of the best offensive basketball this league has ever seen. There are certainly other more traditional options, but none with so much experience running and designing a fast paced offense.


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How the Pelicans Can Make Room For a DeAndre Jordan Max Contract Tue, 19 May 2015 15:26:13 +0000 A report came out yesterday saying that there was some tension between Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan this season. If that is the case, and DeAndre Jordan goes into free agency with an open mind, it would make sense for Dell to pursue him. That is the easy part. The hard part is meeting his contract demands, should he decide that a pairing with Anthony Davis makes the most sense for him. Multiple teams with throw a max contract at Jordan, so the Pelicans will have to match that just to be in the conversation, and that contract would start at $18.8 million next season.

As you can see in this terrific piece done by Mason Ginsberg, the Pelicans won’t have that kind of space unless Eric Gordon opts out. Even if they renounce the rights to Omer Asik and all the other potential free agents this summer, they will fall about $10 million short of meeting Jordan’s demands. But this has never stopped Demps before. If he sees a target he wants, he goes and gets him and then figures out how to make the money work later. He did it with Tyreke Evans two years ago, and he did it brilliantly with Omer Asik last year.

So, how can Dell find a way to give Jordan a max contract if the free agent big man decides to make New Orleans his home? Glad you asked!

1. Find a Trade Partner for Eric Gordon

This is the simplest solution in theory, but maybe the hardest to actually execute. Eric Gordon is due $15.5 million next season, and if you can get a team to absorb his full contract, you could have enough to sign Jordan, and also pick up Cole’s Qualifying Offer. That would give you a terrifying three-man trio as your bigs (AD-Jordan-Ryno) and three guards all capable of playing both positions (Jrue-Tyreke-Cole), plus Quincy can swing down to the two. You can add a SF with he room exception, or maybe you move Ryno for a SF and bring Cunningham back to play the 4.

As for Gordon suitors, you are looking for a team that wants to be better next year, but misses out on free agents (think New York or the Lakers) or you can find a team with a ton of cap room that will take him on if you throw them a future pick (think Philly). Gordon is expiring, so he might actually be somewhat sought after, especially when you consider he can be a temporary fix before he comes off the books just as the cap jumps next year.

2. Negotiate a Buyout and Stretch Eric Gordon

I have talked about this at length here and here, and now could be the best time to utilize this clause. The Pelicans can stretch Gordon, and that will guarantee them at least $10.3 million in savings this year. Or, they can negotiate a buyout (of say $12 million) that will save them a little more. Gordon might agree to this because it will give him freedom with regard to where he plays next year, rather than being subject to the process where anybody can place a bid for his services and he has to go there.

3. Trade Tyreke Evans

You can make the argument that it might be smarter to keep Eric Gordon because of his shooting and relationship with Jordan, and let Tyreke go because the paint is likely to be more clogged with DeAndre. The Gordon lineup would provide far more space, and Tyreke would likely have more value on the market than Gordon. Rather than giving up an asset to unload Gordon, you might be able to get an asset for Tyreke. You can take back a late lotto or mid-to-late 1st round pick for Tyreke and have enough money to give Jordan the max. Would you rather have Eric Gordon and Sam Dekker next to Jrue, AD, and Jordan or Tyreke Evans?

4. Sign and Trade With the Clippers

This one gets a little messy, as the Pelicans would have to send out at least $14 million in salary to make this work. That can mean Gordon. It could mean Tyreke and Q-Pon, or re-signing Asik and trading him with Ryan Anderson. But it would involve too many moving parts, and if Jordan wants to come here anyway, why would Dell give up assets for him when he doesn’t need to? Still, it’s a possibility.


If Dell can come to terms with DeAndre Jordan this summer, he can make the money work. It might kill some depth and it will weaken our guard rotation, but it will also instantly give the Pelicans the best front line in the NBA. The offense could become almost unstoppable if the point guards read the pick and roll correctly, the defense will be impenetrable, and the boards will all be swallowed up.

People will bring up the Hack-A-Shaq concern with Jordan, but there is a solid chance that the rules committee changes that in the coming months or years, and you also always have Ryan Anderson to throw in the game when that happens. It’s not like you will have to put in Big Baby or Hedo Turkoglu. The issue here will be convincing Jordan that this is the best spot for him. The selling point will obviously be Anthony Davis, and the prospect that another piece can be added next summer. A team with Jrue, AD, and Jordan would still have enough cap space to get a major (even a max) piece in 2016, even if AD and Jordan are maxed out. Oh, and the new coach could get Jordan excited too .

That guy Gentry had some success with him (Clips had the #1 offense in the league with him as an assistant). A defensive minded coach would love it too. A Jordan/Davis combo would get early offense started with their ability to block shots, steal/deflect passes, and swallow up every rebound on the defensive end. Regardless of the direction the Pelicans go in their coaching search, anybody could make that combo work.

