New Orleans Pelicans information, analysis and discussion Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:37:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Chris Romaguera’s Season Opener Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:37:34 +0000 ((As part of our constant change here at Bourbon Street Shots, we’ve added new writers we spent the summer recruiting, though that’s fancier sounding that it actually was. You’ve already gotten an article from Graham this summer, and he’ll have more up soon. Today, I’m pleased to reintroduce you to Chris Romaguera. I’ve included a short autobio from Chris here, he’s a rare and very cool guy. He has studied, worked, and loved all the aspects that are valued by us, and I’m sure by you. Here’s is opener with us. Enjoy, then tell him you enjoyed. — 42

Christopher Louis Romaguera is a Cuban-American writer who was born in Hialeah, Fl, right outside of Miami. Chris grew up a Miami Heat fan, and wrote for the alternative basketball site Not Your Father’s Water Cooler. He attended Florida International University, double majoring, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in English and in Philosophy in 2010. After graduating, Chris moved to New Orleans, where he writes for Where Y’at Magazine. He provided the season preview for Where Y’at for the 2013-2014 Pelicans’ season. Last season, he also covered the Pelicans’ beat for the NOLA Defender.))

I attended the New Orleans Pelicans season opener not sure where to place this team. For one, they have made huge strides, trading no tangible player for the big-man defensive anchor they needed, and most of their players are not wearing suits during games. Plus, Anthony Davis.

While Davis is getting his due (3rd in NBA rank!), the Pelicans are mostly predicted to miss the playoffs, which is completely possible, due to the basketball buzzsaw that is the Western Conference. So coming into this season, it is hard to predict the Pelicans place in the West. And while I am a fan analytics, (and will write a good deal about them in the near future), everything we know about the Pelicans’ lineups last year can be considered near null-and-void based off of the phrase “small sample size.” Also, there is something to just watching the game, and talking about what you see.  So I wrote down my thoughts on my moleskin, as I watched the game with some friends and basketball compatriots.

  • The start of the season always brings hope. Part of that hope, is having an irrational amount of confidence in your first round pick. GM Dell Demps hasn’t had a pick like that in a couple of years. This excitement seems to be geared towards Jimmer Fredette this year, who has a bit of a cult following with his “Jimmer-mania.” He was followed in the talked-about-improvement-of-players-who-may-not-be-in-the-rotation along with Alexis Ajinca (he gained 20 pounds!) and Patrick Young (that is one angry man.)
  • Just watching the team warm up, you can see the difference Omer Asik makes. Asik is a monster, dwarfing even Jeff Withey. Having a man that size anchoring your defense makes a huge difference. Asik is huge, and this team looks much bigger and more intimidating, with the giant Turkish big man in the middle (based on the first two minutes of game action, I’m expecting a lot of Drago jokes throughout the year, due to point guards’ level of fear while in the paint and the lack of Turkish cultural knowledge stateside.)
  • After one season, the most exciting lineup is no longer Jrue Holiday-Eric Gordon-Tyreke Evans-Ryan Anderson-Anthony Davis. That lineup scored at a murderous rate, but they hemorrhaged points on the other end. The most talked about lineup pre-game included using Davis/Anderson/Asik together. The idea of Anderson stretching the floor as a wing, and Davis covering the three sounds pretty interesting/bananas, and has a space station ceiling and a six feet under floor.
  • What felt like the entire lower bowl stood up waiting for the first basket as if it was a college game, which was a cool thing to see.
  • The first two minutes let us know something else about Asik. Every time Asik has the ball is going to be an adventure. With three ball-handlers who all penetrate differently and pass the ball differently, it is going to be “interesting” watching Asik adjust. I don’t know if it was playing with Derek Rose and James Harden all these years, but Asik rarely seemed ready for passes early, and it often felt like a game of volleyball down there. Another nickname possibility is “mano de pierda” which is more of a compliment if you’re a boxer, and equally incongruent racially. Jokes aside, Asik put up a very strong 14 points in the game, and is a much better pick and roll player than any of last year’s centers.
  • Of course, Asik’s imprint was extremely positive on the other end of the court. Both Gordon and Holiday were ultra-aggressive, playing the passing lanes well and pressuring up high. It is the kind of look that the Pelicans can do all season with Asik, as Austin Rivers’ length is also congruent with that kind of high pressure defense on the perimeter. The Pelicans may give some point guards nightmares this year.
  • The starters got a lot of time together, but with 4:51 left in the first quarter, Ryan Anderson came into the game. He was shortly followed by John Salmons, who came in for Evans. Leaving Gordon and Anderson together at the time felt like Coach Monty Williams wanted to see how the duo would play together, in case Gordon does find himself on the bench to help lead the second unit. In the second half, Gordon came out when Anderson did, leaving Evans with Anderson. That duo played a lot together last year, and set defenses on fire too. Evans wasn’t on the court during Anderson’s spree, but I do believe that time with Evans in the third quarter did loosen Anderson up a bit.
  • Despite what Coach Williams said during the preseason, Fredette and Rivers did play together, with Fredette mostly playing off the ball. Fredette didn’t provide much in game one. His biggest contribution personally might have been my friends’ comments after a foul was called on Jimmer, which looked like an all-ball block on the carcass of Ben Gordon. “They only called that foul cause he’s not supposed to be able to do that.” And after some booing from the crowd “The fans don’t like it when you call fouls on Jimmer.”
  • One interesting fact about The Smoothie King Arena is that the screens at the top strictly show a live feed of the game. While I see the idea behind this, it doesn’t seem the most pragmatic to me. Most arenas I’ve been to show each player on the court’s last name, personal fouls, and points. It’s a much easier way to keep up with the game. This did lead to me brainstorming a good device for these segments though. After one quarter, I pulled my cell phone out, to see what the sloppy first quarter looked like. Interesting tidbits: Asik led the team in scoring with 8 points. The Pelicans also made only 3/13 free throw attempts, which analytically speaking, sucks.
  • Davis is already at a superstar level, ut I did see a couple of things to look out for in his third year. First, Davis’ first two shots were mid-range jumpers that were bricks. Growing up in Miami, I can’t tell you how many Brian Grant shots looked like that. Teams will give Davis space if they think it will bait him into a midrange jumper. It is up to him to use that space to attack the defense in those instances. Secondly, he went through a couple of large periods in the first half without touching the ball. Davis ended up with phenomenal numbers, without doing anything necessarily phenomenal on the offensive end. Davis is always going to get his points due to rebounds, fast breaks, and general roll man action, but I’d like to see him be the focal point of more sets which allow him to create for himself and others. Feeding him the ball in the high post and work out of horns sets. Obviously, this is game one and can be hashed out quickly, but these are things I’ll be watching out for.
  • With how the first half was run, Evans will lead the team in assists this year. He spearheaded the offense. Holiday took a back seat to Evans for most of the game besides a brief moment in the third quarter. Evans missed out on a couple of assists due to fumbled passes and missed shots (he also made a couple of poor passes), but he led the team in assists last night with six.
  • During a timeout, there is an advertisement to hang out with Pierre the Pelican this Halloween. My buddy makes a quip that “I’m going to dress up as Pierre on Halloween and terrorize Frenchmen.” Pierre, plastic surgery and all, is still a little scary. After the introductions to start the game, the smoke lingered a little longer than I think they wanted, and Pierre was dancing in a smoky darkness, and I won’t sleep tonight either.
  • Every time something goes wrong in the game, and he is in the general vicinity, someone in my group blames Gordon. He is officially the Jamal Mashburn of this team.
  • Right as I put that in my moleskin, Gordon has a nasty block on the carcass of Ben Gordon.
  • Cellphone-Stat-Check 2: At the half, the Pelicans are shooting 3/14 from the charity stripe, 1/9 from beyond the arc. Both teams are shooting under 40% as the Pelicans lead by seven. Welcome to game one my beautiful readers.
  • The Pelicans did have some nice first half stats, such as having five steals, eight blocks, and forcing 10 turnovers.
  • As the second half starts, and Asik continues to dominate, it looks more and more like he is playing against a bunch of college kids. These guys look so small against him. Mind you, this predominantly against a guy named Nikola Vucevic.
  • Holiday started the third quarter more aggressively, taking more shots and penetrating more. Finding a balance between Holiday, Evans, and Gordon is key this year. None of these guys should be merely a spot-up shooter.
  • With 5:40 left in the third quarter, Davis has a monster dunk that results in an and-1 and a stoppage of the clock. A friend asks, “What do you think Davis has?” with a big smile on his face, cell phone’s blue glow illuminating him as if he was telling a ghost story. He had 18 and 12, with five blocks.
  • Friend quotes: “I feel like we’re up by ten, what the [hell.]” (Up by two at that instance.) “Feels like last year, played close games to bad teams, then we’d lose.”
  • Williams put his first cringe worthy lineup in with a little under three minutes left in the third. It was Rivers-Jimmer Fredette-Salmons-Anderson-Davis. While the Anderson/Davis duo should be good enough at scoring, with three good ball handlers, I feel like one should always be in the game. This felt like doom. Editor’s note: I was gravely wrong.
  • Anderson would back his way down for a three point play. His next shot was from beyond the arc, and you could feel everyone slowly rise in anticipation. When the ball went in, being the second three point make for the team, the entire crowd erupted. Anderson hit a second, and then right before the quarter ended, a third, and blew the lid off the arena. That run by itself was the difference in an otherwise close game.
  • Friend Quote: “I get really mad when Davis gets taken out of the game.” Me too buddy, me too.
  • We finally see the three big man lineup for a bit. On top of that, they play a 2-3 zone. It works well for a couple of possessions, but the group lasts about a minute. Definitely curious if we will see this again against a team that shoots better than the Magic (Next game: Dallas Mavericks.)
  • “[Eric] Gordon is playing great!” said after a three point play which closed Gordon’s scoring night at eight (winning cures all.) Chris’ note: Gordon didn’t play bad today, making one three and not taking the ball out of other people’s hands. This is what I expect out of him, not losing us games, not winning us games. Though the potential, as always, is there.
  • Alexis Ajinca only played in garbage time, but it was totally worth it. After making an 8 foot jumper, we once again heard the French national anthem, which reminded me of when the Mexican flag was waved from the upper bowl rafters for Gustavo Ayon.
  • Jimmer Fredette closed the scoring with his first two points of the game off a couple of free throws. It broke 100 points for the Pelicans, as well as gave us this line to close on “Jimmer’s first points in the NBA, way to go kid.”
  • Elfrid Payton played his first game in the NBA this year. Being from Gretna, and going to school at the University of Louisiana Lafayette, there were a lot of jerseys, as well as friends and family at the event. It was definitely more jerseys than I’ve ever seen outside of Orlando. He struggled mightily last night. He got blocked often in the paint, and left many of us saying “What are you doing?”  The best line being “Don’t worry he’s the point guard, he’s only going to have the ball in his hands the entire game.”
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Pelicans Go BIG Against the Magic Wed, 29 Oct 2014 16:24:31 +0000 For 69 beautiful seconds in the 4th quarter last night, the Pelicans line up featured the three-headed monster of Davis, Anderson, and Asik… at the same time. The gigantic lineup included Gordon and Evans at the two guard spots and resulted in a steal, 2 trips to the line, and a turnover.

All right, fine! Not a lot happened during that little more than a minute of play, but it was an interesting wrinkle. It immediately makes sense on offense. Evan penetrates off a screen from Davis or Asik, and he looks for Ryno or Gordon in the corner, passes, or goes to the hoop. Or whatever. The point is that you have a guy that can penetrate, two guys who can shoot from 3, and Anthony Davis. The offense will work out.

Defense was the more interesting side of the ball as the Pelicans ran a 2-3 zone. Obviously, zone defense isn’t something you see often in the NBA, and I doubt we see this line up because of that limitation. However, young and/or bad teams tend to struggle adjusting to the zone. The Dallas Mavericks had a nice zone defense package they ran with some success a few years back. What did you guys think when you saw all 3 bigs on the court? Is it just a gimmick, or do you think it has potential to be a standard part of the playbook?

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Monty Williams Threw Us All Off the Scent With His Rotations Wed, 29 Oct 2014 02:28:09 +0000 We have seen that, at times, Monty loves to troll us. And I have to admit that he got me again. I studied every word he said over the last month, and I thought I had his rotation pegged coming into this game. I wanted Monty to play Rivers and Jimmer together, but Monty strongly implied it was one or the other. I saw Ajinca and Babbitt getting key minutes in the preseason with starters, and assumed they would be in the rotation. I saw Salmons struggle, and saw Monty scale back his minutes because he was terrible offensively and defensively. Because of all this, I thought it was a lock that the rotation would feature 9 guys (The Big Six, Ajinca, Babbitt, and Rivers) and that we would see 8-10 minutes of the three big man lineup.

