New Orleans Pelicans information, analysis and discussion Tue, 03 Mar 2015 06:08:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 In the NO Podcast Ep. 207: Reserves for the Win Tue, 03 Mar 2015 06:08:30 +0000 Michael and I talk about this run of good play without the big stars and what it means. Do the Pelicans now have an 11-man deep bench? Should we expect the team to explode as they feed stars back into it? Where does Ajinca, Babbitt, Anderson and Cunningham all fit next to Asik and Davis in the frontcourt? And how does Evans, Gordon, Holiday, Pondexter and Cole all get time?

Good problems to have?

Enjoy the Podcast!

Like the Show or the Blog?

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Watch Party Tuesday, March 10th @ Tracey’s! Tue, 03 Mar 2015 04:46:57 +0000 As we head down the home stretch of the Pelicans’ season we are all rooting as hard as possible for this team to make the playoffs. And there is no better way to do that than among fellow friends and fans. So come join the staff of Bourbon Street Shots at our monthly watch party at Tracey’s on Magazine Street! We’ll be the guys eating wings and gravy fries while the Pelicans take on the New Jersey Nets. Come talk Pelicans, socialize, make some new friends, maybe even fall in love! Hey, you never know, and, now that it’s on the table, can you really afford not to come?

Tracey's logo 0211What You Need To Know

When: Tuesday March 10th at 6:30 pm central. But we’ll be there early to talk Pelicans.

Where: Tracey’s Original Irish Channel Bar. Third and Magazine Street.

Who: Bourbon Street Shots. And You! And your friends!

The Result: Cutting down the Nets!

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Pels Fall Late to Mavericks Tue, 03 Mar 2015 03:55:15 +0000 It became clear early on that defense would not be the name of this game, as both teams got off to blazing hot starts. For the Mavericks, it was Rajon Rondo, who scored 15 first half points. And for the Pelicans, it was Tyreke, who scored 7 points in his first 6 minutes. Things were a little weird – Gordon was getting foul calls, the bank was open for Rondo, and Reke even sprinkled in an early 3. And then the bench came in.

I think fans are currently overrating Ajinca and underrating Asik right now, but damn, is Ajinca finding his niche on offense. Whatever has gotten into Ajinca lately, I don’t care.. he’s throwing his body into his defender in the post and scoring via fluffy turnaround Js and hooks.  And as Chris Romaguera pointed out, the run has been far more than a spell of good shooting.  He just looks like a different player.

I continue to be impressed by Norris Cole, Dante Cunningham, and Quincy Pondexter, 3 scrappy players who will do all the garbage work needed to win. Cunningham had an off shooting night and I didn’t care. Those 3 players are a breath of fresh air.  Cannot say enough about their attention to detail.  Cole’s shooting is bound to come down to earth, but he does enough other things to make him valuable even if his shot is off. For instance, he received a pass near the end of the 2nd quarter and was standing alone on the 3 point line.  He easily could’ve shot, but shoveled a pass to Eric Gordon instead, who drilled the 3.  Gordon is our best shooter and it was the right basketball play.

But then the 2nd half happened, and tired legs made tired plays.  The Mavs ran the Pels ragged. I don’t want to pretend that this was a game solely lost on tired legs, because the Mavs are a superior team – even with their absences. But the energy level dropped in the 2nd half and it did factor in. The beginning of the 2nd half featured some abysmal Pelicans offense and it was essentially over from there.  Monta Ellis, who was unusually quiet tonight, put the Pelicans away for good late in the 4th quarter.

In reality, losing tonight was only disappointing because the Pelicans have played so well in the absence of Davis, Jrue, and Ryno.  The expectations have changed and that is undoubtedly a great thing. The energy did noticeably dip in the 3rd quarter, but the Pelicans summoned enough to at least try to make it interesting after the Mavs busted the game open.

And the best news of the night? Jen Hale reported that Anthony Davis is nearing a return. The Pelicans have been both successful and fun to watch with their best player in a suit, and hey, that’s enough for me.  Come back soon, AD!

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Game On: Pelicans @ Mavericks Mon, 02 Mar 2015 23:10:49 +0000 The red-hot Pelicans travel to Dallas to face a Mavericks team that will be missing two of its key players, Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler.  The Pelicans are on their longest winning streak of the season (5 games) and they will be tested tonight despite the Mavericks missing key players.

Dirk may have played in the All-Star game, but I am way more afraid of Monta Ellis. Ellis has torched the Pelicans over and over again, and without Jrue Holiday, this could be even worse. Being able to contain Ellis is of utmost importance.

Questions for tonight

  1. Who guards Monta Ellis? Can this person limit his penetration on pick/rolls?
  2. How much do the Pelicans miss having Davis to guard Dirk? Do they play a smaller man on Dirk and aggressively double him or deny him the ball?
  3. Does Tyreke impose his will by destroying Dallas at the rim? Tyson Chandler will not be playing, so this could be a great night for Tyreke to find quality looks at the rim.


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Moleskin Moments: Pelicans Out-Ugly Nuggets for the Win Mon, 02 Mar 2015 04:45:52 +0000 The Pelicans have been finding ways to win since Jrue Holiday reaggravted his injury, and Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson both went down against Miami. Winning home games when role players like Luke Babbitt and Alexis Ajinca are having career nights is one thing. Winning on the road when none of those new rotation players step up is another. On one hand the Pelicans should have won the game. They’ve won four straight heading into the game, while the Denver Nuggets had lost five straight. On the other hand, the Pelicans have lost three straight to the Nuggets, six straight in Denver and were 11-17 on the road.

The Pelicans hit one of my keys of the game (they shot 30 free throws) did decent with another (22 assists), and lost the other two (they gave up 44 rebounds, and 16 offensive rebounds, to a team that was down their starting center and first big off the bench.) The team also allowed Ty Lawson to get in the paint, getting 11 assists (which is what he averages in wins.) Luckily Tyreke Evans played great at the start and end of the game (finishing with 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists) and Eric Gordon hit some clutch threes in the fourth (finishing with 18 points.) Omer Asik also had 16 rebounds, with the Nuggets never getting an offensive rebound while he was in the game.

Here are the moleskin moments for the game:

  • Nuggets are 19-4 when outshooting their opponent. 1-34 when being outshot.
  • 1Q 10:02 With Nurkic and Arthur out, I expect Evans to continue to attack Lawson with no real threat to defend above the rim behind him.
  • 1Q 3:20 Pels put Norris Cole in with, and he gets an early bucket.
  • 1Q No offensive rebounds for the Nuggets with Asik on the floor, till about the 3 minute mark.
  • 1Q Cole scores again, instant energy, Pels 21-12 with 2 minutes left in the 1Q.
  • End of 1Q PelicansNBA up 21-16. Curious to see the how the pace works out,  altitude could play a factor if the Pelicans continue to try to run with Denver.
  • Start of 2Q Jimmer checks in, I’m thinking we’ll see Monty try to stretch his rotation as much as possible with the altitude and 5 games in 7 nights.
  • 2Q 3:30 Part of Cole’s development will have to be learning what passes he can and cannot throw to who. #mariochalmersneverlearned
  • 2Q 2 minutes Pels have looked rudderless since taking Asik out late in the 1Q.
  • Pelicans 1st half is a reminder of the importance of having a PG. Never got back into the sets that were working early in the game. 37-37 at the half.
  • #Pelicans first 16 points were in the paint. Have to go back to attacking in order to win the game and exploit their defense.
  • 3Q 8:55 #Pelicans susceptible to press affecting their sets with ‘Reke as PG. The ball was 30 feet away from the basket with 11 seconds left on the Shot Clock.  #nobueno
  • Halfway through the third. Pelicans in the bonus, Faried out with 4 fouls. Asik killing it with 13 rebounds (career high is 17).
  • 3Q 2:45 Pelicans up 6. Evans shooting 2 FTs. If Pelicans can push it to double digits before the 4Q, may break the Nuggets.
  • 3Q Offensive Rebounds killing the Pelicans when Asik is out. 4 points and Evans’ 4th foul off those last two second chances.
  • 3Q 1 minute Maybe the first strong roll by Ajinca all game. Not the same Ajinca that gave Miami fits last game.
  • 3Q 0:00Nuggets had missed 7 straight threes till that prayer by Danillo Gallinari. Can’t let a team stick around.
  • 4Q 8:30 Pelicans Babbitt and Ajinca made some baskets early in the 4th, but Gordon and ‘Reke will have to come in with energy early it seems.  73-71 Den
  • 4Q Pelicans ‘Reke doing a good job of pushing the tempo as the de facto PG. But off. sets have to get in the paint even if not a post up.
  • 4Q 4:15 Gordon nails his second three off a pick and roll play as a third man, a la Ryan Anderson and AD. 85-80.
  • 4Q “No Ice Asik” is a monster. Huge board that kept that play alive. Running off time and getting to the line. #Pelicans
  • 4Q 1:07 left. Cole/Gordon/Reke/Q-Pon/DC matching up against the small Nuggets team. #Pelicans
  • 4Q :47 Heady play by Cole bringing the ball back out. 47 seconds left. 94-88 Pels.
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New Orleans Pelicans v. Denver Nuggets Sun, 01 Mar 2015 21:32:22 +0000 The New Orleans Pelicans are about to play five games in seven nights; and the first game has the makings of being a “trap” game. The Pelicans play the Denver Nuggets at 7 pm tonight. New Orleans goes into Denver having won four straight without Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson or Jrue Holiday. Meanwhile, the Nuggets have lost five straight in the midst of their half-a-fire-sale. Trading away Arron Afflalo and JaVale McGee during the deadline this once proud franchise has lost ten straight at home, and 19 of 21 overall.