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New Orleans Pelicans Head Coaching Tournament: Stephen Silas vs. Ime Udoka Mon, 18 May 2015 19:13:37 +0000 The Case for Stephen Silas

By: Michael McNamara

When Stephen Silas was first hired by this organization (I know the Hornets history has gone back to Charlotte, and the name has changed, blah, blah, but it was THIS organization), many people thought it was just nepotism rearing its ugly head and a father getting his son a job. Since then, however, the junior Silas has been putting together an impressive resume that figures to lead to a head coaching job sometime in the near future. So why not here? Why not now? With the Pelicans.

Silas was the youngest assistant (27) in the history of the NBA when he joined the Hornets in 2000, and after spending three years with them, he moved on with his father to be an assistant for the Cavaliers, where he worked with Lebron, amongst others. He then became an advanced scout before moving on to Golden State, where he became an assistant again. His most recent stop has been Charlotte yet again, where he has spent the last 4 years, and where the current coach Steve Clifford has said Silas is ready to be a Head Coach and even Kemba Walker championed for him to be coach before Clifford got the job. 

Silas has been a part of the game all of his life, and has been credited in multiple stops for helping to develop young players – particularly guards. He spent a lot of time with Stephen Curry early in his career (see below)

This offers a striking contrast to the raw, unpolished Curry who joined the Warriors in 2009. Then-assistant coach Stephen Silas worked with Curry and Anthony Morrow, among other young players, on basic two-ball dribbling and passing drills.
Curry struggled at first, Silas recalled, and his movements weren’t nearly as smooth and natural as they are today. But Curry stuck with it. He credits Silas for his early development and still uses the coach’s pregame ballhandling routine

He has 14 years in the NBA, doing everything from scouting to player development to game preparation as an assistant. He even developed scouting systems at multiple stops that teams still use today. He is a bright young coach that is respected by his players because he makes them better. He has even done some coaching overseas in multiple camps, and has done some Summer League and Pre-Draft camp coaching as well.

The truth of the matter is that both of the men in this matchup lack a resume that guarantees success as a future Head Coach, but Silas has been developing and scouting players for more than a decade now. He understands the X’s and O’s of the game, and has helped develop two of the greatest players in our league. He has learned from Paul Silas, Don Nelson, and Steve Clifford amongst others. He has been a part of dominant offenses and dominant defenses as an assistant.

The knowledge is undoubtedly there, but anybody who has been employed that long in the league will have that. The question then becomes whether or not he will be able to be the manager of a team. Not a coach, but a manager. Players have egos and there are 15 personalities in the locker room. On top of that, you have to deal with your staff, the media, your supervisors, and the fans. All that must be managed, and Silas has the ability to do that. Not only has he seen it all, but he has his Bachelor’s in both Sociology and Management.

The X’s and O’s will likely come from some sets he has taken from his stops and from a top notch supporting staff. I am not going to say that is the ‘easy part’, but it is certainly not the most important. What is important is getting buy in from the players, putting the players in the best position to succeed, and improving their skills on a daily basis. Silas has the ability to do all of these things, and he has the ability to grow with the teams young superstar for the next decade and a half.

Silas is not the safe play when you consider all of the guys in this bracket, but he is both the safe play and the smart play in this particular matchup. And he might be the best play of all these guys long term.

The Case for Ime Udoka

By: Ryan Schwan

Hard work.  Perseverance.  A will to succeed.  Love of the game. To reach the top level of the coaching tree in the NBA, these skills are almost required – at some level.  There are some guys out there, who are still simply special cases.  If you take Ime Udoka’s basketball career, it’s a case study in determination.  After being lightly recruited and playing his way through the University of San Francisco and Portland State University in college, Udoka played for no less than five teams from 2001 to 2004 in the IBA, NBDL, USBL and internationally before getting a brief call up to the Lakers. Hhe then played for another 4 teams over the next 3 years around the world before getting another brief shot with the Knicks.  Cut again, Ime still didn’t give up, and made it into Portland’s training camp the following off-season.  Despite dealing with the death of his father, he was so locked in and impressive that he earned a full season (and 75 sites) from the Blazers and parlayed that into a contract from the Spurs for the following two years.

The talent wasn’t necessarily there.  The defense, the toughness, the professionalism?  He had that in spades.  He worked so hard that Greg Popovich came calling in 2012 when he had a spot open up on his staff.  At age 35, Udoka joined the most celebrated coaching staff in the NBA and has learned at the feet of the ultimate master for 3 straight years.  He has run their summer league team for two years straight.  With Budenholzer gone to Atlanta, Ime has had to manage more of the offensive planning duties – an offense that continued to be one of the best in the league.

Some will point to the Hawks, the Warriors – or even previous iterations of the Heat and Mavericks as the most efficient versions of the modern NBA offense.   The true genesis, however, is driven by this Spurs team that Ime currently works for.

Udoka is 37 years old now.  If you are going the route of a young assistant coach who can relate to players today and grow with a young superstar, this is exactly the sort of profile you should be looking for.

And if you don’t believe me, believe Popovich.  Here’s his response when asked if he thought Ime could be a head coach.

“Ime has the toughness and the mind to where he understands how to maintain discipline. A lot of coaches will give in and do what’s easy. He knows how to handle players. He has been able to stroke them and stay on them at the same time. That’s a really good quality.