I was wrong.

The AD-Asik-Anderson trio only got a minute and a half of playing time together, and Jimmer surprisingly got 18 minutes, while Salmons got 10. Even more surprisingly, both Babbitt and Ajinca registered DNP’s for all intents and purposes. They got in the game, along with Withey, when the game was already over (Pels up 23 with 2 and a half mins left). Now, maybe this was a matchup thing, but if there was a team that Babbitt could play SF against, it is Orlando. Same goes for Ryan Anderson.

No complaints here. You can’t nitpick after a blowout win to start the season, but I will say that Monty got me yet again. What did you guys think about the rotations? What would you change, if anything? (Box Score)

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Magic @ Pelicans Open Thread Tue, 28 Oct 2014 17:15:02 +0000 It’s here everyone! The start of the New Orleans Pelicans 2014-2015 season. What a glorious day for Anthony Davis to begin his ascendance to an absolute Super Star!

As we go through this season you may notice a few tweaks to some of the Bourbon Street Shots coverage. You’ll see a balance of Open Threads instead of Game On’s. As for Recaps, plenty of media outlets give you the story of the game. And that is important. Even after watching a game I enjoy reading a recap that night or the next morning.

But we want to do more of what we do best: analysis. Our recaps will focus more on the analysis part instead of a rehashing of a box score. They may be shorter than they have been in the past, but they’ll be more concise with information, and there may be multiple.

With that in mind our writers will be more active in the comments of the site on game days. So if you’re at home watching the game, in the arena or at Tracey’s on your phone ask us questions and give us your take on the game.

So! What are your predictions for the Pelicans record? Do you like Tyreke Evans starting at small forward? Are you going to the game? Just how excited are you for tonight?

Oh, and no injuries, no injuries, no injuries.

Content Update:

Not one, but two short audio clips from Gerry V:

V on the Defense

V on the Guards

News Update:

Tyreke Evans is starting at Small Forward this evening.

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Can History Repeat Itself This Season for New Orleans? Mon, 27 Oct 2014 14:11:25 +0000 Prior to the 2007-08 season, all the experts made their predictions. Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were a title favorite, and the Spurs were poised for another Championship after winning the year before. In fact, according to the experts, the Southwest division as a whole was loaded. And while the Spurs, Grizzlies, Mavericks, and Rockets were all near playoff locks, the young upstart Pelicans were the team that the experts said would be fun to watch, but still a year or two away. We all remember that season, as Chris Paul took the final step towards superstardom and the Hornets had the top record in the West for the majority of the season before settling in as the No. 2 seed. Not one GM picked the Pelicans to win the division, and as you can see from the ESPN predictions below, most pundits had the Pelicans as either an 8th seed or on the outside looking in.



So, imagine how insane it would have looked to project that the Hornets as a #2 seed. Or what if you would have said they would make it to the second round and that they would take the defending champs to a 7th game? We all think we are so smart, and the prevailing theory is that this season will look a lot like last season, with a few small exceptions. But every year the ‘experts’ are really off on 4 or 5 teams. Why can’t one of those teams be the New Orleans Pelicans this year? Aren’t there too many similarities between the ’07-’08 Hornets and this years’ Pelicans to discount?  Let’s take a closer look to find out.

Getting Healthy

In 2006-07, the Pelicans Core Four of Chris Paul, David West, Peja Stojakovic, and Tyson Chandler missed a total of 126 games. In 2013-14, the Pelicans Core Five missed a total of 151 games. Both teams looked really good when they were healthy, but they each lost their floor stretcher for most of the season (Peja played 13 games, Ryno played 22), and heart-and-soul guys for large stretches as well (David West missed 30 games and Jrue missed 48). Both teams played in an extremely tough Western Conference, and the injuries were just something that they could not overcome.

Flash forward to 2007-08, and the Pelicans Core Four only missed a combined 16 games. An average of 4 games missed each after averaging over 31 the year before. That, more than anything, helped them increase their win total by 17 the following year. Imagine a scenario in which the Pelicans five guys from last year miss just 20 games this year, as opposed to 151. Wouldn’t the sky be the limit for this team? The Blazers starting five missed just 9 games combined last year, so it’s possible. Just need to get a little lucky, because the talent is obviously already here.

The Addition of a Missing Piece

Now, don’t get me wrong – I do not want to compare Omer Asik to Morris Peterson. Asik is the far superior player, and while Peterson’s contract eventually became a dead weight, he was a fantastic addition for the 2007-08 Pelicans. Consider that they played Desmond Mason at shooting guard the year before, which ate up the space that Paul and West had in the lane. For those who don’t remember Desmond Mason, he was basically the Al-Farouq Aminu of shooting guards. Great athlete and a solid defender, but teams didn’t even pretend to defend him on the perimeter.  Peterson, meanwhile hit 39.4% of his three’s, taking nearly 60% of them from the corner, which really helped create all that space for CP3, West, and Chandler to run the pick and roll/pop.

Omer Asik is a similar ideal addition for this current Pelicans team. More than anything, this team needed to improve its interior defense, and Asik should help that as Jason Calmes chronicled yesterday. Also, Omer Asik lets the Pelicans shift Anthony Davis to power forward, giving New Orelans the ability to have two elite defenders in the paint. Asik also helps the team on the defensive glass, and will set devastating screens on the offensive end – two more things the Pelicans did not have last season. Going from Greg Stiemsma to Omer Asik is perhaps the biggest upgrade any team made this season when you consider fit and need.

The Evolution of a Superstar

Last week, I asked if Anthony Davis was the league’s next superstar. The 2007-08 Hornets took off because Chris Paul made that leap in his third season, and if Anthony Davis does the same thing, you won’t be able to keep this team out of the playoffs. Paul became far more effective on both sides of the ball, as he took a huge leap as a perimeter shooter and went from a good creator to the best in the league. On defense, he made a big step forward as well, making his first All-Defensive team after leading the league in steals.

Davis is looking to make a similar jump forward, as he too has been working on his perimeter game. On the defensive end, Davis already makes the big plays, as he led the league in blocks last season. But it is his defensive awareness and IQ that is most likely to take a huge leap forward this season. From the preseason, it looks like Monty has tweaked the defensive system a little bit, and its more conservative nature when defending pick and rolls should really help Davis wreak havoc on the defensive end. If he does, the Pelicans can realistically move from a bottom 5 defense to a top 10-12 defense this season, and if that happens, the sky truly is the limit for this team.


Should we say that it is likely that the Pelicans will get a top 4 seed this season? No. But is it possible? Of course it is, and we need look no further than to that magical 2007-08 season. If this team stays healthy and Davis takes that next step, history could very well repeat itself. The Western Conference was no joke that season either, as it took 50 games to make the playoffs that year. Three teams in the Southwest won 55 or more games, and four teams won at least 51. We fully expect that this could be the case again this year. So, is it a given that this year’s Pelicans team will mirror the 2007 New Orleans squad? No, but there are just too many similarities for me to ignore.

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In the NO Podcast Ep 193: Rivers declined, Actual Game Preview Mon, 27 Oct 2014 01:35:31 +0000 Michael and I hit on a series of items, starting with a recap of the last two pre-season games. Then we hit on Austin Rivers’ option being possibly declined by the team, Lottery Reform that didn’t happen, Expected rotations, our two Confident Predictions and Biggest worries, and last, we get to preview ACTUAL NBA GAMES. They’re here! Rejoice!

Enjoy the Podcast!

Like the Show or the Blog?

Like the music?

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Omer Asik and Defending the 2-Point Shot Sun, 26 Oct 2014 22:13:22 +0000 table.tableizer-table { border: 1px solid #CCC; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif font-size: 12px; margin: 0px auto; } .tableizer-table td { padding: 4px; margin: 3px; border: 1px solid #ccc; text-align: center; } } .tableizer-table th { background-color: #000000; color: #FFF; font-weight: bold; padding: 4px; margin: 3px; text-align: center; }

I get it. I get the three-point thing. I get why teams do it (it’s efficient, adds entropy to the offense). I get why analysts grab onto it with a white-knuckled grip (it’s efficient, it’s pretty, and it’s a very, very easy analysis).

The truth of the matter, however, is that if all a team did was shoot 3-point shots as opposed to 2-point shots (more 3’s, more 3’s, more 3’s goes the banging of the inane drums), the defense would adjust to the team that refuses to shoot a 2-point shot, and the percentage of makes would decrease to the point where certain 2’s would be more efficient. Since we can assume a certain continuity of results as we dial up the rate of 3-pointers, and we certainly agree that 0% 3-pointers is bad, just as we agree 100% 3-points is bad (in terms of shots taken), then there should be some equilibrium points in between where there is a mix of shots that gives the most efficient overall offense.

Ah, the joys of a non-linear world.

Enter: Omer Asik.

A good-looking NBA specimen being paid the max for the only year left on his contract, but not completely on the books due to an arcane contract, Asik is known as a defender, and his reputation and performance speak for themselves. I’ll take them for granted here.

I claim he will have a ripple effect on the New Orleans Pelicans’ defense, allowing it to improve, in nominal circumstances, from near the bottom of the NBA (27th last season at 110.1 Drtg compared to NBA-average of 106.7 and the Bucks’ NBA-worst 111.8) to above average.

Field Goal Defense

Breaking down the Pelicans’ shooting performance by distance along with make rate and value of the shots, we can get a damage assessment. Here is a summary of data from the 2013-2014 NBA season. It is data on the Pelicans and the NBA average. The basic data is the percentage of shots attempted by opposing teams from various distance groups and the percentage of shots made by those opponents from those same distance groups. By multiplying these factors and the value of the corresponding shots, an expected point increase per field goal attempt (due to made shots, ignoring free throws awarded) can be determined for each distance. I’m just calling this “Damage” below since it sounds better than expected points for opponents per field goal attempt by opponents.

The damage is then totaled, and the damage by distance is recast as a percentage of the total damage.

This is done for the Pelicans, and similar statistics are gathered from NBA averages to give a baseline for comparison. Lastly, these comparisons are tabulated. Note, rounding may cause apparent slight errors.

Pelicans 0 ft – 3 ft 3 ft – 10 ft 10 ft – 16 ft 16 ft – 3pt 3 pt
Attempt % Allowed 0.310 0.161 0.103 0.147 0.278
Make % Allowed 0.663 0.376 0.420 0.384 0.357
Value 2 2 2 2 3
Damage (1.029 Total) 0.411 0.121 0.087 0.113 0.298
Proportional Damage 0.399 0.118 0.084 0.110 0.289
NBA Average 0 ft – 3 ft 3 ft – 10 ft 10 ft – 16 ft 16 ft – 3pt 3 pt
Attempt % Allowed 0.286 0.169 0.105 0.180 0.259
Make % Allowed 0.636 0.390 0.401 0.395 0.360
Value 2 2 2 2 3
Damage (1.002 Total) 0.364 0.132 0.084 0.142 0.280
Proportional Damage 0.363 0.132 0.084 0.142 0.279
0 ft – 3 ft 3 ft – 10 ft 10 ft – 16 ft 16 ft – 3pt 3 pt
Differential (0.028 Total) 0.047 -0.011 0.002 -0.029 0.018
Relative Differential 13.0% -8.2% 2.7% -20.6% 6.4%


As you can see, the data is very telling. The long 2-point shots by Pelicans’ opponents does far less damage than for an NBA-average team, and there is a decent reduction for shots that are 3 ft – 10 ft, too. The damage from 3-point shots is slightly higher than average, but the shots at the rim or very close are the ones that are really hurting the Pelicans.

Again, the 2-point shots at the rim . . . not all 2-point shots . . . are what really hurt the Pelicans last season, in terms of field goals. While 3-point shots did have some efficiency (28.9% of damage compared to 27.8% of shot attempts), this is about half the benefit the NBA-average gets from these shots (27.9% of damage compared to 25.9% of shot attempts). This is because the far more effective close 2-pointers were so much more damaging to the Pelicans than to a typical NBA team.

Moreover, the overall picture is that teams were able to shift longer 2-point shots to a few more 3-point shots and many more close 2-point shots.