But the Pelicans should be wary of a letdown if they want to win a season-high five games in a row. The Nuggets have beaten the Pelicans three times in a row, and six times in a row in Denver.  Speedy point guard Ty Lawson (16.5 ppg, 9.8 apg, 1.3 spg) and behemoth Jusuf Nurkic (7.2 ppg, 6.7 rbg, 1.3 bpg) both can be nightmare matchups for the Pelicans. Kenneth Faried can also be a problem for New Orleans, as he is averaged 22.3 ppg against the Pelicans in the last four games between the teams.

For the Pelicans to win, the keys of the game are:

  • Keep Lawson out of the paint: He is the engine that keeps this offense rolling. In wins, Lawson averages 11.1 assists per game (two more than he does in losses.) Keeping him out of the paint is tough, but if the Pelicans do, they can keep the Nuggets offense sputtering.
  • Keep the Nuggets off the board: Between Nurkic and ‘Manimal’, the team has two ferocious rebounders. Despite having a thin frontcourt with Anderson and Davis gone, the Pelicans can’t let the Nuggets dominate the boards. It is one of the few things the Nuggets do well as a team, and could lead to the kind of fastbreaks and easy buckets that can swing a game.
  • Get to the line: The Pelicans saw what they can do when they get to the line like they did in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s game against the Miami Heat. When taking advantage of easy points and setting up the defense, the Pelicans are a scary team. The Nuggets give up the second most free throws in the league this year. The Pelicans should take advantage in order to wrap up their fifth win in a row.
  • Keep the ball moving: The Pelicans are averaging 25 assists per game over their four game winning streak. In order to keep it going, guys like Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Norris Cole, and Quincy Pondexter all have to keep the ball moving like they have been.


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Anatomy of a Win (And Watching a Winner Being Built.) Sat, 28 Feb 2015 19:39:45 +0000 When the Miami Heat vs. the New Orleans Pelicans was picked to be the ESPN game, I doubt they had yesterday’s game in mind. Anthony Davis and Chris Bosh both being out, and with Dwyane Wade going 4-16 from the field. This all of a sudden didn’t look like a game “where amazing happens.” But ESPN must have been happy, watching a close game that was decided in the final seconds. And the Pelicans must be happy too and not only because they grabbed the 104-102 win. But because they are building the habits of a winner.

After beating the Miami Heat thoroughly just a week before, the Pelicans knew the Heat weren’t ready to surrender a second game to the Pelicans in six days. So the Heat came out strong, with Goran Dragic learning the system each and every day, and with Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday, and Davis out, it felt like the kind of game that the Pelicans would have lost a few months ago.

And throughout the first three quarters, the game looked that way. The Pelicans were down 82-73. The Heat had scored 46 points in the paint on 23/32 shooting. They also were a perfect 6/6 on the fastbreak, scoring 14 points (this from the slowest paced team in the NBA for most of the season.) The game was trending downward, with the Pelicans being outscored 28-19 in the third quarter, and giving up 16 points on 8/9 shooting in the paint in the third quarter alone.

The Pelicans outscored the Heat 31-20 in the final quarter. Usually when the Pelicans go through giant swings like that, it is due to Anthony Davis going into Super Saiyan mode or Ryan Anderson and the Pelican bombers turning it on from beyond the arc. But the Pelicans won this game by scoring inside, and playing great defense.

Even with Evans fouling out, the team didn’t lose their composure. Eric Gordon headed a pick and roll and delivered a beautiful pass to Alexis Ajinca who made a layup. It was Ajinca’s 14th point of the quarter, and 24th of the game, and proved to be the winning points. The Heat had two opportunities after that to tie up the game. A Wade-Whiteside pick and roll that had given the team two points the prior possession was this time snuffed out by Asik, who blocked the shot. The next possession, a 1-2 pick and roll with Wade as the ballhandler resulted in Norris Cole switching onto his old teammate. Cole got Wade to take a contested step back 3-pointer, which ricocheted off the rim as time expired. Those are the kind of plays that win ball games.

The Pelicans shot 9/16 from the field in the fourth quarter, but only two of those attempts (and one of the makes) came from beyond the arc. Most of the damage was done in the paint (the Pelicans scored 14 points off 7/11 shooting) and from the charity stripe, where they shot 12/15 in the fourth quarter. Seeing that kind of inside domination from the team is key, for if the Pelicans can continue to find ways to dominate the paint, they will win a lot of games down the stretch.

On the defensive side, I asked Coach Monty Williams if there were any particular adjustments that he made heading into the fourth. He bluntly said, “We just weren’t guarding the ball…In the fourth we just said we just got to guard the ball. Got to stop the ball in the pick and roll. The one time it hurt us, Omer [Asik] stopped the ball and [Hassan] Whiteside got the dunk. But that is what we wanted. We were trying to take that play out. The next time, Whiteside was open, and Omer goes all the way to the basket, gets a block. I thought the biggest key was just figuring out a way to guard the ball.”

The Pelicans got into the penalty with 9:42 left in the game, allowing the team to set up their defense a lot more. Holding the Heat to only two fastbreak points, zero second chance points, and only six points in the paint (on 3/9 shooting) in the fourth quarter was huge. The Pelicans had given up 14 points to Dragic in the first half, with all seven field goals coming off layups. With improved defense (as well as getting Dragic into foul trouble) the team held him to six points on 2/4 shooting in the second half. Wade was held to 4/16, with the Pelicans forcing him into 13 pull up jumpers, of which everyone was contested, and he only made three of them.

Pondexter had another great game, scoring 18 points on 7/11 shooting, while drawing Wade as an assignment for most of the game. Cole maybe had the best 0/10 shooting night one can have, not letting the shooting effect his defensive intensity. Gordon had eight assists to one turnover. Watching the team play like that resulted in a big win for the New Orleans Pelicans.

You can also feel it after the game, with how Ajinca was all smiles, Cole talking about how “these are the type of games that we need.” Q-Pon joking during Evans interview, the two joking around. Q-Pon also referenced how Asik left immediately after the showers, not even icing up, which “No Ice Asik” is how I am going to think of him for the time being. This is a team coming together. As Evans said when a writer asked about the Pelicans having a 17% chance of making the playoffs according to one system “We ain’t worried about the computer man, we worried about us playing basketball. We know the computer is hella smart but …we just want to win games.” If the Pelicans keep playing this way, they’ll win a bunch of games, computers be damned.

