BourbonStreetShots.com http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com New Orleans Pelicans information, analysis and discussion Wed, 13 Dec 2017 00:40:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 Rajon Rondo and the Pelicans’ Struggling Defense http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/12/12/rajon-rondo-and-the-pelicans-struggling-defense/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/12/12/rajon-rondo-and-the-pelicans-struggling-defense/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 00:14:54 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=56207 Whether you want to use the “eye test” or the actual numbers, it is clear that the Pelicans have benefitted from Rajon Rondo’s presence on the offensive end of the court. The team’s offensive rating with Rondo on the floor is 6 points per 100 possessions better than when he is on the bench (106.1 […]]]>

Whether you want to use the “eye test” or the actual numbers, it is clear that the Pelicans have benefitted from Rajon Rondo’s presence on the offensive end of the court. The team’s offensive rating with Rondo on the floor is 6 points per 100 possessions better than when he is on the bench (106.1 vs. 112.1, which is the difference between a slightly above average offense and one that is better than every team except for the Rockets and Warriors this season).

Yet, the Pelicans’ defensive rating with Rondo on the floor is 116.1, a putrid mark which would easily result in the worst defense in the league over the course of the season. This stat begs the question: why have New Orleans lineups that include Rondo allowed so many points? After digging into the data, three key factors arise.

Note: All stats below courtesy of NBA.com/stats.

  1. The Pelicans’ schedule ramped up significantly when Rondo got back. In games this season where Rondo has been out (including his first game back when he played under 5 minutes), their collective opponents’ average offensive rating is 103.5 through games on 12/11 (below average and approaching bottom-10). Opponents against whom Rondo has played, however, currently have an average offensive rating of 107.5 – easily a top-10 offensive number and close to top-5.
  2. Opponents are red hot from 3-point range. With Jameer Nelson on the floor, opponents are shooting 34.8% from distance, compared to 38.6% when he sits. Conversely, teams are shooting an incendiary 40.2% from long range against Rondo & only 35.7% when he sits. Is Nelson really that much better at guarding shooters than Rondo? Doubtful. But the Pels have run up against a lot of good shooters in opposing starting lineups since Rondo’s return, and it shows.
  3. Opponents are piling up the fast break points. The Pelicans turn the ball over less with Rondo on the floor (13.9% vs. 16.5% TOV rate), which leads to fewer easy buckets (15.8 vs. 18.7 points off of turnovers per 100 possessions). That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Pels have given up an astonishing 3 more fast break points per 100 possessions with Rondo on the court (18.8) vs. on the bench (11.5). Some additional thoughts on this particular stat:
    • The offense generates 3.6 fewer free throw attempts per 100 possessions with Rondo, but any fast break advantage gained in that respect should mostly net out since the Pelicans also score better in general with Rondo.
    • Rondo could direct more movement on offense that results in players ending up closer to the rim. Offensive rebounding numbers cast some doubt upon that theory (team OREB% is slightly lower with Rondo in vs. out), but there still could be some truth to it.

As a team, the Pelicans have been the worst in the NBA in stopping fast break points since Rondo got back, about 5 points per game worse than league average. While it would be foolish to place all of the blame on Rondo for this stat, it is nonetheless one that should be closely monitored moving forward.

Thoughts on why the numbers may look worse than what your eyes may be telling you? Or, conversely, do have you seen any activity specific to Rondo that has disproportionately hurt the Pelicans’ defense? Let us know on our Facebook page or on Twitter @BourbonStShots!

 

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Anthony Davis Considered “day-to-day” due to Adductor Strain http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/12/04/anthony-davis-considered-day-to-day-due-to-adductor-strain/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/12/04/anthony-davis-considered-day-to-day-due-to-adductor-strain/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 17:37:59 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=56199 The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that All-Star big man Anthony Davis will be considered “day-to-day” after suffering an adductor strain on Friday night in Utah. Obviously, this news is a major sigh of relief for the team, as many were concerned that the MRI results would show something far worse given Davis’ initial response […]]]>

The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that All-Star big man Anthony Davis will be considered “day-to-day” after suffering an adductor strain on Friday night in Utah. Obviously, this news is a major sigh of relief for the team, as many were concerned that the MRI results would show something far worse given Davis’ initial response to the injury. According to the team (via The Advocate’s Scott Kushner), Davis went through an initial MRI in Portland and then a follow-up MRI back in New Orleans. Both came back negative, so AD seems to have avoided a long-term injury.