This differential (0.028) when multiplied over the average number of shots per game by Pelicans opponents (about 80) and taking into account the Pelicans’ pace last season (92.2), this accounts for about 70% of the DRtg deficit.

Free Throw Defense

Having addressed the shots that score 2 points and 3 points, the 1-point shots remain. While the idea of free throw defense sounds funny (which is why it was chosen), the concept is the basis for “hack-a-whoever” stratagems and substitutions in certain game situations. There are 4 basic aspects: When to foul, who to foul, how of often to foul, how effective the foul is. If you foul a better free throw shooter, this is a worse idea than fouling a poorer free throw shooter, all other things being equal. When a foul does not stop a shot attempt dropping, this is less effective. Fouling before a shot is less likely to result in free throws (overall) than during a shot. Also, fouling more often (generally) increases the number of free throw attempts and, thus, free throw makes.

One can pick on each of those factors given the relative lack of NBA experience on the court last season, but lack of experience is hard to point to in data. This does not mean that is factor is unimportant, of course. What we can do, however, is to look at statistics that should reflect this lack of experience. As it turns out, the Pelicans were dead last in the NBA in FT/FGA (0.249 compared to an NBA average of 0.215). This statistic is very much affected by lack of experience (e.g. decision-making, tactics) and defensive talent.

Asik, again, is known for his defense and is experienced. Below are some key defensive statistics per 36 minutes (I included offensive rebounding here, but someone can ignore the stat if they choose) for Asik and the players who saw time at Center for the New Orleans Pelicans last season apart from Davis, as this mixture is what Asik is replacing in part. This table did not include Amundson, Ely, and Onuaku, who all had under 300 minutes who fouled, as a mixture, at a high rate.

Player Fouls O. Rebounds D. Rebounds Rebounds Steals Blocks
Asik 3.4 3.8 10.3 14.1 0.5 1.4
Ajinca 7.1 3.6 6.9 10.5 0.9 1.7
Smith 4.3 2.2 5.6 7.9 0.5 1.3
Stiemsma 6.0 2.6 5.5 8.1 1.3 2.0
Withey 3.8 2.6 5.3 7.9 0.8 2.6


Asik gives more rebounding and fewer fouls, but the gaggle did produce more steals and blocks, it should be noted.

Asik and the Ripple Effect

Omer Asik addresses the significant issues in each of the areas identified above.

First, he’s a good defender and should lower the number of attempts by opponents at the rim, the percentage of such shots, and the make rate of these shots. These shots should be replaced by less efficient longer 2-point shots.

Second, when he’s defending, he should foul less than the Pelicans have been used to from their big men in the paint (other than Davis). This will lower the contribution of free throws to the final point differential. He’ll also be able to do this for longer since he will not be in danger of fouling out in most (or all) games.

Third, his defensive and rebounding presence should allow others to focus more on their own assignment rather than, for instance, their assignment and relevant cutters. This additional focus should help other players, particularly in two areas. One area is on the perimeter. Players can take more chances and give less cushion to opposing players if they know that there is an effective second line of defense at the rim in Asik. an effect of this should be more running of players off of the arc, so fewer 3-point attempts and makes, and more mid-range 2-point shots. The other area is simply Anthony Davis. The more area Davis has to impose his will, the better off the Pelicans are. Period.

Fourth, he is a better rebounder than those players he’s replacing, at least as a starter. His rebounding, from a defensive perspective, will extend Pelicans possessions that would have ended with no points and lead to an occasional fast break while also ending those of opponents who may end up with an easy putback, given his likely location on the court.

In short, Asik may be exactly what the Pelicans needed. His contributions should extend far beyond his stat line due to the needs and strengths of this team at this time.

As a final thought: Monty Williams may as well have been asking for Asik by name for years, and now Monty has him . . . along with Anthony Davis and rest of this team of players with large salary and no small esteem around the NBA. Next season, if this one fails, would be a wonderful time to make sweeping changes in the organization and roster. The Pelicans getting just what they need on defense may be at the cost of Monty Williams losing his personal defense. If the team works the way I think it should, this will not be a problem for Coach Williams. If, however, the team struggles, Monty Williams may find himself exposed with the clock tick-tick-tick-ing.

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New Pelicans Shirt from Dirty Coast plus Pep Rally October 27th! Sun, 26 Oct 2014 18:31:42 +0000 The Pelicans Pep Rally is going down tomorrow night at Dirty Coast from 6:00-8:00p with free beer, a new Pelicans shirt for sale, and good ole chit-chat-chatter from Pelicans fans. Come hang!

Free beer, for real:

Hope to see you tomorrow night! More info on the Facebook event.

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Watch Parties at Tracey’s Sun, 26 Oct 2014 15:09:00 +0000 This isn’t just about watch parties. Though we have you covered there.

Over the past few seasons, all of us here at Bourbon Street Shots feel part of something more than just a Pelicans blog. We feel part of a community.

A few years ago I attended an ‘I’m In’ event and listened to then-Hornets president Hugh Weber speak. He talked about how he felt so lucky to live in a city where people opened up their homes in order to support the local NBA team. He went to say how amazed he was at the group gather for the party that night. Most of the people there had actually never met. This wasn’t the friends and family type gathering the team assumed would be the case.

Everyone at that party was part of the online Pelicans community. Whether they were readers of our site or elsewhere. A member of one forum or another. They were all there to support the team in a way that mattered more than attendance at the Smoothie King Center.

And that’s what this post is about.

This year we want to help foster a sense of community. We have events planned, some of which you’ll see below. More will crop up throughout the season, and we want you to be aware of them. For example did you know that Chris Trew helped local apparel company Dirty Coast design a Pelicans shirt? No? Well check out the facebook page and try and stop by for the release event! We want you to met other Pelicans’ fans, and share your passion. Meet the reader you argue with, or agree with. See the face behind the username.

We’ve changed our main page and added an Events tab. We’ll keep you updated with all the goings on there.

Tracey's logo 0211To kick this off, Bourbon Street Shots has partnered with Tracey’s the original Irish Channel Bar. We’ve had events there in the past, hopefully you were there, and they were a blast. But more than that, this is a place we go to regularly simply to watch games. It’s not uncommon to see some of our writers sitting at a table late at night while the Pelicans play a west coast game. Now, we’re just making it official. We have six watch parties planned–hopefully more if the Pelicans make the playoffs.

Monday Nov 10th @ the Cavaliers

Thursday Dec 18th @ the Rockets

Monday Jan 19th @ the Knicks

Saturday Feb 21 @ the Heat

Tuesday March 10th @ the Nets

Wednesday April 8th @ the Grizzlies

Keep in mind things may change. But these are the dates we’re all going to meet and watch a game together. We hope to see you there!

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Why Dell Demps Should Pick Up Austin Rivers’ Option Sat, 25 Oct 2014 03:10:29 +0000 Today, the New Orleans Pelicans picked up Anthony Davis’s option for the 2015-16 season. No surprise there. But according to John Reid of the Times-Picuyane, they will decline the 2015-16 option on Austin Rivers. The Pelicans have until October 31st to make this decision officially, and if they do pick up his contract, Rivers will be guaranteed 3.1 million dollars in 2015-16. They would also have the right to make him a restricted free agent in 2016-17 by giving him a 4.2 million dollar tender before he hits free agency. Meanwhile, if they decline his option in the next few days, he becomes an unrestricted free agent in July of 2015, and could just up and leave New Orleans three years after he was drafted here 10th overall.

So why would Demps risk letting a 22 year old lottery pick go before he reaches his prime? The argument for not picking up the option centers around flexibility. Not only could it give the Pelicans an extra $3 million in cap room next summer, but it also could make Rivers more valuable on the trade market this year – as he would be an expiring contract. If the Pelicans want to go out and get a SF at the deadline, and the team they are trading with doesn’t want to take back any long-term salary, then Rivers can help facilitate a trade. They can put him with (just an example) Withey and Salmons, and take back nearly $8 million in salary.

That scenario makes more sense to me. Declining the contract to have another $3.1 million in free agency next season does not. First of all, it’s not really $3.1 million. You need to have a cap hold for open spots, so you are actually creating about $2.6 million in cap room. Next, we have to look at the salary cap, which is projected to be $66.5 million next season. Now, with the new TV deal, there is a small chance that the players and owners can agree to smooth out the big bump, and raise the cap more than that next year. But that doesn’t appear likely. If the cap is $66.5 million, and Eric Gordon opts in (again, likely if the cap isn’t smoothed) and the Pelicans retain Asik’s cap hold, then the Pelicans will be right up against the salary cap if they decline Rivers, and slightly over if they pick up the option. In either case, they will have the MLE. But in only one case, will they be guaranteed Rivers for $3.1 million AND have a chance to match any offers the following summer.

The only way that declining Rivers option next summer, therefore, is if the cap is smoothed and/or Eric Gordon opts out of his final year. Again, neither appears very likely right now. The most likely outcome is that the cap is $66.5 million next summer and Eric Gordon opts in. Then, the Pelicans re-sign Omer Asik, and they are over the cap. The most likely scenario is that the Pelicans make their next big free agent move in 2016, when Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson come off the books and the cap takes a pretty significant jump up. So why not make the Rivers decision then?

Declining his option could put Dell Demps in a difficult position next summer. Let’s say Austin plays well and he is a 23 year old combo guard who has improved greatly two years in a row. Now, Dell wants to sign him and Austin wants to stay, but he isn’t just going to take a one year deal. Dell has to decide: Do I let him walk or do I eat into my 2016 cap room by giving him a multi-year deal? Neither scenario is ideal if it plays out like that. What you would love in that scenario is for Austin to take a one-year deal, so you can put it off until the following summer. Or basically, exactly what would happen if Dell picked up his option this week.

Look, this decision is probably not going to make or break the Pelicans future championship hopes, but the flexibility that not picking up Austin’s option does not outweigh the problem that would be created this summer if Austin takes another leap forward and hits unrestricted free agency. Nobody ever said being a General Manager was easy, and this is admittedly a close call, but the best thing for the franchise would be for Dell to value Rivers over a tiny bit of flexibility that might not even really exist when its all said and done.

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New Orleans Pelicans Season Preview Part Two Fri, 24 Oct 2014 21:15:15 +0000 Our writers tackle five more pressing questions. For a look at Part One, click here. 

6. Do you think Demps will make a move during the season to unload Gordon or to add a small forward?

Michael McNamara: Teams should know by All-Star break what the cap will look like for the 2015-16 season and beyond. The players and the league will negotiate whether to “smooth” the cap growth or not by then, and that could mean a lot for the trade market. Either way, I don’t see Eric Gordon getting moved during the season because of the uncertainty of what he does next summer. But Dell will likely put out calls to teams to see if he can get a low cost upgrade at small forward. The problem is that he doesn’t have much to offer. The hope would be that he can interest teams in guys like Withey, Miller, Babbitt, and/or Jimmer in exchange for a guy who is going unused on a team outside of playoff contention. The odds are low, but the hope would be that someone like Jared Dudley becomes available for next to nothing.

All that said, here is a sneaky trade to watch out for: Eric Gordon going to Sacramento (they could give up on McLemore), Ben McLemore going to a third team, and the Pelicans getting a wing player or two that fits better. Imagine something like the Kings getting Gordon, the Bucks getting Ben McLemore to put with The Greek Freak and Jabari (along with Jason Thompson), and the Pelicans getting Khris Middleton, Jared Dudley, and Derrick Williams’ expiring contract. If Gordon comes out of the gate playing well, and the Kings owner remains delusional, then I can see something like that going down.

Calmes: Absolutely I hope so, and absolutely I think if there is a trade, that’s the content of it . . . or that’s the “first rail” of the bank shot of a trade. I’m not sure that Demps makes that move during the season, however. He has yet to make a big move during the season, and I think there are a few good reasons for this, not the least of which is planning. So, I expect Dell to either embrace the cap space, trade Gordon as an expiring contract, or trade him in a sign-and-trade this summer. Sure, anything can happen, but this is how I see it playing out in the most likely of worlds.

Pellissier:  I think there is so little required of a small forward in the starting lineup that it could be done without unloading much.  To me, any veteran SF with a good shot and an ounce of veteran know-how could very easily fit into a role here.  I don’t think Dell needs to go out and grab some magnificent SF (not that there are many anyway).  He has been systematically picking off our weaknesses with acquisitions, so I have faith that the SF void will be filled at the deadline or next summer. But I have no clue which one it’ll be.