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Norris Cole and Quincy Pondexter Have Value That Goes Well Beyond the Numbers Sat, 28 Feb 2015 14:41:19 +0000 I love numbers. Use them all the time. And when it comes to analyzing the NBA and the New Orleans Pelicans specifically, I tend to make them a regular part of my evaluation. Do they tell the whole story? Of course not. Are they useless? Only Charles Barkley would say so. Do people tend to lean on numbers when they support what they want to be true and dismiss them when they do not? Yes and yes.

But numbers have always been and will always be part of the evaluation process. Personally, I use them to fill in the gaps of my evaluation and to also give a larger perspective of what is going on around the league. My eye test should not be the “be all, end all”, in large part because I watch more Pelicans games than games of other teams, and I openly recognize that.

So, now that I have set up this huge preface, what is the point I am trying to get to exactly? Well, this is my roundabout way at taking a more nuanced view of role players like Norris Cole and Quincy Pondexter, and perhaps more specifically, a look at how those trades were evaluated at the time that they were made. Let’s all be honest here, when the Pelicans sign or trade for a new player (or are even rumored to be interested in one), the first thing we all do is pop over to Basketball-Reference, or some other site that is similar, to look at the guy’s numbers. We start with the basics – the points per game, the shooting percentages, and then the categories that his position should specialize in.

Maybe if we have some time, we move on to the ‘advanced’ section or the ‘shooting’ section, and within a couple of minutes, we have our evaluation of the player. Yeah, you might browse a couple of websites or message boards too, or check out the national media’s analysis of the trade, but they largely form their opinion in the same way that you just did. I mean, do you think Bill Simmons or Kevin Pelton have full scouting reports on 450 players that they devised themselves? Of course not, and this is no knock on them – I don’t either!

None of us do. There is not one person alive (save for maybe the insanely hard working Zach Lowe), who can give a full breakdown on each and every player in the NBA. What we use is a series of shortcuts to get us more familiar with players that we don’t watch as often as we watch our beloved favorite team. And, while we are asked to give a definitive evaluation and projection moving forward of this player, it is probably lazy to use these stats to do so.

When Norris Cole was sent to New Orleans, many looked to these stats for a definitive evaluation of who Cole was as a player. What they saw is a guy who had been quite bad offensively according to the numbers. 39% shooting percentage from the field, 26% from three, and a .452 TS%. But there weren’t really any defensive numbers that they could point to that they trusted in a similar manner. There were no intangibles numbers either. But in reality, a player is so much more than who they are on offense, and they are also their role every bit as much as they are their production.

Let me explain what I mean by that last sentence by first asking a question. How much does it matter that a guy is not a great shooter if he really isn’t going to be asked to shoot? All things are not equal, and yet sometimes we treat them like they are. If the Pelicans were attempting to acquire a 6th man scorer off the bench, then opting for Cole or Pondexter would have been pretty stupid. If they planned on giving that guy 10-12 shots a night, then it would be detrimental to acquire a guy who was so inefficient in those categories. But the Pelicans were acquiring two guys who would take, on average, 1 shot every 10-14 total possessions when they were on the court for a healthy Pelicans team.

Take a look back at Cole and Pondexter’s numbers before coming here again. In an average game for the Miami Heat, Norris Cole went 2.5-6.5 (39%) and played 52 possessions for Miami when counting both sides of the ball. Add in his three-point shooting and free throw percentage, and his numbers admittedly looked awful. But here’s the thing, if he makes an .5 more shots per game (which includes .1 more three-pointers a game), and 0.1 more FT’s per game, then all of a sudden he becomes a guy that the Miami Heat would look insane to trade and the Pelicans would get an A from every analyst grading the trade.

Those minor changes would have resulted in nearly a hundred point boost to his true shooting percentage, and the analytics guys would have loved Norris Cole. But really, look at what we are getting all hot and bothered about — 1.2 points per game added to your team. And I am not knocking 1.2 points per game added; That can be significant, especially in a tightly contested Western Conference. But what I am saying is that 1.2 points should not be viewed in a vacuum.

Remember, I am arguing that 90% of the analysis of a player is on the offensive side of the ball. And again, Norris Cole played 52 possessions a game, 45 of which did not result in a shot or a free throw. Now Kevin Pelton compared Norris Cole to Austin Rivers in his trade grade column, but that was based on what he did in those 7 possessions. What about the other 45? Who does he compare to in those 45? Certainly not Rivers. Using numbers, Cole’s half court assist to turnover ratio nearly doubled Rivers. Using the eye test, Cole’s defense, communication, intensity, leadership, and basketball intelligence trumps Rivers by a wide margin.

So while I might grant that Norris Cole is not the ideal guy to grab for those 7 possessions, who in their right mind would care about what a guy is going to be asked to do 7 times a game more than what he is going to be asked to do 45 times a game (not to mention what he does in practice, locker room, etc)? The same goes for Quincy Pondexter, and I will admit I was guilty of this when we acquired him. Pondexter was making 1.6 of his 4.5 shots for Memphis. Somehow, two years after a fantastic season (at least offensively), he had become a terrible player who Memphis was ready to unload for practically nothing. The difference between those two seasons? About a half of a made three-pointer per game.

Here, Pondexter is making that extra half of a three-pointer per game, and he looks like an absolute steal. But it’s not because of that extra 1.5 points. Sure, those are nice and I would rather have them than not, but his real impact is felt in the other 40+ possessions where he never shoots. His off ball movement on offense is a welcome site. His on and off ball defense was much needed, as is his ability to defend multiple positions and pick up almost any defensive scheme instantly. Pondexter, like Cole, expects to win every game after winning so many the last few years and that carries over to the rest of the guys.

But this is such a small part of our evaluation when we require a player, and again, I was guilty of it with Pondexter when we first acquired him. But I won’t be guilty of it again. This summer, when it is time to add another piece to this already impressive rotation, let’s all keep this in mind. Sure, go to the offensive numbers, because I don’t want to act like they mean nothing. But try to see beyond them and try to find out about the things that player will actually be needed to do here in New Orleans. Because in all likelihood, he will not be asked to be a volume scorer – not with 5 guys who have high usage rates on the roster.

They will be asked to fill in the gaps, and provide defense, intangibles, and tenacity. They will be asked to put ‘we’ before ‘me’ and they will be asked to become a part of the culture that Dell Demps and Monty Williams are clearly building here. And that will make a huge difference, sometimes in spite of their offensive numbers. According to the numbers, Pondexter and Cole are still replacement level players since coming to New Orleans, possessing PER’s of 11.0 and 12.4 respectively. But any of us who have actually been watching know that the impact that they have had would be very hard to actually replace.


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Pels Come from Behind to Win 4th Straight in Amazing Team Win Sat, 28 Feb 2015 06:12:49 +0000 New Orleans fought back from a 10-point deficit in the 4th quarter to tie their longest winning streak of the season (4). The Pelicans stretched their wings in the 4th quarter and let the gusts building from the fans’ chants carry them to a fantastic team win.   Alexis Ajinca was the man of the match, scoring a career high 24 points, including the winning basket, on 9/10 shooting in just 21 minutes off the bench.

The Heat led 82-73 going into the final quarter and were red hot, shooting 34-62 from the field through the first 3 quarters. However, they were held to just 7-22 down the stretch.

The Heat had two chances to tie or take the lead after Ajinca put the Pels up 104-102 with 25 seconds left. The first chance ended with a fantastic Asik block (though he then inexplicably threw the ball away with 14 seconds left), and the second was a 3-pt attempt by Dwayne Wade that fell short.

The Pels had 5 players in double digits, led by Ajinca’s 24.  Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans combined for 39 points and 19 assists.  Quincy Pondexter followed up his career night Wednesday with 18 big points, and Dante Cunningham had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The win puts the Pelicans just one game back of Oklahoma City and one game ahead of Phoenix. In the wake of injuries to Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, and Jrue Holiday, the Pels have responded by ripping off a 4 game win streak, all against Eastern playoff teams.