“The players know he cares about them, but he can make demands and they respond to him. That’s important for a head coach. Players have great ‘BS antennae.’ If they think you don’t know what you’re doing, they’re going to call you out immediately.”

Could Udoka fail?  Certainly.  No coaching tree is always the right answer.  Popovich has spawned Doc Rivers and Budenholzer, but he also has Jacque Vaughn and Vinny Del Negro in his tree.

But it’s still the right place to start – and if you know anyone is going to work hard to make it succeed, you can rest assured Ime Udoka will do that.  Isn’t that what we need?

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Season in Review: Jrue Holiday Mon, 18 May 2015 18:44:53 +0000 It’s disheartening to once again give Jrue Holiday an “Incomplete,” as he missed more games than he played this year for the second season in a row. Next year, the third year in his four year deal, Holiday won’t be graded as an “Incomplete”. Playing or not, he is what he is, next year.


In so many ways, Holiday teased New Orleans with another great season. Unlike Ryan Anderson, who needs to be hitting threes and running down the court for easy looks in transition, or Tyreke Evans who needs to be getting a good burst to get into the key, Holiday has a positive effect on every game, on both sides of the floor whether he is having a “good” game or not. Holiday averaged 6.9 assists per a game this year, which would have ranked tenth in the league, right between James Harden and Kyle Lowry. Holiday’s issues with turnovers in Philadelphia didn’t transfer to New Orleans, where this season he only averaged 2.3 per game. His 3.01 Ast/To ratio is a sign of a good point guard. And on a team that at times struggled to hit from beyond the arc, Holiday’s 37.8% shooting from deep range is a nice touch. Holiday also averaged the exact same percentage on threes both via catch and shoot and off the bounce, a tough and impressive feat that displays the versatility of which he could attack the defense.

A Point Guard

After Tyreke Evans took over the starting point guard duties due to Holiday’s injuries, many contemplated whether Evans is better as the starting point guard. While Evans is a playmaker, Holiday is a point guard. Evans had too many possessions last year where he dribbled the ball for 10 seconds without making a move, letting the defense stay set and not forcing them into an action. That time crippled an offense that wouldn’t get enough ball movement going for it afterwards. Holiday, despite not getting much time with Dante Cunningham, Quincy Pondexter, Norris Cole or Eric Gordon 2.0, passed more (54.1 to 52.1), and got more from his passes despite playing less time. Holiday saw slight advantages in points created per 48 minutes off of Assists (22.6-22.4) and secondary assists (1-.8).

At the same time, watching how he made players better, or the game easier for them, is crucial. It is most apparent with Anthony Davis, who took more shots off of Holiday passes, and shot better off of Holiday passes. Holiday averaged 2.8 assists per game just to Davis, while Evans had 2.1. More telling, Davis shot 57.8% from the field after receiving a Holiday pass, to just 49.6% from the field after an Evans pass. Holiday’s ability to make Davis better alone is critical.

Holiday also gives the team more options as a high pick and roll player. While Evans has an elite ability to get into the paint at will, his inability to nail 3s or even midrange jumpers off the bounce allows teams to sink on him when playing defense. The Golden State Warriors did this to Evans all series long in the playoffs. Especially if Asik is setting the pick, neither player has any range that the team feared, so the Warriors were able to allow both players to drop. With Holiday, the situation is different, because he is so good at shooting off the bounce. This season, Holiday shot 46.9% from dead center threes, the kind of threat that forces a team to scramble on its pick and roll defense and allows Holiday to attack the paint or pass to a more open man early in the possession.

Holiday Shot Chart


Holiday has been noted as one of the best defensive point guards in the league for quite some time, and the numbers back that up. Holiday averaged 1.6 steals per game this season, which would have placed him in the top-20, tied with LeBron James, Eric Bledsoe and Kyle Lowry.  Not only that, but head coach Monty Williams had Holiday covering not only point guards, but shooting guards and small forwards as well, since he shared the starting lineup with the likes of Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, and Luke Babbitt on the wings. Holiday even tried to body-up LeBron James in the Pelicans first matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers this year. Having better wing defenders such as Pondexter and Cunningham (and even Cole) available this year will hopefully allow Holiday to concentrate on defending just the point guard. Ideally, a defensive system will also be in place that allows Holiday to take advantage of his upper body strength and wingspan when disrupting the opposing point guard’s play.

The pairing of Holiday with Norris Cole in the point guard rotation can make opposing point guard’s nights extremely difficult. Both players can hound the point guard and change the offense’s point of attack. Even in his limited time on the floor in the Golden State Warriors series, Holiday held the Warriors players he was covering to 35% shooting from the field, a 13.3% decrease from their average this playoffs. Against the best backcourt in the NBA, that is huge.