Grayson: I would say at this point that Demps & co. are okay with Gordon on the roster. Trading him this season would still be quite difficult as teams would need convincing he’s fully healthy. As for the small forward position I think the team is moving forward with what they have and should the need arise (become a glaring deficiency that’s affecting team performance) they will go out and acquire a stop-gap, veteran type. Demps is renowned for acquiring small-priced players, I’d look for someone who does one thing well. Think Dorrell Wright, Brandon Rush.

7.  What is a realistic expectation for the Pelicans this season on the defensive end?

McNamara: The Pellicans can realistically expect to be a top 14 defense this year, in terms of defensive rating. Looking back to the Rockets two years ago, when Asik played 30 minutes per game, they were 16th in the NBA in defensive rating. They had one decent defender in Parsons and two atrocious defenders in Jeremy Lin and James Harden getting the bulk of the minutes on the perimeter. Marcus Morris and Patrick Patterson shared the PF spot next to Asik, and they are no Anthony Davis (or even close). If that team could be average, there is no reason to believe that this team can’t be slightly above average.

Calmes: Relative to themselves, much improved. I’m not sure where the Pelicans will fall relative to other teams or how to measure the defense in a way that will satisfy many people, but I do know that I expect realistic improvement in three key areas: Shots attempted within 3 feet, shots allowed within 3 feet, and free throw attempts allowed per shot attempts allowed. Those areas will translate into big differences on the court generally given how bad the team was last season due to their Center situation and lack of NBA experience on the court. Therefore, improvement, and significant improvement, is realistic.

Pellissier:  Somewhere in the middle of the pack.  The ceiling is probably something around 10th, given that the Davis/Asik tandem is everything I think it will be and Jrue being the excellent defender that he is.  But I think the offense will be much more potent than the defense, so getting our defense to around the league average may be enough to vault us into the playoffs.

Grayson:  About average. Don’t get this misconstrued they won’t be bad, it’s just that the majority of guys haven’t played together and in my opinion that is one of the most important things when it comes to defense. I mean, remember the Heat when Lebron, Wade and Bosh started? They really struggled as a defensive group until they started to get more games under their belt and in their second and third seasons were much improved. If the Pelicans stay healthy I would expect them to come on stronger towards the end of the year. With role players understanding they have Anthony Davis and Omer Asik manning the paint they can tighten up their pressure on the ball and take more risks. It may take a while, but I am somewhat optimistic.

8. Name one player who starts the season out of the rotation that is a rotation player by the end of the year

McNamara: I am going to go with Luke Babbitt on this one. I can see two ways that Babbitt could crack the rotation. The first one is sad, and that involves Ryan Anderson suffering a setback with his neck. But let’s not talk about that. The other scenario would see Babbitt slowly increasing his ability as a wing defender to the point where Monty feels comfortable giving him all the backup minutes at SF. I think Salmons or Miller starts the season off with that job, but Babbitt has it at seasons’ end.

Calmes: Russ Smith. He’s a rookie, but he had four years of college, so he’s not as raw as some rookies. While the Pelicans have interest in 5 other guards (Evans, Fredette, Gordon, Holiday, Rivers), the hole at small forward will not only occupy Evans some, it will create the need for 3 guard lineups. Russ Smith is also a good defender. If he can find a way to translate that quickly to the NBA, I think he has the best chance of making the move into the rotation by season’s end among the deep reserves.

Pellissier:  I want to say Darius Miller so badly, but he just hasn’t been able to step up when he has had chances, and my faith in him becoming a reliable player in New Orleans is waning.  So somewhat by default, I’ll say Babbitt or Young– Babbitt because his shooting could be needed and Young because he’s a scrappy guy with role player potential.

Grayson: I’m going with Patric Young. Energy, it’s a global crisis that’s right around the corner and Young might be able to solve it by his lonesome self. Monty always has one of these guys he goes to during times of trepidation. I could see Young playing next to Ajinca and Davis. He needs to rebound better than we’ve seen in summer league and pre-season, but P-Young could fill the void that Jason Smith left with all that MOXY and HUSTLE.

9.  How good is Anthony Davis this year? (stat line, accolades, etc.)

McNamara: I wrote about Davis becoming a superstar here, and what it might mean for the Pelicans as a whole. If he makes the leap, the Pelicans are a dangerous team, and you know what – I think he makes it. I fully expect 23 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 1.5 steals on 52% shooting for Davis. Only two guys have done that in NBA history – David Robinson and Hakeem Olaquwon. Anthony Davis will be the third. Davis will also get into the All-Star game as a reserve (stupid fan voting) and be named Second Team All-NBA (behind Durant and Lebron). He will go into next season as the unquestioned ‘3rd Best Player in the World’, with people only asking ‘when’ not ‘if’ he will pass Lebron and Durant.

Calmes: I’m not going to invent numbers as Asik changes Davis’ role on the team from what we have become accustomed to, and frankly, I don’t care about all that except how it ties to winning a title. So, I will answer in my own way. I expect Davis’ shot chart to spread further from the basket while maintaining his relative success from various distances (over 40% between 3 and 16 feet). I expect him to take harder shots and more contested shots, including the paint, in an effort to set his teammates up, whether he registers an assist or not. I expect Davis to get to the line more and more, punishing teams for under-defending him as a team. Lastly, I also expect Davis to start commanding the highest attention from his teammates, both as a target and a leader.

Pellissier: I predicted 23-24 points, 10-11 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 1.5-2 steals per game on The Smoking Cuban’s season preview of the Pelicans, and I’ll stick with it.  I think he’s a lock for the All-Star Game and 2nd team All-NBA if he stays healthy.  He can be as statistically good as we need him to be, and I also think this is the year that his on-court impact matches his statistical dominance.

Grayson: 22 points, 11 rebounds, 3.2 blocks, 1.8 steals per game. Runner up MVP (boom!), All-Star and All-NBA first-team. I don’t foresee anything outside of *knocks on all the wood* an injury stopping Davis. We’ve seen him in Team USA, we’ve seen him come of age last season with games like this and this. It’s time to get on the bandwagon (I mean, you likely already are) and get with the program. Anthony Davis is for real. What I think Davis really wants is for the team to make the playoffs. He would love personal accolades, but the one he likely covets the most is some playoff action.

10. What will the Pelicans record be for this season, and where will they finish in the West?

McNamara: 51-31, (tied) 5th in the West. Predicting health is impossible, so I am not even going to try. I am imagining that all injuries are turned off around the league 2K style, and if that were to happen, I think the Pelicans win 51 games. If the Pels catch some breaks and other teams go down, it could be higher and if the usual happens, it will be lower. But as is, I like the Pelicans better than some teams considered a lock for the playoffs, namely Houston, Memphis, and Portland. I think they are on par with Dallas, but in my projection, Carlisle puts them over the top. They are dead even with Golden State, and injuries will determine who wins more games amongst those two. Am I crazy? Maybe. But imagine what they would have called the guy who predicted 2nd for the Hornets prior to the ‘07-’08 season?

Calmes: Again, I’m not going to answer this in the inventing numbers fashion, much less waste time splitting hairs I can’t even see. If healthy in an NBA-typical sense, the team will make the playoffs without much trouble. The win totals in the West being so high is because the West just beats up the East. Last season, both of the top teams in each conference were 38-14, and the lowest seeded playoff team had records of 29-23 in West, 28-24 in the East (Brooklyn went 26-26 in the East, however). Thus, the key to making the playoffs for the Pelicans seems to be coming in about 0.500 in the West but dominating their record against the demonstrably weaker East. This is exactly what I expect to happen.

Pellissier: 48-34.  The team is undoubtedly better than it was last season.  The core players are now accustomed to one another and Monty’s system, which is huge, and adding Asik and a healthy Ryno/Jrue changes things in a big way.  Sprinkle in Anthony Davis’s projected leap and you have the makings of what could be a very, very good season– even if they don’t quite make the playoffs.

Grayson: I asked this question on Twitter a while ago and while I love some fans optimism I would say the Pelicans go 46-36 and are 9th in the West. What’s holding me back is two things. One, New Orleans was pretty awful against the Western Conference. It seemed at times they just couldn’t keep pace. Yes we can blame injuries, but I’m pretty sick of using this as an excuse. The second things is the defense. While I love the addition of Omer Asik I still am unsure of the backcourts defensive abilities. Jrue Holiday is the staple, but Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon and John Salmons don’t exactly illicit confidence in this aspect of the game. As I’ve said previously, I think the Pelicans get off to a slow start, but build momentum towards the end of the season.

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Rounding out the Rotation: the Pelicans’ Seventh Man Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:00:05 +0000 With only four days until the Pelicans’ regular season opener, the top of the team’s rotation is largely set in stone. The team will trot out a back court of Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, and Tyreke Evans, a front court of Anthony Davis and Omer Asik, and Ryan Anderson will serve as a lethal first option off of the bench. Collectively, those six players should account for about 200 of the 240 available player minutes for any given game. How Monty Williams plans on dividing up those remaining 40 or so minutes, however, is anything but clear at this point.

Last year, Anthony Morrow was the guy who stepped up as the Pelicans’ most consistent bench option, which became even more important as a result of all of the teams’ injury woes. The player who fills that void this season could have a considerable impact on the team’s chances, whether it be through supplying stability off the bench or helping the roster fight through an injury or two. Let’s take a look at the remaining players on the Pelicans’ roster and attempt to determine who will be the guy to get the lion’s share of those remaining minutes.

Alexis Ajinca

Why he’s the guy: Ajinca arguably showed more improvement throughout the 2013-14 season than any other Pelicans bench player, establishing a decent mid-range jumper and serving as an enforcer inside thanks to his 7’2″ size. The main problem that plagued Alexis was a high foul rate, making him unable to play for long stretches, however, as the team’s 4th big, fouls should not be as much of a concern.
Why he’s not: The trio of Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis, and Omer Asik will likely gobble up almost all of the available front court minutes, leaving only a few left for Ajinca. The extent of his playing time may depend in part on how many minutes Anderson sees at the small forward position.

John Salmons

Why he’s the guy: Simply put, Salmons is the most serviceable “small forward” on the roster. If Monty Williams decides he wants or needs a more conventional small forward, Salmons has shown more than Darius Miller to this point. Not only can he knock down the perimeter jumper, he isn’t as bad of a wing defender as his age and contract may indicate. It may sound scary, but against elite 3s such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony, Salmons may be New Orleans’ best option with more than one eyebrow.
Why he’s not: The Pelicans have shown throughout the preseason that they’re more than willing to play lineups without a true small forward, experimenting with players such as Tyreke Evans, Luke Babbitt, and Ryan Anderson at the position.  The team is willing to play with mis-matches at the position and try to exploit whatever advantages can be gained while remaining confident in its front line of Anthony Davis and Omer Asik. There are more talented players than Salmons on the Pelicans’ bench at this point in the veteran’s career, and the team has the flexibility at full strength to replace Salmons’ minutes with those players.

Jimmer Fredette

Why he’s the guy: The Pelicans lost a key bench contributor in Anthony Morrow last season, and Jimmer’s skill set makes him the natural replacement. Fredette is lights out from beyond the arc, and can also handle the ball fairly well. A lineup of Holiday, Fredette, Evans, Anderson, and Davis would be one of the most dangerous offensive units in the NBA, with an exceptional combination of shooting, dribble penetrating, and offensive rebounding.
Why he’s not: Fredette is a prototypical one-way player, as his defense is well below average at best. He isn’t agile enough to stay in front of most point guards, and isn’t tall enough to consistently contest shots from opposing shooting guards. Given how much Monty Williams stresses defense, a deficiency such as this one could force him out of the regular rotation, especially if the Pelicans’ core proves that they can sufficiently space the floor on their own.

Austin Rivers

Why he’s the guy: Rivers continues to improve on both sides of the ball, as he was certainly a better defender than Gordon last season and is probably the most versatile defender out of the players on this list. He has a quick first step, and a lineup featuring Rivers, Holiday, and Evans would result in a ground assault on the rim. He drastically improved his spot-up 3-point percentage last season, and therefore has to be defended on the perimeter and can help space the floor to a higher degree than he did during his rookie season. As a player entering his third NBA season at just 22 years old, Rivers also has the most room to grow out of any of the players on this list, and that fact should help him earn additional minutes as well.
Why he’s not: Rivers still has a hard time getting his teammates involved, as he tends to keep his head down once he starts a drive to the rim. Once he gets there, he struggles to convert at a high level, and though he draws fouls at a decent clip, he still struggles to make even two thirds of his attempts. This low free throw percentage may make Rivers close to unplayable in crunch-time situations, as teams would look to foul Rivers before anyone else in the Pelicans’ rotation except for Asik.