Before the game I mentioned 3 things the Pels needed to key in on to get the win tonight:

  • Ball Movement – the Pels had 26 assists on 39 made baskets so no complaints here.  This truly was a great team effort.
  • Perimeter Defense – The Pelicans had a much tougher time this go around slowing down the Heat’s offense.  Goran Dragic looked much more comfortable with his new team, putting up 20 points on 13 shots; and Luol Deng had 22 on 11 shots.  But New Orleans found a way to get stops down the stretch, and stifled Miami’s go-to-guy Wade, who shot just 4/16 from the field.
  • 3-point Shooting – the Pels came out of the gates hot, with Gordon hitting his first 2 3-pt attempts within the opening 4 minutes, but the Pels only made 4 of their next 13 attempts.  Gordon continued his hot shooting (4-6 from deep on the night), but he was the team’s only 3pt threat tonight.

The Pelicans showed a ton of fight this game, and the crowd really got behind the team as finally managed to overtake the Heat.  Next up is Denver in the Mile High City on Sunday.

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Game On: Pelicans Host The Heat Fri, 27 Feb 2015 23:28:38 +0000 The New Orleans Pelicans host the Miami Heat tonight in the Smoothie King Center at 7 CT.  Miami clings to the 7th spot in the East with 5 teams all within 2 & 1/2 games of the 25-31 Heat.  They hope recent additions of Goran Dragic and Michael Beasley can keep their playoff hopes afloat with the loss of Chris Bosh for the season.  The Pels remain without 3 of their top scorers including superstar Anthony Davis, but have managed to go on a 3 game winning streak against 3 Eastern Conference playoff teams, including a 105-91 blowout of the Heat in Miami less than a week ago.

Many players have been moved into new and bigger roles for the Pelicans, and many have responded.  Quincy Pondexter, in his 3rd start of the season, had a career high 25 points in Wednesday’s win over Brooklyn.  Norris Cole, in 3 games for the Pelicans, has averaged 12.7 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds shooting 55.6% from the field after averaging 6.3 points, 3.5 assists, and 2.3 rebounds shooting 38.6% in 47 games for Miami this season.  Alexis Ajinca has had two double digit scoring outings in a row.  Luke Babbitt, having received very spotty minutes over the last month has made 13 3’s in his last 7 games, shooting 58.7% from the field.

They will need to keep it up tonight if they hope to remain relevant down the stretch.  Oklahoma City has only lost twice so far in the month of February, but despite that a win tonight would put the Pelicans just one game back from the current 8th seed.

Some Keys for tonights game:

  • Keep up the ball movement – The Pels have averaged 25 assists per game over this current 3-game win streak. (they average 21.5 per game on the season).  With many scoring options out, the Pels will need to continue to find good looks for each other.
  • Perimeter Defense – with Bosh out, players like Wade, Dragic, Chalmers, and Deng will carry a lot of the scoring load for the Heat. The Pelicans will need to sure up the perimeter, the additions of Cole, Pondexter, and Cunningham have certainly helped in that department.
  • 3-pt shot – The Pelicans have shot 42.6% on 3’s on their win streak, taking over 22 a game.  Eric Gordon has been a huge part of that, shooting 45% on the season and 52.5% in February from 3.  Keeping Gordon’s confidence up is huge for this team, look for him to continue his hot outside shooting.

Enjoy the Game, Go Pels!

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Pelicans take down Nets Thu, 26 Feb 2015 05:31:32 +0000 The Nets called two plays tonight.  High pick and roll with a center.  Post up for wing guy.  Oh wait, there were three plays – they ran a wonderful misdirection play in the fourth to get a wide open shot for Joe Johnson from three.  Other than that, it was pretty much the other two options.  It wasn’t that effective for the Nets, though.  Joe had a short stretch where he was effective, usually against Babbitt or Dante Cunningham.  Thad Young had a slightly longer stretch where he was effective, usually against Babbitt and Pondexter.  Otherwise, it was a lot of empty possessions.

On the other side, the Pelicans played good team basketball and had two stretches, including one really ugly 10-possession disaster, where they just couldn’t get out of their own way and were making unforced mistake after mistake.

The game was a blow-out if not for those lengthy brain farts.


  • Pondexter had his career high with 25 points.  This team just continues to have guys come through and help carry them.  He was an effective defender on Joe Johnson, ran the floor, and knocked down his open looks.  Only two forays to the hoop that were probably not the best for Pondexter tonight.
  • The Corpse of Deron Williams had two really nice crossovers early in the game that generated wide open shots Williams couldn’t finish.  That’s really the best I could say for him.  $23 million a year.
  • Tyreke was clearly pacing himself like he was against the Raptors.  Reportedly he’s not been feeling well and he settled for a lot of bad shots tonight after not being able to drive.  He did still find a bunch of guys for open looks, so can’t kill him too hard.
  • In 48 minutes, Asik and Ajinca produced 22 points on 12 shots, 17 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks, 7 turnovers and 9 fouls.  A mix of good and bad, but definitely more good than bad.
  •  Ajinca continues to get more acclimated to NBA speed, but he’s still a horrible foul magnet.  You can’t expect to get more than 20 minutes out of him in a game.  If Ajinca and Asik could both be brought back next year for a combined 10-12M, I’d be good with it.  And we could refer to them as Omexis.  Omex for short.
  • Babbitt’s shooting numbers are getting sick. 51% from three for the season.  Guy is a wreck defensively, but he competes and since he’s back to shooting freely again, he’s become more valuable on that end of the court.  In some respects, I think having no Anderson, Davis or Holiday helps him.  In the back of his mind, he’s thinking “I need to shoot to help this team win.” not “there are dudes out here who are supposed to get these shots, are they open? Should I pass? Oh crap, I’m guarded now.”
  • 26 assists on 38 made baskets for the Pelicans.  Sharin’ it!
  • Of course, 20 turnovers.  This is the true effect of not having Davis, Holiday and Anderson.  Holiday make fewer mistakes, and Davis and Anderson are finishers who almost never turn the ball over.
  • Omer Asik gets three Screen Awards for excellent picks that freed shooters.  At one point he set such a good screen, Gordon sauntered over to the top of the arc, caught a pass, set his feet, scratched his nose, read War & Peace, and then drilled the shot before Markel Brown could get out to him.  And Brown was trying hard too.

Next game is Friday against the Heat again!  Lets see if the crazy train will roll on!


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Game On: Nets @ Pelicans Wed, 25 Feb 2015 20:52:13 +0000 The Pelicans unleashed a set of unlikely heroes against the Raptors last game to get the win.  Hopefully that crew can bring it again tonight as Tyreke Evans is still fighting a cold and though the Nets aren’t a good team this year, they do have a team that could be vulnerable to the slow-motion stylings of Alexis Ajinca and Luke Babbitt.  The Nets wing and interior defense is mostly plodding.

Still, let’s get specific.  Keys to the game:

  • Eat glass.  With Garnett gone, there isn’t a single Nets player with an better than average rebound rate for their position.  Even Plumlee is slightly below average for a center.  The Pelicans, even without Davis, have multiple solid rebounders.  The Pelicans should be able to control the boards and get easy shots.
  • Attack Williams and Jack.  For some reason, both Jarrett (who should play) and Deron Williams are having turnover rates well above their average.  Unleash Cole on them and see if he can create turnovers and get some rare easy baskets for the Pelicans.
  • Collapse when Plumlee is on the court.  Stay home otherwise.  The Nets are dangerous in a pick and roll only when Plumlee is on the court rolling to the rim and getting out in transition.  When he’s not on the floor, the Nets lose all ability to explode to the hoop and will generally settle for mid-range shots.  Be aware if Plumlee isn’t out there, there is almost no threat to score around the rim.  What few shots Lopez will take there will take time to develop.

Enjoy the game!