On/Off Court

You can see what Holiday means to the team just by looking at the team’s stats when he is on the court as opposed to when he is off the court. When Holiday is on the court, the Pelicans had their highest OffRtg at 108.8. Holiday led the team to their highest True Shooting Percentage at 55.2% as well. The Pelicans had their fastest Pace with Holiday on the court (as far as rotation players go) with a Pace of 95.51. The team also had their fewest amount of possessions result in turnovers with Holiday, as the team had a Turnover Percentage of 13% (tied with Ryan Anderson). On defense, the team averaged 7.8 steals per game when he was on the floor, the highest among any rotation player for the team (the team averaged 6.7 steals per game.) With Holiday on the floor, the Pelicans had their second best Net Rating (3.5), trailing only Anthony Davis as far as rotation players go.

One of the best lineups the Pelicans had all season, was the Holiday-Gordon-Evans-Davis-Omer Asik lineup that outscored opponents by 9.8 points (the Pelicans most used lineup, replaced Holiday for Pondexter, and outscored opponents by 5.1 points.) If you replaced Asik with Anderson, the Pelicans outscored opponents by 4.1 points per game. Two of the most efficient and sustainable lineups for the Pelicans involved Holiday helming the offense.


This is the make or break season for Holiday. While it is unfortunate how his first two seasons have played out, even an unlucky break next year would cause the trade and his campaign as a Pelican to be labeled as a failure. Holiday was the first domino after Davis for how this team was built, with Evans coming on the heels of that move.

Holiday has teased New Orleans with his play. He has shot well from deep, both off the catch and off the bounce. His defense has been great and based off every available quote and (and from the look of it), he is a team leader. He finished this campaign with his highest PER of his career (18.8), and limited his turnovers. All the numbers point to the team being better when Holiday is on the floor. Even during his return, you would see Holiday trying to fit in, and even cutting off the ball was making the right reads in order to bend the defense. Against the Warriors, there was one play in Game 3 where Holiday cut into the paint, received the ball, then sent the ball to the corner for the an open 3. Plays and reads like that are all too important in today’s NBA. They are the mark of a smart player, and someone who can be a key piece to a championship team. Now, New Orleans just has to see him do it for a full season.

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New Orleans Pelicans Head Coach Tournament: Jeff Van Gundy vs Mark Jackson Mon, 18 May 2015 15:16:10 +0000 The Case for Jeff van Gundy

by: Mason Ginsberg

9 full seasons as a NBA head coach. 8 playoff appearances. 430-318 (.575) career record. Only one losing season (mainly because Yao Ming & Tracy McGrady both missed significant time).

Want a coach who knows what it takes to win? Look no further than Jeff Van Gundy. At only 53 years of age, he is at a pretty ideal point for a guy with so much proven success in the league (for comparison’s sake, Thibodeau is 57 and Gentry is 60). Van Gundy is old enough to have plenty of meaningful experiences under his belt, but young enough to realistically coach the Pelicans for the next 10-15 years without “burning out” or needing to retire.

Van Gundy’s most valuable trait is his ability to coach up a defense, regardless of personnel. For example –

JVG-coached team defensive rating rankings: 2nd, 4th, 4th, 6th, 3rd, 5th, 4th, 6th, 3rd

You’re reading that correctly. In his 9 full seasons as a NBA head coach (five with the Knicks and four with the Rockets), his teams have never finished worse than 6th in the league in defensive rating. The numbers speak for themselves, people – you want to right the ship on the defensive end? Van Gundy is the man for the job, as he gives you the excellent coaching without wearing on his players like Thibodeau is known for doing.

Van Gundy has also shown a strong ability throughout his NBA career to be pretty versatile on the offensive end. Want proof?

JVG-coached team 3-point attempts per game rankings: 17th, 20th, 9th, 21st, 20th, 14th, 6th, 7th, 14th, 3rd

Typically, you will see coaches routinely rank either near the top or bottom of the league based on their offensive style. As you can see, that is not the case with Van Gundy, as he has clearly shown the ability to reinvent his offensive game plan based on the roster he has at his disposal. Have an elite scoring big man like Patrick Ewing? Pound the ball inside. Have great 3-point shooters like Luther Head, David Wesley, or Shane Battier who get a ton of open looks playing alongside Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming? Tell them to fire away. While Jeff Van Gundy is certainly more known for his defense than his offense, he has always been able to adjust the offense based on his team’s skill sets.

One final point about Van Gundy’s candidacy – the man has experience coaching elite, unique big men. With 5 years of Patrick Ewing and 4 seasons of Yao Ming, he knows what it takes for front court players with varying skill sets to excel in the NBA. That kind of experience would be immensely valuable to a guy like Anthony Davis, who is always looking to add new elements to his game. The thought of JVG coaching AD is highly enticing to me, and it should be to each of you as well.

The Case for Mark Jackson

by: Ryan Schwan

Oh stop it.


You don’t think I see you rolling your eyes over there? Mouthing “Mark Jackson” and chortling to yourself about how stupid the idea is?

Well guess what? If you take just a moment to get past the hatchet job done on Mark Jackson by his former management team and look at actual results, you might be a bit surprised by the reality of Mark Jackson, Head Coach.