The Other Guys

Luke Babbitt:  If this preseason is any indication, Babbitt figures to get the most minutes out of anyone in this section. Unfortunately for him, though, the front court is too loaded for him to see anything more than a minute or two a night at power forward, so his only real shot to crack the regular rotation is at small forward. However, any minutes that Babbitt receives there would largely be in lieu of Anderson, which in turn would mean more minutes for Anderson in the front court and therefore less minutes for Ajinca. Given the assumption that Ajinca adds more value to a healthy Pelicans roster than Babbitt (which some may disagree with), it would be surprising to see Luke get many minutes at small forward this season.
Darius Miller: Miller has yet to prove himself in any meaningful way in this league, as he has yet to prove he can outproduce John Salmons in any area on the court. Unless something suddenly clicks for Darius, a guy who played for four seasons at Kentucky, he does not figure to see a ton of playing time as long as Salmons is healthy.
Jeff Withey: Much of the same logic applied to Miller relative to Salmons also works for Withey relative to Ajinca. That being said, there is certainly still hope for Withey to turn into a contributor at some point, as he showed some real promise as a shot blocker in his rookie season. At this point, though, Ajinca is the superior player in most aspects of the game, and as a result, Withey will likely find himself listed as the third center on the depth chart.
Russ Smith: Smith should get chances to prove himself this season, but no one should expect him to leapfrog both Rivers and Fredette in the rotation, especially early in the season. Even if he were to blow expectations away, it wouldn’t happen overnight, and as such it is unlikely that he can escalate himself all the way up to the 4th best guard on the roster.
Patric Young: Young is simply way too far down the depth chart, and is also only a viable option at power forward, the Pelicans’ deepest position. He could be a factor some day, but that time likely won’t come this season.

The Verdict

Ultimately, this question only applies if the Pelicans are completely healthy; if one injury occurs, the next man to step up will obviously skew towards the position of the player who no is no longer active. That being said, if I had to place a bet on who in this list will see the most minutes in games with a fully healthy Pelicans roster, I’d put my money on Salmons or Rivers. I think Salmons will start out receiving the most minutes, but I expect Rivers to surpass him in the rotation as the season progresses. It should be noted that this assessment is a function of Monty Williams becoming more comfortable with playing unconventional lineups (such as complementing Davis and Asik down low with three guards around the perimeter or Ryan Anderson at small forward). The main takeaway, though, is that depending on the situation, any one of Salmons, Rivers, Ajinca, or Fredette could see the seventh most minutes in a given game. When that player’s time comes, though, he better be ready to step up and make an impact, or else Monty will waste no time going to another option.
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In the NO Podcast Ep. 192: Western Conference Preview Part 2 Fri, 24 Oct 2014 05:00:01 +0000 We continue our Western Conference preview with the 9 teams in the Western Conference that will be battling for the playoffs. Where do the Pelicans fall? Well Michael and I have very different opinions on that. The Western Conference is a slugfest.

Enjoy the Podcast!

Like the Show or the Blog?

Like the music?

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New Orleans Pelicans Season Preview Part 1 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:36:34 +0000 Bourbon Street Shots writers preview the 2014-15 season by tackling 10 of the most intriguing questions heading into the season. 

1. Is this finally the year that Eric Gordon comes close to living up to his contract?

Michael McNamara: Well, I guess this has a couple of parts to break down. When we say close, I take that to mean that we are still talking about the 10+ million dollar range. This year, 58 NBA players (including Gordon) are making 10+ million dollars. Outside of a few guys who are being paid for past production (Gerald Wallace, Amare, etc.), most of those guys are above average starters, All-Stars, or quasi All-Stars. Can Gordon be that on this Pelicans team? Actually, I think he can.

Gordon was healthy this offseason for the first time in three years, and his weight loss is noticeable, as is his ability to get to the rim. He might not be Clippers Eric Gordon, but if he is 85% of that guy, with a better spot-up jumper, then he can be a dangerous weapon for the Pelicans. 17 points per game on less than 13 shots is what I am expecting, and even more surprisingly, I am expecting 75+ games from a motivated Gordon in a potential contract year.

Jason Calmes: No. He won’t live up to it in the senses of contribution per dollar and contribution per opportunity cost (we are too far down the road to look hard at that). I think, however, he can can change his reputation into “expensive luxury” or “worth the risk for a good team.” I feel, as I did last season, that Gordon’s lingering injury issues are behind him. This has been his main group of issues. Now, he just needs to fit better with the team or elevate his game to start to leave the past behind as much as he can.

Michael Pellissier: Gordon looked noticeably slimmer on Media Day and has the option of making this a “contract year” should he decline his player option for next season, so there is some motivation and evidence that he could have a better year.  But as far as living up to his contract.. no, I don’t think that’s possible without injuries to at least one or two of the Pelicans high usage players.  Gordon’s defense has been horrible the last few seasons and he doesn’t rebound, so if he’s going to be “worth his contract,” it will have to be on the offensive end, and I don’t think he’ll have enough looks to do so.  With that in mind, adding Asik to cover for Gordon’s defense/rebounding helps, and I do think Gordon is in for a better year.

James Grayson: Eric Gordon’s career has been been full of promise from the outset. Since being traded to New Orleans pretty much all of that has been washed away by a mix of injuries and questionable interest in the program being built by Monty Williams and Dell Demps. I can’t say that I’m optimistic despite recent news of a rejuvenated Gordon. The guy has caught a lot of bad breaks and I empathise with his past few years of his career (only to be reminded that he’s getting paid a bucket load of money). Because of previous history, I don’t think he’ll live up to his contract, even if he has a great season. Those past seasons of negative performance more than squash any positive impact he has this season. Where will that impact possible be found? Well, outside of scoring there are few other areas of Gordon’s game that have a positive effect for the team. It’s an odd predicament because everyone should want Gordon to succeed. If he plays well, so too does the team and in turn he will get a decent contract when he’s a free-agent. Still, I am skeptical.

Chris Trew: I talk about the Pelicans a lot around this time of year. To my basketball buddies, to my non-basketball buddies, to anyone, anywhere wearing a Pelicans shirt. I go through each member of the roster with so much enthusiasm and hope. What if Jimmer thrives!? What if we’re all wearing team giveaway Anthony Davis MVP shirts by March?! What if Tyreke Evans is the de facto 6th man of the year??!!  I’ve forgotten about Eric Gordon every time. He’s not on the Top 10 List of Things I’m Most Looking Forward To This Season (New flavors at the Smoothie King Center Smoothie King boxed him out of the Top 10). We have enough talent now that I can come clean about my feelings for Eric Gordon. I did not appreciate his lack of enthusiasm for playing basketball in New Orleans. I was pulling for him, because that was my only choice, but that is not the case anymore. Is this the year that Eric Gordon comes close to living up to his contract? I’m not holding out any hope that it is. If he comes anywhere close to it, though, Lagniappe (which, by the way, not a bad nickname for Eric Gordon).

Joe Gerrity: I’m a Pelicans fan, so I can’t openly root against Eric Gordon. That said, he’s by far my least favorite player not only on the Pelicans, but in the NBA as whole. His disinterest in playing here, the absurd way in which he justified his behavior, and the mediocrity of his performances have all but permanently tarnished the way I’ll view him as both a person and basketball player. I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised, but thus far I’ve come to expect nothing but disappointment. This season will be no different.

2. Eliminating the six high priced Pelicans, who do you expect to be the biggest X-Factor for the team this season?

McNamara: Alexis Ajinca could give this team a truly unstoppable front line if he can do everything he did last year while decreasing his fouls. First of all, putting Ajinca in the rotation will allow Ryan Anderson to steal some minutes at SF, and it will allow the Pelicans three elite big men to stay fresh throughout the year. Ajinca also gives the second unit some spacing on the offensive end, while controlling the glass and protecting the rim on the defensive end. And, not on wood, injuries are going to occur. If Ajinca can eat up ‘third big’ minutes when one of the main bigs goes down for a few games, that can keep the Pelicans in the playoff hunt.

Calmes: Austin Rivers. Rivers is in his third year, has pressure behind him, opportunity in front, and millions of dollars all around that are on the line in a more immediate sense than in his first two years. His team is getting better faster than he is, and he’s as competitive as nearly anyone in the NBA with a work ethic that benefits from that attitude. We’ve seen improvement, too, even when stuck behind the level Brian Roberts, so more improvement is not out of the question. He can make a big difference for this team playing with the backups, swinging the team to playoffs (all other things being equal) or swinging himself out of the NBA, except on minimum contracts, maybe.

Pellissier: Austin Rivers.  Our top 6 paid players are also clearly our top 6 actual players and 5 of them are expected to start together. So my X factor is the player whose performance is most likely to impact the lone top 6 player outside the starting lineup, Ryan Anderson.. and I think that guy is Austin Rivers.  Rivers has been inefficient scoring the ball this preseason (nothing new), but it seems like he has focused a lot of his energy on improving his ability to facilitate.  If this improvement is real, his ability to break down defenders off the dribble could create some very good looks for Ryno.

Grayson: Jimmer Fredette. My reasoning is quite simple. Losing Anthony Morrow in free-agency hurt. His shooting and scoring ability was much needed at crucial periods and I envision Jimmer to do much the same for the Pelicans. His career has been very instable in terms of coaching, team-mates and playtime. He mentioned during training camp that knowing he’ll get playing time consistently is going to help a lot with how he performs. You have to imagine it will. There was debate on this site whether Fredette or Rivers will have a more viable role. I lean towards Fredette primarily because he can space the floor next to guys like Evans, Holiday and Gordon.

Trew: Can I say Monty Williams? I can’t wait to see what kind of suits his daughter picks out for him this year. Is the stripe collection going to expand? Will we ever see Coach try to pull off a fancy hat? A cane? Will he maintain his spot on the “Best dressed coaches list”? What can we expect from Monty’s facial hair this season? Most importantly, if this team starts off slow will Monty be among the unfortunates on the “coaches who might get fired list”? I’ve convinced myself that Monty Williams’ long term success directly translates into Anthony Davis’ long term residency in New Orleans. Hopefully the Pels come out of the gate strong and Coach Monty’s seats stay cool.

Gerrity: Tom Benson. We haven’t yet fully experienced what a deep-pocketed owner can do during the regular season. Dell has shown he’s willing to pull the trigger, and Tom says he’s willing to spend to win. If this team is looking good midway through the season it wouldn’t surprise me to see us get involved as a trade partner for some team looking to shed talent in favor of future cap space or a better lottery pick.

3. What is this teams biggest strength?

McNamara: The number of guys on this team who can create offense for themselves and others. Dell Demps has always envisioned a squad full of guys who can penetrate and kick, and there are 6 guards on this roster that can do that. Ryan Anderson is also much better at getting his own offense than people give him credit for, and Anthony Davis can now put the ball on the ground for multiple dribbles and get his own. Also, if you have been watching in the preseason, he has become a much better passer, especially on the interior. This team has the potential to give opposing defenses fits, with a collection of guys that they can keep throwing at you that can get their own buckets or buckets for teammates who can finish.

Calmes: The team’s contrarian aspects. As the NBA has tried to go to the superstars model popularized by Boston, Miami, the Pelicans have decided to go forward with a single developing superstar and surround him with stars. These guys have recognized talent, but not enough to carry the team. With the traditional big man that is a relative rarity today, the forward who plays better near the arc than near the paint, the guard who thrives in the paint but not in space, the Pelicans can create discomfort for teams and coaches. From discomfort comes mistakes, and those mistakes are opportunities for the Pelicans that may not otherwise arrive. Just a few baskets a game can launch a team into the playoffs. Death by a thousand paper cuts, not a haymaker.

Pellissier:  Its frontcourt, when healthy, is very close to the best in the league (I think Chicago’s ranks first).  And as excited as I am about a Davis-Asik defensive combo and a Davis-Ryno offensive combo, I think that the Ryno/Asik combo will also be very effective.  If Ajinca and Young can give us some consistent production in sparse minutes, it could be even better.