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New Orleans Pelicans End of Season and Offseason Priorities Wed, 25 Feb 2015 17:16:26 +0000 With Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, and Ryan Anderson all out for the New Orleans Pelicans and the hope of the playoffs fading away, it is hard for some fans to justify caring about the team right now. Attendance has been down at the SKC, traffic has been down on this site and others, and the general feeling amongst some appears to be, “Here we go again – another wasted season, along with the promise of next year. Ugh.”

Look, I get it. You spend hundreds of hours reading articles, watching games, and/or spend a ton of money attending and now you look for the payoff and it appears that it will just be another season where we don’t get to see our beloved team on the biggest stage in the playoffs. We all want the Pelicans to get that chance, and to use that experience as a springboard for next season. On top of that, if we aren’t going to make the playoffs, we at least want to watch fun basketball, and you get less of that when your top players seemingly go down every other game. But, all is not lost. There is still plenty to be gained from these last 26, even if the team does not make the postseason. And beyond that, there are some things to start thinking about with regard to this summer.

There are clear goals for this organization moving forward, and with that in mind, I take a look at what we should be looking for over these final games, along with this summer.

End of Season

4. Evaluate the ‘Around the Edge’ Guys

Alexis Ajinca, Luke Babbitt, Jeff Withey, and Dante Cunningham are all slated to be free agents this summer, and it isn’t totally clear right now whether they are pieces that this team should focus on being back. Cunningham has probably been the most productive Pelican, but he is a power forward forced to play small forward out of necessity. If the Pelicans add a small forward, does he have a role here? Same could be asked of Luke Babbitt, who has had big games when given opportunities, but can’t seem to find a spot in the rotation when Ryno is healthy.

Ajinca and Withey are two interesting cases as well, with Ajinca being an unrestricted FA and Withey being restricted if the Pelicans give him a small qualifying offer. Ajinca has been far more productive in these last two years, but he will also likely be more expensive to keep, and when healthy, the Pelicans rarely ever required his services. The Pelicans do have Early Bird rights, however, on Ajinca so they can probably keep him if they want. But if they pay Asik this summer and Ryan Anderson returns to 100%, there may not be a real need for him despite his improved play.

3. Find the Right Roles for Norris Cole and Q-Pon

Quincy Pondexter and Norris Cole have much bigger roles right now than they will if and when the Pelicans become a contending team. Jrue Holiday will obviously get a bulk of the minutes that Cole is getting now, and Pondexter’s destiny is likely to be an energy guy giving you 18-22 minutes as a backup two and three. It would be nice to see those two play with Evans and Anderson (when he comes back) to see if they can develop some chemistry. If those four are the core of your second unit, you could have the best bench in the league, at least offensively. Both will need to work on their catch-and -shoot games if they want to thrive in that role, as well as their ability to guard the best perimeter players on the court.

2. Continue to Nurture Gordon’s Confidence

Eric Gordon is simply a different guy these last two months, and a large part of that stems from how much more confident he appears. He seemed to hesitate at the beginning of the year with Jrue and Tyreke, but now that he has been forced to take on a bigger role, he just lets the ball fly when he gets any daylight. So far, the results have been nothing short of spectacular. He has been a 60%+ catch-and-shoot guy since returning and is nearly 50% from three overall. The most likely scenario is that Gordon opts in this summer and he is back for one more year, and if that is the case, we need THIS Eric Gordon if the team is going to take that next step.

1. Finish the Season Healthy

If the Buzzer sounds on April 15th and all the guys are in jerseys and not suits, I will be a happy man. Last year, Jrue and Ryno were still recovering all the way through the summer, as was Tyreke after an offseason surgery. The results were Tyreke and Ryno starting off the season slow, while Jrue admitted he was not 100% when the season kicked off. Next season, the Pelicans need to get off to a red-hot start and that starts this April. Monty and his staff do a tremendous job with running offseason practices and camps, and the guys really seem to enjoy coming in and putting in the work during those times. A summer full of working on their games and conditioning would do wonders compared to a summer of surgery and rehab.


4. Get Ryno’s Conditioning Back

There was a guy wearing a #33 uniform with Anderson on the back for the first 50 or so games of the season, but that guy wasn’t Ryan Anderson. He had stretches where he was the guy we all remember, but on both ends of the court he lacked the conditioning and the athleticism needed to be the guy he was before. Ryan Anderson was never a good defender, but he wasn’t THIS bad either. And on the offensive end, he would have the occasional poor shooting game, but this year the percentage of games in which he shot less than 30 percent from the field nearly tripled.

The reasoning is clear. Anderson didn’t all of a sudden lose his stroke overnight or stop caring about defense. His shot was flat and his ability to move laterally was non-existent due to the fact that he still wasn’t in game shape after being sidelined for nearly 9 months after his neck injury and subsequent surgery. This summer, Ryan Anderson has a full summer to get back into peak shape, and when he does, we should recognize that #33 more often.

3. Add a Wing with a Winning Background

The first part is always talked about. The second part, not so much, but it is equally important in my mind. The team added a ton of perimeter talent by bringing in Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, and Tyreke Gordon over three off seasons. But in addition to being talented, they all had another thing in common – They came from losing organizations. Combined, they had a win percentage of under 40% before joining the Pelicans, and you could clearly see some of the low IQ decisions that came from the losing habits they developed prior to being here.

Meanwhile, we all have been blown away by the impact that guys like Norris Cole and Quincy Pondexter have had despite having one-tenth the raw talent of our other perimeter players. As Pondexter put it a few days ago when talking about Norris Cole, “Norris is similar to myself. We’ve won so much, especially early in our careers. That’s all we know is winning basketball. He plays with a tenacity about him that is great to see and is a breath of fresh air. He’s a winner.”

The Pelicans need to find a guy with this mentality AND some talent, not just one or the other. Bring in a guy who knows how to win, not another guy you have to teach how to win. Gerald Green has far more raw talent than Jared Dudley, but Dudley has been a key part of playoff teams that have gone deep and is a leader in the locker room. That might be worth sacrificing a couple points per 36 minutes for in the stats column. This team has plenty of talent already. It’s needs to keep adding to its growing intangibles pool.

2. Solidify the Center Position Long Term

This will be the biggest debate amongst Pelicans fans, as we head into a summer where Omer Asik and numerous other centers around the league are free agents. But no matter what we all think, Dell Demps is the one calling the shots (at least as of this moment) and he went after Asik aggressively just 8 months ago. In addition to giving up a first round pick for Asik, Demps convinced his owner to pay $15 million for the big man. Hard to imagine that Dell doesn’t have re-signing him as a priority less than one year later.

But there are some other intriguing free agents out there. Greg Monroe, a local guy, is an unrestricted free agent and would likely be open to coming to New Orleans to play next to Anthony Davis. Now, Monroe would likely cost $4-5 million more per year than Asik and he also isn’t a traditional center that is built to defend the 280 pound beasts down low. DeAndre Jordan and Marc Gasol are pipe dreams for some, while Al Jefferson and Tyson Chandler are veteran centers who have some appeal as well. Or some people advocate for going the cheap route and giving Asik’s 25 minute role to a guy like Alexis Ajinca or Kosta Koufos at half the cost.

The fact is that this will be the summer that the Pelicans lock up the center position for the next few seasons. Any idea of Davis playing the five should be forgotten, as Davis has let people know that he doesn’t want to defend that position for 30+ minutes per game, and nobody can blame him. With Ryan Anderson in the fold, the Pelicans don’t need a stud 35 mpg center who does it all, but they do need somebody serviceable. And hopefully, they don’t have to overpay for that role either. $10-11 million per year should be enough to lock up Asik, and while some might cringe at that price tag given his offense, that will be equivalent to about $7 million now when the cap goes up in 2016-17.

But there is always the possibility that Dell is gone this summer and the new guy accepts losing the draft pick as a sunk cost and moves on from Asik. Or that Monty is gone and the next coach wants a center with a different skill set. There are so many possibilities for the team this summer, but one way or another, they have to lock this position down and put the right guy next to AD as he enters his prime.