Jackson, a former All-Star point guard, coached the Golden State Warriors for three years, starting with the lockout season.  He took over a team that outperformed en route to 36 wins while posting only the 14th ranked offense and the 26th ranked defense.  He was fired after a season in which his team posted the 11th best offense and the 4th best defense – against the 4th toughest schedule in the league.  His team beat their opponents by an average of 4.8 points per game, just shy of the Contender Standard of 5.

He ushered in the transformation of a pretty crappy team to a pretty phenomenal one, and he did it on the back of the one thing most people are willing to give credit to coaches for:  Defense.  His team went from abysmal to elite.  Elite.  And people dismiss  him because he and the new management in place above him didn’t see eye to eye and when he was canned the Warriors carefully assassinated his character to all and sundry.

But that doesn’t take away what he did defensively for that Warriors team as he laid the foundation for this year’s 67 win team.

Now, what is our teams number one issue again?  Oh yeah!  Defense!

It’s also not just defensive philosophies that Jackson brings to the table either.  His players well and truly loved him.  When he was fired, Curry stated that it was “really hard” and “Coach Jackson . . . was such a great coach for us and elevated a lot of our individual games, and I’m proud of that and appreciate that.”  He was clearly upset by the firing of Jackson,  who could motivate, connect with, and teach young players and help them improve defensively.

If you were constructing a coach for this young team – wouldn’t your description be something similar to that?

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New Orleans Pelicans Head Coach Tournament: Alvin Gentry vs. Mike Malone Sat, 16 May 2015 22:51:53 +0000 Alvin Gentry

by: Chris Romaguera

Alvin Gentry’s letter of recommendation list is as impressive as anyone’s. It kind of comes off as a trailer to a movie where every actor has won or been nominated for an Oscar or Golden Globe. He’s been an assistant coach for everyone from Larry Brown to Mike D’Antoni, Terry Porter, Greg Popovich (kinda), Doc Rivers and Steve Kerr.  He was the head coach for the Phoenix Suns during the 2009-’10 season where the Suns were the number one ranked offense in the league as per Offensive Rating (and not only did they lead the league, but they blew the league out, with a rating of 115.3, with the second place team having a rating of 111.9). Gentry’s last two stops have been with the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors as the lead assistant coach. Both years, the team led the league in Offensive Rating with Gentry on the sidelines.


Gentry, has worked under offensive juggernauts, and has taken from multiple systems. Gentry said during the 2010 playoffs (where he led the Suns to the Western Conference Finals), “We are not seven seconds or less. We’re 12 seconds or under. We don’t take a lot of really quick shots. We don’t play with that breakneck pace. We play with a rhythm.” Having listened to Monty Williams preach pace the past few years (then blame poor defense for not picking up the pace), having a coach that knows how to pick up the pace no matter what will be a huge advantage. Gentry has run a team that was bottom-10 on defense, but still played fast, yet efficient offense.


Gentry has worked in analytically savvy staffs, that will enable the Pelicans to utilize more data. While Williams referenced at his end of the year press conference, that he “just started to pay attention to defensive rating,” Gentry has been working with coaches such as Kerr, Rivers, Popovich, and D’Antoni, who are no strangers to analytics. When doing the “Great Analytics Rankings” ESPN cited the New Orleans Pelicans as skeptics, despite having “invested heavily in analytics.” At the time of that article, the Pelicans had ended offensive plays in isolation more than any team not employing LeBron James, and their defense had given up many “high percentage looks”. Gentry utilizes information that Williams didn’t seem to possess or know how to utilize, that should make correcting those wrongs a lot easier.


Unlike Monty, who played Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans into the ground sometimes, Gentry utilizes his bench and doesn’t overplay his starters. In the 2009-2010 campaign, Amare Stoudemire led the team in minutes with 34.2 per game. Ten guys averaged double digit minutes per game, and nine guys averaged 7.9 points per game or more. New Orleans won’t have to worry about Davis being run into the ground, or player’s playing big minutes through injuries under Gentry.


This year, Doc Rivers was quoted as saying “Unfortunately, I think he gets pigeonholed sometimes in just offense…He’s a good basketball coach. I don’t think Golden State’s going to have him very long.” While not having a set system in place like a Tom Thibodeau or Mike Malone, Gentry gets his team to engage. After the 2010 Western Conference Semifinals, where the Phoenix Suns swept the San Antonio Spurs, Spurs’ Head Coach Popovich was quoted as saying “One thing about Phoenix is they are better defensively than in the past. They’re much more active, much more committed; they’ve taken responsibility to a much more significant degree than ever before.”


And Gentry understands and values the importance of having a good defensive-minded assistant coach, having seen what Ron Adams has contributed to the Golden State Warriors. You can imagine the staff will be littered with strong assistant coaches that gives the Pelicans even more of an edge being the fact that he himself has been a strong assistant coach who has helped teams excel.


The beautiful thing about Gentry’s candidacy is that you aren’t losing any of the positives of Monty Williams. Gentry gets his teams to play hard. To focus. Also, being an NBA lifer, he will have access to a lot of the same facilities and information that Monty had. Monty’s greatest strength might have been his ability to let Davis join Tim Duncan and Popovich training in the offseason. Gentry has similar connections. Davis can learn under the tutelage of a basketball lifer who can connect Davis to the rest of the league. And Gentry can connect with the entire team, having been a head coach for before, and having been in the league since 1989.