Grayson: Shot-blocking. Much in line with what Pellissier was saying, the Pelicans have a slew of shot-blockers mainly carried by Anthony Davis. With the addition of Omer Asik the league leaders in blocked shots will be even better. New Orleans has to do a better job of scoring off of these though as they ranked 19th in fastbreak efficiency. While there’s more potential in the backcourt, right now the front-court and the rim-protection is the teams best strength.

Trew: Dell Demps! Let us not forget that we’ve got a GM who takes shots and thinks long term. How many times have we seen this man make a move that is deemed irrelevant by the masses that later comes to fruition? How many times has Dell Demps surprised us with a trade that landed us a young veteran? If the Pelicans Team Store by Adidas featuring Adidas and Other Pelicans Stuff by Adidas sold Dell Demps jerseys, I would buy a home, away, and alternate red. While we’re discussing team strength, have you seen Patric Young’s shoulders? They look like body concrete. That man is strong. While we’re discussing alternate red jerseys, shouldn’t those be the always jerseys we wear at home?

Gerrity: Anthony Davis. When a big man can alter the game on both sides of the court the way that Davis can, he creates problems for more than just the one or two (or three?) guys designated with slowing an unstoppable force. His presence makes it that much harder to gameplan against any of the secondary players, and as such he’s able to make his teammates better in a way that few others in the league are able to do.

4. What is this teams biggest weakness?

McNamara: Even with Anthony Davis and Omer Asik on the interior, this team is still susceptible to getting eaten alive on the glass. Outside of those two guys, there is not one ‘plus’ rebounder on this team. Monty has already called the guards out for a lack of rebounding in the preseason, and when Ryan Anderson comes off the bench for Asik or Davis, the boards become a real problem. In order to solve it, Jrue and Tyreke will likely have to help out, but that could keep the Pelicans from getting out and running – which could turn a strength into a non-factor. One way to counter this is by going big against certain teams. A Holiday-Evans-Ryno-AD-Asik lineup would have no issue on the boards, and could be deadly out on the break.

Calmes: This team’s biggest weakness is lack of a faster player who can play outside and inside. For example, a quick and better-than-average traditional small forward. Basically, a bigger and better Gordon who actually buys in. To be clear, I’m not sure Gordon could have ever been this player, given his stature and that Davis is the man on this team. Davis’ new freedom, courtesy of Asik, will create havoc all over the court at times. In those times, one guy needs to be primary beneficiary of the confusion. Right now, there are too many stars-in-roles. Someone needs to have the flexible game, the right mix of individual game and team game to “get his” but to also get it from Davis wherever Davis makes it happen. It’d be a big help if he had a nice chip on his shoulder, too. A fiery guy, like Tyson Chandler was in NOLA.

Pellissier:  Small forward is a glaring weakness.  I am concerned with the spacing in a Jrue-Gordon-Tyreke-Davis-Asik lineup and there really isn’t a SF on our roster who fits next to Jrue, Gordon, Davis, and Asik.  I think our finishing 5 will be dynamite again, but there are still rebounding/defensive issues with that tandem.  At this moment, the position just looks really weak and the only way around it may be running a lot of 3 guard sets.

Grayson: Experience. I know this more of a vague aspect than anything, but the Pelicans were quite poor when they played teams from the Western Conference (15-37) which doesn’t really bode well for the upcoming season. New Orleans hasn’t really been a complete team since Dell Demps put together the current core group of guys. Injuries have affected this and as such their experience playing together has been minimal. Yes, fine, this will change with time. But I don’t think we should discount this moving into this season. Roster issues be damned I think team chemistry is the most important thing right now.

Trew: The biggest weakness isn’t a player, it isn’t a piece of the front office, it isn’t the curse of the pre-surgery Pierre beak. It’s the expectations. Will this fan base allow the team to figure it out at the start of the season, or will we chant for change at the first opportunity? Will the front office allow Monty Williams a full season of healthy players (fingers crossed) or is he going to be in trouble when the first losing streak comes? We hear a lot about how old Tom Benson is, and how he wants to see the postseason before his time comes – let’s hope that this current squad is given a fair amount of time to put it together. Let’s temper our expectations and enjoy the ride. 2014-2015 should not be a Playoffs or Bust season, though many people view it as such, and this is our biggest weakness.

Gerrity: A finisher. I just don’t know that anyone has that CP3-esque ability to take a close game and turn it into a victory. To be fair, few players do. When Eric Gordon lost a half step he also lost his chance to become that guy, and Anthony Davis just isn’t quite well-rounded enough on offense to shoulder that load in addition to everything else he’ll be doing. Can Jrue Holiday or Tyreke Evans figure out a way to put away games in the end? Possibly, but I wouldn’t get on it. Unless I’m mistaken, our record in games decided by 5 points or less will be fairly indicative of whether or not we make the playoffs.

5. Not counting Anthony Davis, which Pelican has the best chance to be an All-Star this season?

McNamara: We saw what Tyreke Evans can do when fully healthy and when his coach trusts him at the end of last season. Quite simply, he is an unstoppable force when he has a full head of steam, and he has great vision when the defense collapses. It would not be surprising to see Jrue Holiday take a backseat role when Evans is on the court – choosing instead to focus on the defensive end. As I said, I can see Gordon putting up close to 17 per game, but that still leaves room for Evans to be a 18-19 point scorer, while also putting up 5 assists, and 5 rebounds. If the Pelicans race out to a top seed like they did (unexpectedly) in 2007-08, and coaches are looking to add another dynamic player to the All-Star roster, Evans is the guy most likely to get the nod.

Calmes: Evans. Evans should have the chance to play in various roles and fill out out his stat line, giving him more of a chance to be featured in both highlights and game tape. He’s fun to watch and quite the asset. He can elevate himself above some in the crowd with his past accolades, as well. That should not matter, but it does, sadly. Beyond that, Evans is a nice asset. He can take shots no one else can, and is fearless while not senseless, so coaches may want him on the team as a unique asset with good general ability as a handler who can kick out. Besides, dollars to doughnuts, he’ll be playing with shooters in the All-Star Game.

Pellissier: Practically speaking, I’m not sure there is any other Pelican that has a good chance to make it.  I don’t think Ryno or Asik can and the West is so stacked with guards that I’m not sure Jrue or Tyreke can either.  If Tyreke can stay healthy and put up the same averages he put up last year per 36, he may have a solid shot, but I’m not sure he’ll be able to put up those kind of assist numbers with Jrue back.. and the rebounding last year, which was fantastic, may also take a dip while playing alongside vacuums like Asik/Davis.

Grayson: I don’t really see any others on the roster. Tyreke Evans will get omitted because he can’t shoot (casual NBA fans look at points per game and a players ability to shoot). Gordon can’t stay healthy. Holiday has to compete with all the point-guards (even though the ballot is just guards). Ryan Anderson is just a shooter. That’s pretty much it. Of all of them if anyone had a chance it would be Evans, but he’d really have to have a ridiculous season coupled with the Pelicans being a top-4 team in the West for him to garner consideration.

Trew: Since Anthony Morrow wasn’t in the 3 Point Shootout last season and a former New Orleanian won that damn thing, New Orleans has some All-Star Weekend karma stored up. I vote to unleash it all at once this season in New York. Ryan Anderson takes the Shootout crown, Holiday takes the Skill Challenge, and the team of Bob Pettit, Jimmer Fredette, and Jimmer Fredette’s wife takes the Shooting Stars Title. Anthony Davis wins the slam dunk title, and splits the All-Star Game MVP with his teammate and first time All-Star, Eric Gordon. Lagniappe!!!

Gerrity: Frankly nobody else has much of a chance. Tyreke Evans is as good a bet as anyone else on the roster, but there are just too many talented guards out West and too many guys splitting buckets in New Orleans.


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In Defense of Being Young Thu, 23 Oct 2014 00:28:42 +0000 Aside from having seemingly every player injured for significant portions of the season, there has been nothing more frustrating in the last 2 seasons than watching opponents carve up New Orleans defenses night after night.  The last two versions of New Orleans basketball have played unequivocally shameful defense.

There have been a lot of explanations thrown at the inferior defense—poor personnel, Monty’s insistence on hedging, injuries, etc.. but I think the most glaring one has been staring us in the face this entire time.  It has been considered, but perhaps not heavily enough.  The Pelicans were just young.  Really, really young.  Though system certainly impacts the results a team’s defense generates, it’s hard to run a business when the vast majority of the employees are interns.  The NBA’s learning curve is steep and it shows in records.

So how much of the terrible defense from these 2 years is explained by age?  Monty Williams has coached New Orleans for 4 years, so I took New Orleans’ defensive rankings from the last 4 years and compared to them to their “age rankings.”  The results are below.

New Orleans Age vs. Defensive Performance









It really isn’t that surprising that the Pelicans defensive performance went into a steady decline after Chris Paul and crew left New Orleans, so I decided to dig a little deeper.  I took the 5 youngest teams from the past two seasons (the ones in which New Orleans had a horrible defense) and repeated the process to see how strong the relationship was between a team’s weighted average age and its defensive performance.

Defensive Ratings of 5 Youngest Teams, 12-13 and 13-14









There are two notable exceptions here (in yellow), the first being Houston in 12-13.  Houston had a dominant anchor on defense, Omer Asik, the Pelicans’ biggest acquisition of the summer.  The only other team to overcome its youth and register a respectable defensive rating is last year’s Magic squad, which is nothing short of a miracle (daps Jacque Vaughn).  Every other team (including the Pelicans, in green) has been terrible

Quantifying individual defensive ability

Young teams are bad at defense because they are made up of young players—and though it’s hard to quantify individual defensive ability, RAPM is becoming an increasingly popular/effective tool to evaluate NBA players at an individual level.  For what I wanted to research, I required a type of RAPM that did not use priors to guide RAPM scores (many of these priors effectively penalize young players), so I got in touch with Talking Practice, who was nice enough to give me some defensive values from the last few seasons.

I took all of the NBA players from the last 4 years and placed them into “age bins” for each season.  Each of these years was grouped into 5 age bins- Group 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, with 1 being the youngest and 5 being the oldest.  I was looking for something very specific- what amount of players in the younger age bins registered as positive defenders?








The results were pretty clear- older players graded as much better defenders than their younger counterparts.  There is a bit of survivorship bias here, as many of the older players are still in the league because they have proven that they are effective players- meaning that it isn’t surprising that older players rate as better defenders.  But this just proves the point, because the Pelicans have been giving significant playing time to young guys who aren’t necessarily going to last in the league.

I don’t know how much of the Pelicans defensive performance in the past 2 years is on Monty and how much is on the players, but evidence suggests that it’s incredibly tough to create a respectable defense with young players.  Jacque Vaughn did, so it’s not impossible, but the majority of young teams in the past two seasons have been pretty damn bad at defense.  I’m not here to pretend that I haven’t been frustrated with specific things- unnecessary doubles in the post, for instance.. or Robin Lopez hedging on pick/rolls with Greivis Vasquez expected to recover to his man (heh).  And I’ve written as much.  But this season is first in a while that Monty has had anything resembling established defensive talent.  So let’s see how the team performs with Omer Asik, Jrue Holiday, and Anthony Davis before we criticize a system that just may not have had the right parts.


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Pelicans v Wizards observations Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:58:50 +0000 Once again the Pelicans rolled against a team without all of its big guns, as Pierce and John Wall both sat out the game, leaving Gortat and Nene to hold the fort.  Still, don’t be confused by the final score (88-84) this was a blowout.  Monty played Darius Miller, Austin Rivers, John Salmons, Alexis Ajinca, Jeff Withey, Patric Young and Jimmer Fredette in the fourth and those guys were wrecked by Kevin Seraphin, Otto Porter and Dejuan Blair.