1. Get Jrue Holiday Right… Permanently

I could write 3000 words on stress fractures, stress reactions, and the like, but the truth is that they are all different and so is everyone’s body. But what I do know is that the Pelicans are highly incentivized to get past this problem with Jrue. This franchise has invested so much in him, and he is the #2 building block behind only Anthony Davis. The trajectory of this franchise with him returning to his previous health (where he missed about 2 games a year) and his current health (playing 40 or so games per year) is night and day. This team could be a contender as soon as next year with Holiday healthy and could stay that way for the next decade. If he can’t get right, then they have basically set themselves back 3 or 4 years and won’t be able to be elite until his contract is off the books in the summer of 2017 at the very earliest.

They need to do anything and everything to get Holiday past this issue so that it doesn’t reoccur again in the future. Sleep, diet, changing your bone mass or hormones, in addition to rehab routines, orthopedics, and dozens of other small things can help provide long term solutions to this problem. The Pelicans need to spare no expense to get this right, and Holiday needs to be open to anything and everything in order to solve this problem once and for all. There likely is nothing more important to the Pelicans long term outlook that truly can go either way. And the Pelicans, along with Holiday, should treat it that way.

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In the NO Podcast Ep. 206: Injury Bug strikes again Tue, 24 Feb 2015 05:40:36 +0000 Michael and I have a lot to cover since the last podcast. An injury to Jrue Holiday, Norris Cole, an injury to Anthony Davis, a 2-1 set of games, an injury to Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans being up and down, a death blow to playoff hopes, a team with a real, possible, 9-man rotation, and injuries that prevent that.

Freakin’ injuries.

Enjoy the Podcast!

Like the Show or the Blog?

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Pelicans Prove Basketball Without AD Can Still Be Fun, Beat Raptors 100-97 Tue, 24 Feb 2015 04:52:19 +0000 Similar to their game in Toronto about six weeks ago, New Orleans entered the 4th quarter facing a seven point deficit to one of the best teams in the NBA. In both instances, the team was under-manned, playing without Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis for both, also without Ryan Anderson tonight. Nonetheless, the Pelicans were able to overcome a certain talent deficit and beat the Eastern Conference’s #2 seed for the second time this season, winning 100-97 behind a true MVP performance from the bench.

That’s right, the Pelicans’ bench. A bench that, with a completely healthy roster, would have looked completely different. Alexis Ajinca, Luke Babbitt, and newly acquired Norris Cole played 75 minutes in total; with Holiday, Davis, and Anderson Healthy, those three would have combined for maybe 15-20 minutes. Instead, those three players made a ridiculous 69% of their field goal attempts (22-32) for a total of 49 points; for comparison’s sake, the team’s starting lineup combined to score just 45 points. Babbitt made 4 of his 5 three-point attempts, Ajinca made each of his final 5 field goal attempts, and Cole made countless big shots for New Orleans tonight. Without each of their efforts, Toronto wins this game easily tonight.

The part of the Pelicans’ performance tonight that should not be overlooked was the change in defensive intensity in the second half. In the first two quarters, the Raptors made 20 of their 42 field goal attempts, rebounded 10 of their 22 misses, and attempted 16 free throws (some a direct result of those offensive boards). The second half was an entirely different story, as Toronto shot just 35.7% from the field, including a horrific 5-26 outside of the paint. The Raptors missed a few open shots, but the Pelicans also did a much better job on the defensive glass, holding Toronto to just 6 offensive rebounds compared to 24 defensive rebounds for New Orleans. The result was only 5 second chance points for the Raptors in the second half, a crucial statistic considering both how strong they usually are on the offensive glass along with how thin the Pelicans were down low without Davis or Anderson.

Another key to the game was turnover efficiency for both teams. The Pelicans’ third quarter was downright miserable from a turnover perspective, as they coughed the ball up more times (9) than the Raptors did all game long (8). For the game, New Orleans totaled 17 turnovers, an especially uninspiring number when considering that Toronto isn’t a team known for forcing them in bunches. However, despite this turnover disparity, both teams finished with the same number of points off of turnovers with 13 apiece. This area of the game could have gone much worse for the Pelicans, so props to them for not giving up on any plays and playing focused on defense.

Other notes:

  • Monty Williams mentioned after the game that Tyreke was playing sick tonight. No matter what you think of his play, Evans has played through his share of illnesses and minor injuries throughout his Pelicans tenure, and that is admirable. Also admirable? His 12 assists and his first made 3-pointer in two weeks.
  • Eric Gordon struggled shooting the ball tonight, but it was good to see him have the confidence and willingness to shoot it so frequently from long range (he finished 3-9 from beyond the arc). Catch-and-shoot 3-pointers are Gordon’s specialty, so look for the Pels to continue to find ways to create open looks for him of this variety.
  • For the second straight game, Omer Asik played a major role in the Pelicans’ victory. His defense and rebounding were both instrumental with two key big men sidelined, and his 14 points on 6 shots is pretty much pure profit relative to what is expected of him offensively. A key defensive stop of an attacking Kyle Lowry down the stretch was the cherry on top of a great overall defensive effort from New Orleans’ starting center.
  • The Pelicans’ second unit did more than just score. Luke Babbitt tallied 8 rebounds, Norris Cole dished out 6 assists (only turning it over once, and that one turnover was a pass to a corner 3 that didn’t quite get there), and Ajinca collected 9 rebounds of his own (4 offensive). When players who wouldn’t typically get a ton of minutes not only score, but help out in other ways as well, it gives such a huge boost to the rest of the team.
  • Really good team defense on the Lowry-DeRozan starting back court duo for the Raptors. The two combined for 36 points on 34 shots; in fact, apart from James Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas, no Toronto player had a particularly efficient offensive game. As Monty Williams noted in his post-game press conference, tonight’s game truly was a team effort. Job well done.

The Pelicans look to make it three wins in a row on Wednesday night at home against the Brooklyn Nets. With everything we have seen from this team so far this season, who are we to doubt that they can do it? Get to the Smoothie King Center and cheer them on to victory!

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Game On: Raptors at Pelicans Mon, 23 Feb 2015 20:00:53 +0000 Tonight, the shorthanded Pelicans (28-27) welcome a strong and largely healthy Raptors (38-17) team to the Smoothie King Center. Toronto will be looking to bounce back in New Orleans from a blowout loss in Houston on Saturday night, and these Raptors undoubtedly smell blood going up against a weakened Pelicans roster. In particular, All-Star PG Kyle Lowry made just 2 of his 11 shot attempts last game with 7 turnovers and only 4 assists, and will surely look to take advantage of a more favorable match-up than he faced against a tough defender like Patrick Beverley.

Toronto is a slightly above average offensive rebounding team, but below average on the defensive glass. Asik is capable defensively of limiting Valanciunas from both a scoring and rebounding perspective, but if he doesn’t get help from the other remaining healthy Pelicans bigs, that can change in a hurry. Dante Cunningham’s ability to battle with Amir Johnson on the glass could be sneakily important to the outcome of this game. Personally, I am hoping that Monty goes with a starting lineup of Evans-Gordon-Pondexter-Cunningham-Asik and refrains from giving Ajinca the start with Asik in the front court. Should Alexis get into early foul trouble (more on this later), the Pelicans may have a hard time keeping the Raptors off of the offensive glass.

At their current health level, New Orleans will likely struggle to defend the Toronto’s perimeter players. Lowry and DeRozan are two players who like to attack the rim, and this Pelicans team without Holiday has repeatedly shown an inability to stop driving guards and wings. The Raptors’ starting guards average about 15 drives per game between the two of them, but neither are particularly dangerous from 3-point range (DeRozan is a total non-factor in that regard – 26% in his career, 21% this season). As a result, Evans and Gordon would be wise to give both players a little extra space offensively in order to stay in front of them. Keeping Lowry and DeRozan out of the paint is one of the best ways to limit Toronto’s offensive success.