Mike Malone

by: Michael McNamara

The New Orleans defensive rating the one year Malone was here? 10th. The four years after that? 15th, 28th, 27th, 22nd. Mike Malone goes to Golden State and turns them around from the 26th ranked defense to the 14th in two years, and set the foundation in place for what became a top five defense last year and the top defense in the league this year. And then finally, he went to the toxic environment that is Sacramento and took a bottom two defense and a franchise piece that had no desire to play D, and turned them into a respectable unit (top 10 before he got fired) within 100 games. Without question, he is one of the best defensive minds available, and unlike most of the other guys who concentrate on that side of the ball (Thibodeau, Van Gundy, etc.), he is still young and has the ability to grow with AD.

And before we dive deeper into Malone’s defense, let’s make sure we don’t undersell his offense. First of all, he was the coach that got Rudy Gay to actually be somewhat efficient. Prior to coming to Sacramento, Gay was a 19 points on 18 shots kind of guy. Once Malone got his hands on him, he jumped to 20.7 points on 16.8 shots, as his true shooting percentage and his free throw rate skyrocketed under Malone. He also was the assistant in Cleveland that was actually responsible for many of the late game X’s and O’s on the offensive end. So while Malone is a defense first kind of coach, he is no slouch on the other end.

But make no mistake, if the Pelicans hire Malone it will be because they want to turn this team into an elite defense, and Malone should be able to do that now that he has more talent on that end than he had at any of his other stops. Malone is the son of Brendan Malone, who was basically responsible for the ‘Jordan Rules’ when he was an assistant with the Bad Boys Pistons. Malone, like his father, is a hard-nosed, tough-minded coach who will emphasize protecting the paint, while simultaneously defending the three-point line. Prior to Cousins getting injured this season, the Kings defense was 7th in points in the paint and 2nd in three-point defense, as opponents shot just 31.4% from behind the arc.

Remember, this was a Sacramento team that was expected to finish 14th or 15th in the West this year, and Malone had them sitting at 9-6 before Cousins went down. They came to New Orleans in game 14 and held the Pelicans to 89 points, and gave Anthony Davis more problems than anybody else had at that point of the year. Oh, and they were missing Rudy Gay in that game, but Malone pulled 22 points on 14 attempts out of Omri Casspi, who pretty much fell off the face of the earth once Malone was fired.

Despite turning around perhaps the hardest team to turn around in the NBA, Malone still got fired and this fantastic Five Thirty Eight article shows just how bogus of a decision that was, but now he is free to go somewhere that will utilize and appreciate his talents. In fact, there were rumors that his next stop could be Cleveland if the David Blatt head scratching moments continue. He will be a sought after talent, and rightfully so. In fact, Dell Demps went after him once he was fired, and offered him the job of consultant this year. He eventually chose the same position with Minnesota, but it is obvious that Dell has respect for Malone and wants him to be a part of this organization.

Malone is a young coach with plenty of experience, and he has shown that he can quickly turn defenses around while also improving guys on the offensive end. It would not be a stretch to see him turn this Pelicans defense into a top 10 unit as soon as next year, and then a top 3-5 unit shortly after that. He is young enough to grow with AD, and he will not allow this team to be paper tissue soft moving forward, especially in the middle of the defense. He has a working relationship with the man who is making the decision and checks off many of the most important boxes that Dell is looking to upgrade as he moves on from Monty Williams. In a lot of ways, Mike Malone makes just too much sense.

For previous matchups in this tournament, click here. 

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New Orleans Pelicans Head Coach Tournament: Sean Miller vs. Tony Bennett Sat, 16 May 2015 16:03:09 +0000 The Case for Sean Miller

By: Michael McNamara

All of the coaches in this tournament bring something great to the table, and it’s just a matter of figuring out which things you would like to add to the pieces already in place. In my opinion, two of the areas where I want to see improvement moving forward is guard play and free throw attempts. Miller is a former college point guard who sees the game through the eyes of a floor general, and has fantastic principles on both ends. He also is a guy who emphasizes attacking the rim and as a result, his Arizona team was #1 in the nation last season in free throw attempts.

Miller is a hard-nosed coach that comes from a coaching family. His father was a coach who groomed him from the get go, and Miller was the Head Coach of Xavier by the time he was 35. After exceeding all expectations there, he moved on to Arizona, where he has been one of the top coaches in the nation over the past five years. He is a fantastic recruiter who can relate to new-age players (was recently named Head Coach of the U19 Team USA squad) and gets them to play hard and smart. He starts his focus on the defensive end, but much of what he does is to set up the offense. He is not an old school, “Play defense and squeeze the life out of the ball on the other end.” Instead, he pressures teams on the defensive end so he can create early offense on the other side.