Up until that point, the Pelicans had double diget leads that stretched into the twenties for most of the game.  My observations:

  • Asik and Davis controlled the glass when they were on the floor together.  Gortat pulled free a few contested rebounds, but he and Nene weren’t really able to stop them.
  • Asik kept getting free down the middle on pick and rolls as the Wizards chose to stay home on Davis and Gordon and not help much.  Asik is not the best at holding on to the ball or finishing, but he’s good enough to make that a dangerous play.
  • The Pelicans ran with the Anderson-Asik-Davis frontcourt for a time out there, but it showed some problems.  Porter kept getting free for shots.  It did turn Anderson into a monster offensive rebounder though.  The Wizards were trying so hard to contain Asik and Davis on the glass that Anderson kept slipping in over and over and ripping down offensive rebounds.
  • Anderson’s shot was missing, but it didn’t matter because he kept grabbing second chance shots and earning new possessions.  The Wizards were also playing with fire.  All of his four threes were wide open.  That would kill you normally.
  • Small Forward Update: Babbitt, Salmons and Miller combined for 41 minutes, 13 points on 7 shots, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 2 steals, 5 turnovers and 8 fouls.  At least they hit their shots?
  • Rivers had his worst game of the pre-season, as he kept losing the ball and/or dribbling into traffic without a plan.  His line isn’t terrible, but he struggled running that second unit in this game.
  • Tyreke looked like Tyreke last night, unstoppable power drives and a bricked three pointer that was so wide left it hit the backboard and only grazed the side of the rim.
  • Davis had 14 points on 8 shots, 1 assist, 2 blocks, 1 turnover, and zero fouls in 21 minutes.  And it didn’t feel like he was dominating out there.  All flow of the game.  He also had a scary fall in the third that prompted Monty to pull him.  The recap claims Anthony suffered a sprained wrist, but he just shrugged it off after the game as not something serious.
  • Holiday looked a little lost on offense.  Outside of the pick and roll he just kept dribbling into trouble and trying to bail himself out with mid-range jumpers and bad passes.  C’mon Jrue!
  • Andre Miller likes to grab people.  Probably because he walks like an old man now.  The refs kept letting him do it too.  That annoyed me a bit.
  • The team only hoisted 15 threes in this game, a far cry from it’s previous attempts.  Of course, the Wizards perimeter defense was so poor, that the Pelicans could get inside at will for most of the game – so threes weren’t needed.  At one point early in the game the Pelicans had outscored Washington in the paint 28-8.
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Is Small Forward Really a Problem for the Pelicans? Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:00:27 +0000 You’d think the answer from New Orleans Pelicans fans would be a resounding YES. With the likes of Luke Babbitt, John Salmons, Darius Miller, et al, it’s understandable there’s concern. But the answer isn’t that easy. In fact it’s rather complicated.

The answer could simply be: No it isn’t a problem

Monty Williams is expected to stagger the Big six New Orleans Pelicans, and it’s assumed that Tyreke Evans will be coming off the bench (along with Ryan Anderson). But despite coming off the bench Evans is going to be playing between 34 and 38 minutes a game. A lot of that is going to come with the starters—the end of the first and third quarters, and a good chunk of the 4th. If he’s playing in a lineup with Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis, and Omer Asik then Evans is going to slot into that small forward spot.

If we assume he’s getting 28 to 30 minutes at the small forward spot that leaves, at the most, 20 minutes that need to be filled. By itself that isn’t exactly the worst problem to have. But! If Evans subs into the game at the 7 minute mark of the first quarter, 5 of those 20 minutes will come with four of the Big Pelican Six. So that leaves 15 minutes that need to be filled. That’s 6.25% of the total minutes in a game.

The Answer Could Be One of These Three

In those 15 minutes, Pelicans won’t exactly need a whole lot of production. Slightly below average would even suffice. And the Pelicans have just that: a bunch of below average NBA small forwards. So, let’s take a look.

Luke Babbitt

Personally, this is the player I’d expect to be the “starter.” Babbitt has played well this preseason as a court spacer. With the offensive focus being Anthony Davis, a deadshot shooter from deep like Babbitt is a good fit with the starting lineup. Kickout passes for an easy catch and shoot three. He also allows Davis more room to work off the pick and roll by anchoring his defender to the perimeter.

There are downsides, namely defense. He’ll get shredded by top perimeter players. Yet, according to Babbitt gave up an opponent small forward PER of 16.1. And, well, if he’s playing 5 minutes with Anthony Davis and Omer Asik defending the rim it’ll be okay.

Our own Mason Ginsberg pointed out on twitter “I know I’m in the minority on this, but if you’re going to start someone like Babbitt at SF, why not just start Ryan Anderson?”

I don’t disagree with the idea with both of them being somewhat similar (though very different in production); however Ryan Anderson will get plenty of minutes with other members of the core Big Pelicans Six. Having him and Evans come off the bench, get some burn with Holiday, Davis, and Asik before carrying the second unit makes the Pelicans that much more dangerous.

John Salmons

Salmons fits a similar profile as Babbitt: The Deep Threat. Brought in to add some depth, the Salmons signing didn’t seem that exciting when it first happened. But then you see he shot 38.7% from deep and is deadly from the right corner. He doesn’t rebound as well as Babbitt but could provide more flexibility with his ability to play shooting guard.

Defensively? Yeah, the same issues are still there. But Davis and Asik will hopefully clean them up.

Darius Miller

Miller is the guy the Pelicans’ coaching staff seemed to want to win the starting job, especially after giving him plenty of minutes early on in the preseason. He possesses a strong passing ability, keeps the ball moving, and has potential to create a lot of hockey assists. In addition to being the most athletic of the bunch. But Miller hasn’t performed well during the preseason but did play well against the Wizards. It remains to be seen where he fits into the rotation. If he plays like he did Monday then it could see 15 minutes a game; if he plays like he did through the beginning of the preseason then he’s the last guy on the court.

Monty showed in Monday’s game that a zone defense can help hide their worst defender (in this case one of the three names above provided they are with the starters) while still giving the team coverage at the rim. Davis and Asik will make up for a lot of defensive miscues. A 3-2 zone in spurts can confuse opponents, and against the Wizards the Pelicans went on an 11-0 run while using it.

But ultimately, it’s so few minutes that the Pelicans season will not be made or broken by the production they get form guys like Babbitt, Salmons, or Miller.

But I said the answer was complicated because there is a potentially difficult situation to manage should it crop up.

The Injury Factor

Like you didn’t know it was going to come down to this? The Pelicans have been beset by injuries the past few seasons and should Tyreke Evans get hurt then the whole concept of only having to worry about 15 odd minutes completely changes. The new ‘starter’ likely plays longer, and leaves Anderson and the main offensive threat with the second unit. It’s do-able however it leaves the Pelicans, and the second unit, much thinner. Anderson could also be moved to play more small forward forcing Monty to rely on a zone defense more than he would like.

Another, perhaps more realistic, situation is if Eric Gordon gets hurt. Tyreke would slide right into the starting shooting guard slot just as he did against the Thunder last Wednesday. And the same problems as above surface. A similar situation happens if Jrue Holiday sustains an injury. But, frankly, just give me slightly below average production and I’ll be content. Even if one of the guards gets hurt.

Unless someone else then gets injured. Then another…No…We’re not talking about this. There is so much talent elsewhere in the Big Pelicans Six that even if the team has to figure out 48 minutes per game with the group of wing players they have the New Orleans Pelicans should be okay. As Michael McNamara wrote yesterday, Anthony Davis is about to be a full-fledged superstar. He’ll be the type of guy who can carry this team for stretches.

So, I’m going to go ahead and say that small forward isn’t that big of a problem. At the very least because the Pelicans have Anthony Davis.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

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Is Anthony Davis on the Verge of Becoming a Full-Fledged Superstar? Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:21:08 +0000 This is Season Preview week on Bourbon Street Shots, and while the focus will be on the team as a whole, the answer to the question above will likely determine how big of a jump the Pelicans make in the Western Conference. Quite simply, NBA superstars only miss the playoffs in very rare situations. Kobe Bryant missed the playoffs in his prime because Chucky Atkins led the Lakers in minutes that year. Chris Mihm was the starting center. Jumaine Jones was the 6th man. Who? Exactly!

You can debate whether Carmelo Anthony was a superstar last year. If you say yes, I will still point out that JR Smith and Raymond Felton were 2nd and 3rd in minutes played on that team. Tyson Chandler led all their big men in minutes and he only got 1600 last season. Maybe you can argue that Kevin Love was a true superstar last season and he had some quality teammates around him, but even if I grant you all of that, a superstar with quality teammates missing the playoffs is the rare exception, not the norm.

Now, the true problem is how to define a superstar I suppose. If you ask ten basketball fans, you will probably have at least seven different definitions of a superstar. For some, it is individual stats, while others equate being a superstar with being the best player on a team that wins a lot. For others, they look to MVP votes or All-NBA selections, and a small group of NBA fans just rely on the subjective eye test. So, what is a superstar? I guess before we go any further, we have to define what it is before we can answer whether Anthony Davis can become one.

The Criterion For A Superstar

To say that one thing determines superstardom would be naive. Like any broad term, it probably requires a collection of traits and accolades to label a player a superstar. If it is about titles, then Lebron is a superstar while Durant and Blake Griffin are not. If it is only about spectacular stats, then Chris Paul used to be a superstar, but isn’t anymore and that just doesn’t seem right. Experts opinions hold some weight, but even the smartest basketball minds can’t agree on guys like Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony, so we need more than just their two cents.

So, the answer is simple. We have to develop a criterion that takes from all of these areas, weighing them all, but not making them necessary or sufficient conditions to be labeled a superstar. Okay, maybe it is not so simple, but let’s give it a try anyway. Below is my criterion for a superstar and the reasons why each individual criteria has been selected. A superstar is any player who gets 60 or more points according to these three criterias.

1. Unique Stats (40 points)

A superstar should have a stat line that almost nobody else in the league can produce. Not only in that season, but in the last handful of seasons. Look at Lebron. You know who else put up 27, 7, and 6 on 57% shooting in the last ten years? Um, nobody. Except for, well, Lebron the year before. Or how about Chris Paul? How many 19 point, 10 assist, 2.5 steals seasons have there been in the last 15 years? The answer is three, and they were all Chris Paul. 28 points per game and 50+% from the field? Only Lebron, Shaq, and Durant the past 15 years. You add in 2 or more made three’s per game to that stat line and Durant stands alone. The point is, that to be a superstar, you have to put up numbers unlike any others in your era.

Guys who fit the Superstar criteria in this category last season: Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Kevin Love, Anthony Davis

2. Multiple Accolades (40 points)

Getting named First or Second Team All-NBA counts as an accolade. Getting 15 or more top-5 MVP vote counts as an accolade. Winning a Player of the Month award is an accolade, as it is much more rare than you probably think. Get two or more of these accolades and you have a legit claim as a superstar.

Guys who fit the criteria: Kevin Durant, Al Jefferson, Stephen Curry, Lebron James, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Joakim Noah, Paul George

3. Making Your Teammates Infinitely Better (20 Points)

This is the hardest one to point to and quantify, but I am going to attempt to do it. A superstar would be a guy who makes the game easier for all of his teammates and can impact a game in multiple ways. Because of this, he should make his team markedly better than a standard replacement player would if put in the same position. One way to gauge this is by looking at On-Off splits, both when he is on the court vs. off and when the unit he most often runs with is on without him. Of course, you need to have a large sample size and no two replacement players will be the same, but we still have to attempt to do this in order to separate very good players from superstars.

Let’s start off by looking at Lebron, the standard by which all other superstars are measured. His teams offensive rating shot up 9 points per 100 possessions when he was on the court. The Clippers were four points better offensively and five points better defensively per 100 possessions when Chris Paul was on the court. Meanwhile, the Clippers were seven points better offensively when Blake Griffin was on the court and two points better defensively. The tough part when looking at Griffin and Paul is figuring out who deserves more of that credit. You would think that the answer is Paul, but Griffin was fantastic (and so were the Clippers) when CP3 was sidelined with an injury and Griffin was the #1 guy.

Meanwhile, maybe we do have to label Carmelo Anthony a superstar according to this criteria. The Knicks as a whole were 9 points per possession better with Anthony on it as opposed to off. The Knicks actually were an above average team with Anthony on the court, as they were +1.1 with him on the court with the other group of misfits. When Carmelo was off, they were absolutely horrible – a -7.8 points per 100 possessions. So basically, they were a 43 win team with him and a 23 win team without him. Twenty wins sounds like a superstar to me.

But where do we draw the line, and how do we hold teammates accountable? Should one player be penalized because his teams’ bench is good, and therefore their team doesn’t drop off as much when they leave the court? Or should other guys be hoisted up for the opposite reason? NBA Real Plus/Minus addresses some of these issues, but it is still not perfect. With regards to lineups, I have set the bar at 4 points per 100 possessions of a difference between the lineup with the potential superstar player and the same exact lineup with his primary backup. So, for example, for Blake Griffin to qualify, the lineup with the same guys he starts with but with Jared Dudley in it has to be at least 4 points per 100 possessions worse. The Clippers most common Blake unit was CP3-Collison-Barnes-Griffin-Jordan. Here’s the rub, though. You take out Griffin and put in Dudley, and the Dudley unit was much better. You take out CP3 and put in Collison, and the Collison unit was 0.1 points per 100 possession better.