The Raptors’ bench is also a concern, as Vasquez, Ross, and Patterson are three players to whom the Pelicans have to pay attention (Lou Williams is day-to-day for the Raptors and may not play). While Ross hasn’t been a great NBA player so far, he is a career 37% 3-point shooter and can help Toronto space the floor. As New Orleans fans know, Vasquez is a good offensive point guard and is very tall for his position; his defensive shortcomings are far less magnified coming off of the bench. Patterson is a strong rebounder and has been an excellent stretch 4 for Toronto this year, shooting 40% from long range on 3.5 attempts per game; he’ll be a tough match-up for any current reserve Pelicans big man.

UPDATE (5:45 PM): The Raptors announce that Lou Williams WILL play tonight, but Patrick Patterson WILL NOT play. With the Pelicans’ injuries, Patterson would have been a tough cover off the bench tonight. Him not being active should certainly help New Orleans’ chances.

The Raptors are also one of the league’s best at protecting the basketball, while the Pelicans are one of the league’s worst at forcing turnovers. While Toronto as a team doesn’t force a ton of turnovers, Lowry is a pest defensively, so New Orleans needs to take good care of the ball at the point guard position to ensure that they don’t severely handicap themselves in the turnover battle. Another way the Raptors beat teams is by getting to the free throw line, as their 21 fouls drawn per game and 25 free throw attempts per game both rank among the top teams in the NBA. These stats go hand-in-hand with both keeping Toronto players out of the paint along with keeping Ajinca as a member of the second unit.

In its simplest form, the two biggest keys to beating the Raptors are 1) preventing second chances and 2) keeping their guards out of the paint. If Toronto gets hot from 3-point range, you tip your cap and move on; as a team, they’re about average in this regard. Give their guards some space and keep them from creating mis-matches at the rim by getting past their man, because the results are either A) made shots or B) defensive rebounders caught out of position, leading to second chance points. Offensively, the Pelicans’ success may depend highly on Tyreke’s ability to penetrate without turning the ball over against the feisty Lowry, as doing so will cause the Raptors’ defense to make adjustments of their own. I expect this game to be closer than many expect, though predicting a win is admittedly ambitious. Regardless, tonight’s game should be a fun one to watch. Enjoy!

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Cole Blooded Sat, 21 Feb 2015 18:00:10 +0000 Norris Cole’s is a known/unknown commodity. When you hear the name, you immediately think: two titles his first two years, three visits to the NBA Finals in his first three years. Competitor. Defensive specialist. Then there are this year’s stats: 6.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.5 apg, 38.6 FG%, and 26.5% 3P%. There is also this. Who is Norris Cole?


Cole is having the worst shooting season of his four year career. He shot over 34% from beyond the arc in each other his last two seasons (and over 41% from the field.) While many will attribute that to LeBron James’ departure, part of it is also the fact that the Heat lost all of its spacing last year, making it easy for teams to pack the paint and force the offense out.

This does not work to Cole’s skillset. 32% of Cole’s field goal attempts this year are classified as catch and shoots. The majority of those catch and shoot field goals are from beyond the arc, which Cole is shooting 23.8% from. His effective FG% is a horrific 34.2% when taking this kind of shot. This is not Cole’s game. On shots taken from less than 10 feet, which makes up the majority of his field goal attempts at 38.9% (but not enough I’d say), Cole shoots a much better 49.6% from the field.

The discrepancy shows in his shots off the dribble stats too. When he doesn’t dibble, Cole shoots an effective field goal percentage of 39.8%, but that jumps to 46.3% when dribbling once, and 46% when dribbling 3-6 times. Cole is a rhythm player that needs to put the ball on the floor.

Cole has struggled with the pick and roll this year though. He shoots 41.9% coming off pick and rolls in 2014-15. While that doesn’t scream Goran Dragic or LeBron, it is what Cole is most comfortable running, and it will be interesting to see if a different setting will help Cole become an effective pick and roll player.


Where Cole has made his reputation is on defense. Cole is an angry defensive player that goes after you every play. Diff% is a stat that measures what a player shoots normally versus what a player shoots when he is being guarded by a specific player. A negative Diff% means that a player forces the person he is defending to shoot worse than usual, a mark of a good defender. Cole’s defensive Diff% is -2.2, highlighting how Cole makes player’s night tougher on the offensive end. For a point of reference, Jrue Holiday’s Diff% this season stands at -1.6.

The defensive stats favor Cole over Holiday when looking at pick and roll defense as well. While Holiday faced almost twice as many pick and rolls a game on defense than Cole did, it is still worth noting that Cole’s stats were slighting better in Points per possession given up (.85 to .80), field goal percentage defense (41.9 to 40.2) and effective field goal percentage (45.2 to 44.4). Cole also forced more turnovers than Holiday did when defending pick and rolls, (21.1% to 14.5%), a point of emphasis for the Pelicans.

Which isn’t to say that Cole is a better player than Holiday (or even a better defensive player.) Lots of things come into factor here, from different systems, different competition, and the fact that Cole has spent some time off the bench (and playing less minutes.) But Cole is a big point guard who can guard either backcourt position effectively, much like Holiday can. And he can be an effective defensive presence for the Pelicans, as they look to be without Holiday for at least three more weeks.

The Lineups

Something to know about Cole is that Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra mostly utilized him with two big men who can shoot. The Heat’s most used lineup of the season to-date features Cole with Shawne Williams (also acquired in the trade) and Chris Bosh. While this may partially be due to the Heat’s lack of three point shooting from their wings, this does touch on the importance of having three point shooting around Cole. Don’t be surprised to see Cole come off the bench and play alongside Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis, who both can provide some space for Cole to penetrate (and which is the kind of frontline that Cole is used to playing with.) The Heat pretty much chained Cole to Ray Allen during Cole’s first two years, and I expect the Pelicans to try to surround Cole with as much shooting as possible (Eric Gordon and Quincy Pondexter along with Anderson), so he can be an active agent in the offense with the pick and roll.


In the end, the Pelicans acquired a point guard, something that they have not had much stability with since Holiday went down January 12th against the Boston Celtics. Cole is a player who made a name for himself in the playoffs in his first two years in the league. He is very much the kind of player that Dell Demps covets, being in his mid-20s with NBA experience, as well as a Monty Williams player with how he plays physical defense. He scored 18 points in back-to-back games off the bench to help the Heat beat the Chicago Bulls in the second round in 2013. He was switched onto Lance Stephenson last year in the Eastern Conference Finals, helping frustrate Stephenson into a horrible series (to the point where Stephenson slapped Cole in the face.) Cole is a winner who plays at one speed all the time. Spoelstra said trading Cole was “one of the tougher calls.” LeBron James once said of Cole “You just put him out there on anybody and he’s always going to be successful and know you can never discredit how he goes about the game and how hard he plays. You put him out there for 20 seconds and it will be the hardest 20 seconds he ever played, like he’ll never play again… Everything they do won’t show up in the box score but teammates and people that know the game know he made an impact.” There is no telling what effect Cole will have on the team this year, or if the Pels will bring him back next year, but he is the kind of guy that you want to have on your side in a game that matters. Let’s see if he can help the Pelicans win the games needed to get into the playoffs.

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Pelicans lose to Magic Sat, 21 Feb 2015 04:17:02 +0000 Yech.  I have other words to use about that game!  Blech comes to mind.  Yuck.  Feh.  Sigh.  Whatever.  Blah.