Arizona was third this past season in adjusted defensive rating, behind only Kentucky and Virginia (two all-time elite defenses), but still finished 7th in adjusted offensive rating. Arizona turned teams over quite a bit (7.2 steals per game, 18th in the nation) and swallowed up the boards (2nd in the nation in defensive rebound rate). Teams shot just 39.8% against them from the field, and couldn’t get quality shots off from deep (just over 5 makes per game on 33%). Basically, they forced turnovers or bad shots, and then got out in transition. The result was them leading the NCAA in both shots in the restricted area and FT attempts. Imagine the Grizzlies on defense combined with the Clippers/Rockets on offense. That was Arizona this year.

And it wasn’t a fluke. Arizona was #1 in 2014 in adjusted defensive rating, where they again were top 3 in the nation in defensive rebound percentage. He’s done all this with really only three high level NBA prospects (Aaron Gordon, who played just one year, Stanley Johnson, and Derrick Williams). He’s competed with the Kentucky’s and Duke’s of the world with just a portion of the raw, NBA level talent and has put together teams that were every bit as impressive.

In the half court, Miller has run some interesting stuff, as he emphasizes a motion offense that focuses on high-low action where bigs set back screens in an effort to force teams to switch – which creates mismatches all over the court. He also loves a dominant big in the post who forces a team to pick their poison, either double or get eaten alive two points at a time. In our offense, this big could be Anthony Davis, or it could be a guy like Greg Monroe or Brook Lopez if Dell gets aggressive in free agency.

What Miller will bring more than anything is a physicality to New Orleans, and that is sorely needed. They have the skill, but they shied away from contact when attacking the hole last season, they couldn’t protect the paint, and in the most important game of their season they couldn’t grab a defensive rebound. That stops with Sean Miller. The Pelicans will get to the line. They will protect the paint, and they will control the glass. Add that to what they did this past season, and you have a team that will be very hard to beat.

The Case for Tony Bennett

by: Mason Ginsberg

Take a look back at or for college basketball class recruiting rankings, or any other source of recruiting rankings. One school name you won’t find anywhere near the top of those lists from the past three years is the University of Virginia. “What? Why is Mason telling me that Tony Bennett is a weak recruiter?” Nope, that’s not at all what I’m doing. I’m setting the stage for one of the most impressive coaching performances at a major program in recent memory. We all know what a great recruiter can do for a program (see: Calipari, John) or simply a school with a strong basketball reputation (Arizona routinely scores top 10 recruiting classes, including top-5 in 2013 and 2014). But what about when recruiting and top talent aren’t key drivers of a team’s success? Then coaches have to actually, you know, coach! Enter Tony Bennett’s past two seasons at Virginia.

There are also plenty of coaches out there who can play the “do more with less” card; it’s a non-trivial piece of how Brad Stevens landed the Celtics gig and Shaka Smart just got a massive deal from Texas, as it is a key indicator of a coach’s ability to coach rather than just let great players play. Not to take away from the accomplishments of those two great basketball minds (both have also performed admirably in the NCAA Tourney), but those coaches don’t have to face the kind of grueling conference schedule that UVA routinely goes up against in one of the best college basketball conferences in the country, the ACC. Now we’re starting to put the pieces together – Tony Bennett, after a few years of weak recruiting classes, was somehow able to lead the Cavaliers to two consecutive regular season ACC titles via back-to-back 16-2 conference records. If you’re keeping track at home, that is better than recruiting powerhouses like Duke, Notre Dame, Louisville, North Carolina, and Syracuse (among others). How?

The most succinct answer is an elite defensive scheme. In the 2014-15 season, Bennett’s Cavaliers boasted the second best defensive rating in all of college basketball, allowing just 87.2 points per 100 possessions. To put that in perspective, teams ranked 3-5 in that regard were San Diego State, North Carolina Central, and Sam Houston State; no offense to any of those programs, but the level of competition they were facing don’t come close to what UVA dealt with on a regular basis. When adjusted for opponent, Virginia climbs to #1 overall, ahead of even Kentucky.

With a defense as tenacious as theirs, it is difficult to point to just one thing that made the team so successful, but one part that should translate magnificently to the NBA is the discipline that Bennett instills in his players. Over the past two seasons, UVA was among the best teams in the country at not just keeping opponents off of the foul line, but keeping good shooters off of the free throw line. Virginia opponents have averaged about one made free throw for every five field goal attempts in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons – .215 in 2013-14, .185 in 2014-15. While opponents’ free throw rate measures how often a team allows free throws, FT/FGA goes a step further and measures whether or not a team is allowing the right people to the free throw line. Virginia defenders are routinely some of the smartest in college basketball, and that is a testament to the team’s coach just as much as it is to their individual player basketball IQs.

It should also be noted that Virginia did not just win games with their defense. The Cavs finished with one of the top 20 offensive ratings in the country among the major college conferences; again, nothing against Eastern Washington and Northern Colorado, but it’s safe to say that those programs didn’t face the kind of defenses that Virginia ran up against. Again, the fact that this team was able to perform at such a high level in a dominant conference despite relatively weak recruiting classes speaks to the kind of coaching Tony Bennett provides.