So, this is definitely not fool proof. Lebron’s Heat were far worse when Lebron went off and everybody else stayed on with a SF replacement and the same could be said for the Paul George-less Pacers. But losing Tony Parker or Russell Westbrook did not force the Spurs or Thunder to make huge dips if they were the only one from the main lineups to come out. So, I will not make that a necessary or sufficient criteria for this category. Instead, it will one way to get on this list. Another way will be to have averaged 30 or more minutes a game and have a Real Plus-Minus of 5 or higher.

Players who fit this criteria: Lebron James, Chris Paul, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki, Stephen Curry, Lamarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony

So, Who Are the NBA’s Current Superstars?

Lebron James (100 points)

Kevin Durant (100 points)

Chris Paul (60 points)

Kevin Love (60 points)

Stephen Curry (60 points)

According to my criterion, that is it and that’s all – at least for last season. These were the five best players in the league, and were all guys worthy of being deemed superstars. As you see, four of the five made the playoffs, and again – Love had a historic season for a guy who did not make the playoffs. You look at all the other guys who fit into even one of these categories, and only Carmelo Anthony and Anthony Davis missed the playoffs. Carmelo was in a horrible situation, with a terrible roster and a head coaching and front office circus, and Anthony Davis was on one of the most injury-riddled teams of the past few years.

The fact is that superstars rarely miss the playoffs, and if Anthony Davis can get to that level, then the Pelicans will likely see their first playoff action since fellow superstar Chris Paul left town.

How Does Anthony Davis Become A Superstar?

So, as you can see, Davis already has one of the criterion locked down. Last year, he put up 20 points, 10 rebounds, 2.7 blocks on 51% shooting. The only other guys to do that in the past 15 years were Tim Duncan, Shaq, and Dwight Howard. Duncan and Howard only did it once, Shaq did it twice. He is also capable of doing something truly historic for his team; something I chronicled in a piece last offseason.  The fact is that he won’t have any kind of issue putting up historic stats, because he is a truly unique two-way player, capable of doing things that few players before him were capable of doing.

The second criterion – Accolades – is kind of circular reasoning in a sense. Guys usually get accolades because their team is winning, and that would make AD a superstar in my book. But I am saying that if he becomes a superstar, then they will win, so let’s skip this one for now. Let’s turn to the criterion that is all about make his team and his teammates better.

Last season, the Pelicans weren’t that much better with Davis on the court as opposed to off. Their offensive rating shot up nearly 2 points per 100 possessions, but their defensive rating was relatively unchanged – which is surprising when you consider Davis led the league in blocks. The team turned the ball over a little less when Davis was on the court, and the FG% was slightly higher, but other than that, the Pelicans with Davis and without Davis were about the same as far as total performance. This is not what you should expect from a superstar.

Now, it should not go without saying that Davis was often on the court against other teams starters and that certain units that featured Davis (before all the injuries occurred) were terrific. But, we have a large enough sample size over two seasons to conclude that Davis’s presence has not made the Pelicans a better team thus far.  You look at Real Plus-Minus and he finished 26th….among Power Forwards! He was sandwiched in between guys like Pero Antic and Branden Wright. Again, no single data set should be used to draw any definitive conclusion, but we have two years worth of numbers telling us that, while Davis is singularly great, his team does not improve that much when he is on the court.

So, how does that change? Can it? Kevin Durant thinks so. Heading into Durant’s third season, there were a handful of stories asking the question: Is Oklahoma City better without Durant? Sounds like a crazy question, doesn’t it? But according to the numbers, Durant wasn’t a neutral, he was a negative – and a big negative at that. In Durant’s 2nd year, the OKC offense was one point per 100 possessions better with Durant OFF the floor, and its defense was nearly eight points per 100 possessions better with Durant off. The numbers basically said OKC was a .500 team with Durant off the court, and a .250 team with him on.

But then, magically, all of that changed in Durant’s third season. The team’s offensive rating when he was on the court shot through the roof, and even the defense was better with Durant on as opposed to off. On the offensive end, Durant got to the line more and took more 3-pt shots. He reduced the number of long two’s he took by 20%. His free throw rate soared over 30% and so did his three-point attempt rate. He simply became a more efficient player; taking just one more shot a game, but he added 5 points per game to his total.

On the defensive end, Durant had career highs in defensive rebounds and blocks. Common sense would say that he became a better defender, both individually and as a system defender, because his IQ on that side of the ball had increased and he was more familiar with what the coaching staff wanted to do. Honestly, it’s not rocket science – an increase in efficiency on offense and knowledge base on defense helped Durant reach a new level as an individual player, and that helped the team as a collective unit. He really didn’t make others around him better (assist rate actually stayed the same), he just made the game easier for his teammates because he was making it so much harder for the defense.

So, how can Anthony Davis mirror Kevin Durant’s third year leap? It starts with trying to increase his efficiency on offense. The addition of the corner three-point shot won’t hurt. While nobody expects Davis to fire up 200 attempts this season, shooting 50 or 60 and hitting them at a 30% rate or higher would help his efficiency, if those shots were coming at the expense of long two’s. An increased free throw rate would help, too. In Davis’s best month as a pro (March of 2014), he got to the free throw line 9 times per game. It is no coincidence that he averaged 24.4 points per game on just 16.5 shots. You look at November of 2013, a month in which he played the same number of games and a similar number of minutes and he only took 6 FT’s a game. Result? 19.6 points per game on 14.2 shots. Far less efficient.

On the defensive end, he isn’t going to block many more shots per game. He led the league last year, and while he can climb to 3 or 3.5 if he really locks in, that is not significant enough over 100 possessions to really change the Pelicans defensive rating. Increasing his rebound rate can help the Pelicans a bit on that end, and it is very likely that his added weight and the ability to play much more PF this year, will help him do that. But it will be the little things that can not be measured and logged in box scores that will help this team grow defensively.

Davis was slow in processing rotations at times last year and took some poor angles in pick and roll defense. He tried to do too much, often because he had nobody else to rely on once Jrue Holiday went down. This year, he has another paint protector in Asik, and what looks like a more conservative system that will force teams to take more long, contested twos. One thing he needs to stop doing is defending with his hands out on the perimeter and/or crowding guys when he gets switched onto a wing. He doesn’t trust his own length, and because of that he often crowds much smaller guys and has to use his arms to slow their penetration. Something as simple as taking a half of a step back when he is on a smaller guy will keep him out of foul trouble and will keep guys from getting past him and into the paint.

Again, the offensive end is easy. Davis simply needs to add a couple of tools to his arsenal and increase his efficiency. Already in the preseason we have seen him put the ball on the floor, using multiple dribbles. This wasn’t common last year, and it was something the Pelicans staff said that they wanted Davis to work on over the summer. He did. Davis also has added a corner three-point shot that we are likely to see from time to time this year. Now, the danger is that Davis falls in love with his jump shot and that kills his efficiency, but when we asked Monty about that prior to last week’s preseason game against Houston, Monty stated, “AD knows he has to attack the paint.” And he did that night, scoring 26 points on just 11 shots. The next game he had 28 points on 15 attempts. In those two games, he averaged 9 free throws in 28 mpg. That kind of mentality combined with a more intelligent defensive mindset and AD is not only a superstar, he is an MVP candidate.

What Davis’s Superstardom Means for the Pelicans

The most common projections for Davis next season are on par with Kevin Garnett’s and Tim Duncan’s 1999-2000 season’s or David Robinson’s 1989-90 season. Each of those guys led their teams to 50+ wins and a playoff birth in those seasons, with arguably inferior rosters to what Davis and the Pelicans have right now. The 1999-2000 Spurs had an aging David Robinson as the second banana, and Avery Johnson as their third leading scorer, averaging just 11.2 points per game. Sean Elliot only played 19 games that season and the rest of the rotation included 36 year olds Mario Elie and Terry Porter (who were 4th and 5th in scoring), and journeyman Jaren Jackson.

The 1999-2000 Timberwolves had a fairly efficient point guard in Terrell Brandon to help out KG, but their third best player was Malik Sealy. Starting next to KG up front was Stephen A Smith’s favorite player – Rasho Nesterovic. And yet, they won 50 games and made the playoffs. The 1989-90 Spurs were comprised of a roster full of guys that had gone just 21-61 the year before. But then they added Robinson, and won 56 games the next year. Terry Cummings was a nice complement to Robinson, but after that they had to rely on Willie Anderson and an aging Mo Cheeks. Rod Strickland didn’t come over in a trade until February, and Sean Elliot was just a rookie. But they rode the back of David Robinson to 56 wins.

The point is that if you have a superstar, and more specifically, a big man superstar who can dominate on both ends, then the playoffs are almost a given if he stays healthy. Teams that have a player of that quality need only have an average supporting roster around that player to win 50 or more games in this league, and the Pelicans supporting roster is far above average. Injuries derailed a few guys last year (Ryno, Gordon, Holiday), as did limited minutes due to new roles (Asik and Tyreke), but look back to the 2012-13 preseason. All five of those guys were in the Top 80 of ESPN’s NBA Rank. That means, AD theoretically has five guys who would be the second or third best player on an NBA roster if the league were to do a re-draft and the talent was disbursed evenly.

So, if you combine a superstar player on both ends of the court with five above average starting caliber NBA players, history says that your team will be playing into May. But Davis has to take that next step. He needs to get more efficient on offense and more intelligent on the defensive end. He also has to stay healthy. Those three superstars I mentioned all played over 3000 minutes in the years that they led their teams to the playoffs. Finally, Davis has to make the game easier for his teammates by assuming the role of lead dog not only throughout the game, but at the end of games. If he can do all those things, it will not be a surprise to see the Pelicans in the playoffs. In fact, not only will it not be a surprise, it will be expected.

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In the NO Podcast Ep 191: Two Blowouts and Western Conf Preview Part 1 Mon, 20 Oct 2014 04:15:39 +0000 Michael and I cover all the action from the last two pre-season games, I declare for Austin Rivers, Anthony Davis goes crazy (as usual) and Jrue Holiday plays fairly well. We also talk about whether Ryan Anderson is in game shape or not. Then we move on to the Western Conference, covering the teams we think will be the worst six in the West – a position most writers feel the Pelicans will stay in. Will we? The rest of the Western Conference is coming in a couple days, so give it a listen!

Enjoy the Podcast!

Like the Show or the Blog?

Like the music?

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Rockets v Pelicans Observations Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:10:10 +0000 The ‘ets arrived in New Orleans last night for a pre-season game, leaving behind the “Rock” part of their team in Houston. However, even without Dwight Howard and James Harden facing them, there was some informative things happening on the Pelicans end of the floor.

A list:

  • The shooting was a thing of beauty.  Against scrubs, but I love threes.  Love them.
  • Ryan Anderson looked . . . well, a little heavy.  He might need another few months to get in game shape and sport that chiseled physique we are used to.
  • Holiday has always had a loose handle for a lead guard.  Beverly ripped that handle off and beat Holiday with it.
  • Despite that, Holiday looked pretty good defensively himself, and the team adjusted by letting Gordon, Fredette or Rivers help freely on advancing the ball against Beverly’s opencourt pressure.
  • Anthony Davis!!
  • Terrence Jones was once ranked higher than Davis in various High School rating systems.  I think he might still be pissed that Davis’ reputation is so much higher than his now, because his aggression ramps up when he plays the Pelicans.  He was eager to go head to head at Davis, and wasn’t so bad at it.
  • Kosta Papanikadsfojasdfhwljar is 24 with a deadly old man’s game.  Fearless, good enough handles, and clever with his finishes against superior athleticism.  He was involved in two of the funniest moments on the court – an under-hand flip shot under Anthony Davis’s armpit that spun in, and a slow-break (fast doesn’t describe Kosta) attack at the rim that Davis swatted and then waved dismissively at Kosta without looking at him.  He should adopt that for use more often.  As good as Mutombo’s finger wag.
  • Jimmer’s excellent shooting is nearly offset by his inability to stay in front of any driving guard.  Still, the Babbit-Fredette-Rivers-Anderson-RandomTallDude second unit was a wonderfully entertaining amalgamation of poor athleticism, quick passing, and raining threes.
  • Gordon looked solid.

Was fun to watch real basketball again.  Even pre-season.

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