It was a weird game.  The Pels didn’t rebound the way they needed to – a key to the game I put up earlier – had a few bad stretches that the Magic turned into runs, and then had a Hero Ball brain fart stretch that sealed the deal against them.  On to the observations:

  • I’ve never seen so sloppy a game from Anthony Davis.  He looked like he had his fingers greased before the game – and the ball kept slipping as he went to the basket or tried to dribble.  In fact, if Davis did anything outside of one assist that involved him doing something other than catching and shooting, bad things happened.  I spent most of the game puzzled about that.  He plays anything like normal, and this game is not a loss.
  • The Hero Ball brain fart moment came into effect with 7 minutes in the fourth quarter.  Orlando had just turned a trio of bad Pelican possessions into fast break points and the Pelicans went dumb and made it worse.  All game long, New Orleans had stayed in the game because of their assault on the basket and the free throws it got them.  So – with the Magic going on a run, the Pelicans abandon attacking the basket and instead jack four straight three pointers, missing all of them.  Three of them were bad shots too.  After the first three bad ones, Monty got their attention called a play for a post up by Davis – which resulted in Davis making no attempt to attack, passing the ball out, and the fourth jacked three pointer.  Now Davis hadn’t been doing well most of the game, but he needed to at least put pressure on the Magic.  He didn’t even face up.
  • Evans almost had a triple double with 14-8-10, but I really wish he had a few of those threes back.  The Magic were playing him well – giving him feet on the perimeter and trying to make him go left.
  • Monty had a slick third quarter misdirection set that got Tyreke a wide open layup.  Davis and Anderson moved into position at the Horns, (either corner of the free throw line) which is one of most teams standard sets.  Anderson, however, faked his post up, slipped past his guy, set a downscreen on Tyreke’s man as Tyreke flashed up to the free throw line and received the ball instead of one of the bigs.  It froze both defenders just long enough for Tyreke to slip by the big man and get clean to the hoop.
  • Anderson came into the game – and immediately had a pick and roll for a score ran right at him.
  • Jimmer Fredette came into the game, and the Magic abandoned their side pick and roll assault and immediately put him in traditional high pick and rolls with the intent of forcing him to switch onto a big guy or guard Oladipo or Fournier with the ball in their hands.  These plays generated easy points.
  • It felt like the Pelicans had way more than 11 turnovers.  Probably because the Magic turned them into 18 points – which is a phenomenal rate.
  • Ryno continued his cold shooting on the road – though he did get to the line a bunch to make up for it.  Still, it would be nice to see him hit some shots away from New Orleans.

Game tomorrow against the new-look Heat.  Cole vs. Dragic!  Good times!

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We’re Back: Pelicans @ Magic Fri, 20 Feb 2015 20:17:44 +0000 Armed with a new point guard familiar with Florida, the Pelicans play their first game in more than a week tonight in Orlando, going up against former Hornet Assistant Coach James Borrego’s squad.  The team will, of course, be without Jrue Holiday, but should be fielding Davis and Anderson to bring their squad to “mostly all there.”  That’s better than usual, am I right? (Update: Now Ryan Anderson is doubtful for this game.  I want to unleash a chain of F bombs here.  Are you with me?)

Orlando isn’t a good team.  The Pelicans are a solid team.  That doesn’t mean the Pelicans will win tonight.  What are the Keys to this game?

Keys to the Game

  • War on the glass.  Orlando is the 2nd best defensive rebounding team in the league.  The Pelicans are the 2nd best offensive rebounding team in the league.  If the Pelicans can win this battle, they break one of Orlando’s best strengths, making them easier game.
  • Be wary of three point shooting.  Orlando has a lot of young non-shooters on their team – but they also have some high-skill shooting specialists.  The result is a better than average shooting percentage – especially from the corner.  Don’t let this become a thing.
  • Be patient.  Penetrate, kick, and move the ball like we’ve saw some of before Davis went down.  Orlando lets teams get good shots if they get past the first line of defense.   Don’t play hero ball, and this becomes an easy victory.

Enjoy the Game!

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Pelicans Fill Backup PG Void with Trade for Norris Cole Fri, 20 Feb 2015 02:44:15 +0000 The Pelicans entered the day with few expecting them to make any sort of move at the 2014-15 NBA trade deadline. Around 2 PM, Dealer Dell struck again, as he was able to turn John Salmons’ $2 million expiring contract into a serviceable backup point guard, nabbing Norris Cole from the Miami HEAT in a 3-team trade with them and the Phoenix Suns. Along with Cole, the Pelicans also acquired 6’9″ forward Shawne Williams (who will reportedly be bought out, but the team has not officially done so yet) and 7’0″ center Justin Hamilton. Williams, a 29 year old combo forward drafted 17th overall in 2006 by the Pacers, has played for 6 teams in his first 6 1/2 NBA seasons but has found a solid 3-point stroke as of late. Hamilton is a 24 year old center out of LSU who was drafted 45th overall in 2012 by the 76ers and will likely serve for now as the team’s 6th big man behind Davis, Anderson, Asik, Ajinca, and Withey (assuming Williams is indeed waived). You can read more about Hamilton on the Pelicans’ website here.

Cole, 26, is a 6’2″, 175 pound 4th year guard out of Cleveland State selected with the 28th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft. Cole is making just over $2 million this season and has a qualifying offer of $3,036,927 this summer. Should they choose not to extend him that offer, Cole will become an unrestricted free agent, just as Salmons was set to do. If they do extend it, Cole can do one of two things:

A) Accept it and play the 2015-16 season for that amount, becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016
B) Refuse it and become a restricted free agent this summer, in which the Pelicans can match any offer made to him

Norris Cole is a player that can conceivably help the Pelicans on both ends of the court. He is a capable defender, a decent shooter, and has increased his assists per-36 minutes in each of the past two seasons (from 3.7 to 4.4 to 5.2). His 3-point percentage has dipped considerably this season, but he was a 35% shooter in his prior 2 seasons, so there is reason to believe he will improve in that regard. Cole filled a meaningful role for a Heat team that made multiple deep playoff runs and won two NBA titles, and that is something which certainly cannot hurt a New Orleans team that severely lacks such postseason experience. The ability to add such a player for a wing entrenched at the end of the Pelicans’ bench – one who scored just 42 points in 270 total minutes this season – is a clear win for the front office.

In addition to this trade, the Pelicans also acquired PG Ish Smith (who they subsequently waived), the rights to Latavious Williams, cash considerations and draft considerations from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for draft considerations from New Orleans. According to ESPN’s Royce Young, the “draft considerations” are a protected 2015 2nd round pick going to the Pelicans and a protected 2016 2nd round pick heading to the Thunder. While the protections on both of these picks are currently unknown, it is likely that they are both top-55 protected, meaning neither will be conveyed. The most likely reason for this trade is a cash grab for the Pelicans, and they gave up nothing to get it. The Pelicans can also use the draft rights to Latavious Williams in a subsequent trade if they so choose, so that is another asset as well, albeit a tiny one.

The Pelicans have also waived Toney Douglas just a day after signing him to a second 10-day contract. Douglas was always a stopgap (like Wolters before him) until New Orleans could find an upgrade at the backup PG position with Jrue Holiday out, and Cole appears to be their guy. Even with the open roster spot, the team likely wanted to allow Douglas to find an opportunity for more minutes with another team.

All this being said, let’s not get ahead of ourselves – this move certainly doesn’t suddenly make the Pelicans a ton more likely to sneak into the playoffs. Oklahoma City made a big splash today, and while it’s no certainty that their moves make them a scarier out in the playoffs, the Thunder are absolutely deeper now than they were yesterday, which should help them during the regular season. With Reggie Jackson (who would have been a nice piece in the playoffs) showing no interest in staying with OKC, they were able to turn he and Perkins into Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler, Steve Novak, and DJ Augustin. Add those guys to the current Thunder roster and it is unlikely that the Pelicans can match their win total from here on out.

But you know what? That’s okay. Anthony Davis is 21 years old, and there’s a 99.99% chance he will be signing a 5-year max level contract this summer. With the Cole trade, the Pelicans are thinking both short-term (giving the team a backup PG in Jrue’s absence) as well as long-term (not overreacting to the current playoff arms race by making a move that will cripple them financially in the future). Had Dell Demps made some sort of major trade today, it is a near certainty that it would have come at the expense of long-term flexibility. With the cap set to make a major jump the same year that Anthony Davis’ extension kicks in, it would have made exactly zero sense to make a move thinking of only right now, when the best this Pelicans team could have realistically hoped for was a hard fought series loss to the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs.

Good things are coming. For now, enjoy a highly competitive Pelicans team, hope that Holiday can return as soon as possible, and hey, maybe the stars align and they somehow slip into the playoffs anyway. The final ~35% of the season starts tomorrow night in Orlando, and Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson should both be back on the floor. Time to get things going again.

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