In future rounds, I’ll dive into other specific aspects of Bennett’s coaching that makes him an obvious choice for the Pelicans. For now, his accomplishments are clear – he knows how to game plan for tough competition, he instills a rare level of discipline in his players, and he knows how to win in ways that coaches spoiled by elite talent simply cannot learn. Imagine what he could do if actually given some of that elite talent – for example, a two-way basketball machine like Anthony Davis? Sign me up.


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In the NO Podcast Ep 218: Coaching Vacancy Sat, 16 May 2015 04:48:01 +0000 Expectations were shattered with the firing of Monty Williams this week. Michael and I get together to talk about the timing of the firing, impacts it might have on AD and team acquisitions, and whether the way it was done indicates anything about Dell Demps’ power in the organization.

Then we get into the good stuff. Who replaces Monty? We talk Thibs, Gentry, Hoiberg, Jeff Van Gundy, Coach Cal, and many, many more. We make our picks, talk about who Dell might be looking at, and what we hope will happen.

Tim Floyd’s name even comes up!

Enjoy the Podcast!

Like the Show or the Blog?

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New Orleans Pelicans Season in Review: Jeff Withey Sat, 16 May 2015 04:29:10 +0000 Sometimes things just don’t break your way–and for Jeff Withey, the offseason addition of Omer Asik all but promised that he would not see many minutes.  It’s not that Withey doesn’t have NBA talent–he does–but he’s not as good as Davis, Anderson, Asik, or Ajinca, and this year, he struggled to get any minutes on the floor.  In sum, Withey played under 300 minutes this season, and many of those minutes were either in extremely short stints or in moments where the game’s outcome was already decided.  How do you evaluate a player when he’s competing against opposing players who may not even last on an NBA roster?  How do you evaluate players during garbage time?  These are the kinds of questions you have to ask in Withey’s limited run this season.. and they don’t have definitive answers.  Time reveals trends, and we didn’t see enough time to make real, accurate assessments about Withey’s season.. so what you see below is merely an attempt to explain what I did see and how it projects to Withey’s future as a backup big in the NBA.

Stats Snapshot

WIthey 2

On the whole, Withey’s stats are encouraging–13.6 points per game isn’t going to leave scouts drooling, but it’s a solid clip.  Add that to a True Shooting Percentage of 57% and you can see that, statistically, Withey did produce in his limited minutes.  His rebounding also showed a slight improvement, as Withey corralled more offensive rebounds per game en route to a respectable, albeit slightly below average for his position, total rebounding rate.  In sum, Withey’s offensive rebounding was above average and his defensive rebounding below average–nothing to get excited about, nothing to sneeze at.  His block rate remained solid, as 2.5 blocks per 36 minutes would place him in some very good company.

Current State

Right now, you can essentially count on Withey to come in and contest shots at the rim.  We saw it in the National Championship (Kansas, Kentucky)–Withey is a shot-blocking machine who held Anthony Davis to a miserable shooting night on the biggest stage.  Withey combines a 7’2 wingspan with decent leaping ability and good timing into very good shot-blocking.

On offense, Withey is still very much a work in progress.  He isn’t good at finishing at the rim in traffic, though he can catch a bounce feed and elevate if given a step.  He does a solid job of creating openings for himself by remaining active, which helps contribute to his impressive offensive rebounding total.  The hope this year was that Withey would continue to develop his midrange shot and possibly become a respectable shooter from there–but with only 8 attempts from midrange on the season, it is simply impossible to conclude whether his shooting is there yet. His efficiency around the rim isn’t very good, which reinforces his inability to finish strong against shot-blockers–but when Withey does get his shot to the rim, he has an above average touch for a backup big man. His left hand, however, is non-existent at this point, or is at least something that we haven’t seen yet.

Withey is stuck in a positional dilemma–he’s not mobile enough to chase around smaller PFs and he’s not bulky enough to hold his ground versus bigger centers. As of now, he’s someone who you can put in if you need rim protection and the opposing center isn’t a hefty post threat.  His offensive rebounding is good, but his defensive rebounding is subpar and is unlikely to improve much as he progresses into his career. His defense in space isn’t as bad as someone like Ajinca’s, but it’s not particularly great either. It’s passable.  On offense, he’s good enough to create a minor threat should the defense choose to focus its attention on other players, but that’s about all at this point.

Moving Forward

At this juncture, Withey looks more and more like a 5th big–a guy who won’t see minutes on a regular basis, but given injuries, can step in and do an adequate job without messing things up for other people.  I know that doesn’t seem like high praise, but as we saw at the beginning of this year, having bench players who can’t hold their own play even 3 or 4 minutes a time can murder your momentum.  Withey is of a higher caliber than that and is someone you can trust to do his job a few minutes a night.  There is value in that.

Withey’s shot-blocking is certainly his calling card and one that would be even more valuable if he could hold his ground in the paint versus bigger players.  If he can continue to develop his midrange shot, there’s hope that Withey could be a 5th big on a good team that could both contribute on offense and defense given the chance.  Shot-blocking, offensive rebounding, and some occasional finishing around the rim?  It’s probably enough for him to stick around the NBA for a few more years.


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