In the meantime, expect the Pelicans to use a combination of Cunningham, Diallo, and Asik to cover for AD, likely with an even heavier emphasis on smaller lineups than they utilized previously. Another option may be the return of another injured player, Alexis Ajinca; while no information has been released about his status lately, Ajinca’s original recovery timeline (announced on October 20th) was 4-6 weeks, and he reached the 6-week mark this past Friday.

We’ll provide more thoughts on the update from the team as more information becomes available regarding when Davis will return to action, but as always, reach out to us on Twitter at @BourbonStShots with any commentary or questions (or exlamations of relief) of your own.

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In the NO Podcast Ep. 298: Davis injured – what to do? http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/12/03/in-the-no-podcast-ep-298-davis-injured-what-to-do/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/12/03/in-the-no-podcast-ep-298-davis-injured-what-to-do/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 05:01:03 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=56195 It was a gut punch week for the New Orleans Pelicans, but the win against Portland was pretty sweet nonetheless. Michael and I speculate about Davis’ injury, what the team should do on the trade market or not depending on him being out, and guess at a timeline. Then we also talk Rondo’s contributions, Omer […]]]>

It was a gut punch week for the New Orleans Pelicans, but the win against Portland was pretty sweet nonetheless. Michael and I speculate about Davis’ injury, what the team should do on the trade market or not depending on him being out, and guess at a timeline. Then we also talk Rondo’s contributions, Omer Asik’s return, and what the Pelicans should have done with Donovan Mitchell.

Then we talk about an upcoming slate of winnable basketball games.

Enjoy!

Like the Show or the Blog?

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From scrub to sub: Pelicans’ Darius Miller is a bench weapon http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/30/from-scrub-to-sub-pels-darius-miller-is-a-bench-weapon/ Thu, 30 Nov 2017 18:25:26 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=56158 As if he were the protagonist in an ancient epic, small Forward Darius Miller was released from the New Orleans Pelicans on November 30, 2014 and has now emerged as a top reserve player in his first season back with the team that let him go. Miller struggled to crack into the rotation in his […]]]>

As if he were the protagonist in an ancient epic, small Forward Darius Miller was released from the New Orleans Pelicans on November 30, 2014 and has now emerged as a top reserve player in his first season back with the team that let him go.
Miller struggled to crack into the rotation in his first two seasons in New Orleans, and often was unable to seize opportunities on the court. He averaged 2.3 ppg in 13.3 average mpg, and only saw his scoring increase to 4.4 ppg in his second season while playing an average of 16.1 minutes. At times, Miller looked incredibly indecisive on the offense end of the floor, leaving his NBA future in doubt.
After his release, Miller signed with Brose Bamberg of the German top-tier level Basketball Bundesliga and the Euroleague. It was during the course of this hero’s journey that Miller found his strength. In his two years in Europe, he averaged 10.9 ppg while shooting 40.8 percent from 3-pt. range and 52.2 percent from inside the arc. More specifically, Miller averaged 15.1 points per 36 minutes in those two seasons. Miller also ranked sixth best in 3-pt. percentage during the 2016-17 Euroleague season.
Miller’s Euroleague numbers indicated that he could a perfect candidate for a solid bench role for an NBA team willing to give some minutes.
Since returning to New Orleans, Miller overcame a rocky start to being absolute fire from the bench. Being patient with Miller has paid off for Alvin Gentry and the staff as he jumped up from shooting 14.3 percent from the field in October to around 60 percent in November. The improvement has many, including starting point guard Rajon Rondo, advocating his inclusion in the 3-pt. shooting contest come All-Star Weekend.

As Miller captures the heart of New Orleans, many fans are advocating a starter’s role for him. However, starting him would be to remove the Pelicans’ fiercest punch in the second unit when Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins or both have to leave the floor. What Miller’s shooting does is give the reserve offense a different complexion after opposing defenses have keyed into denying the paint and mid-range jumpers.
At age 35, it should not be backup point guard Jameer Nelson’s job to be the top scorer from the bench. With Nelson, his experience should be applied to being a game manager that can get the ball where it needs to be, plus some outside shooting on kick-outs. Having Miller in the second unit makes Nelson’s role a lot easier considering he is both a threat from deep, and has shown an ability to score off the dribble as well.
Recently we have seen the first unit either start slow and catch up for comeback wins, or build sizable first quarter leads that eventually fall apart. While fans may want to see a position balance in the starting unit, which is likely why there is a call for Miller, the true issue for lack of consistency is the turnover rate. This is an issue that Miller the starter would not alleviate. Cousins currently leads the league with 109 turnovers. If the Pels want to address the issue, working with Boogie would be a place to start.
For Miller, it is not unreasonable for him to have goals of winning the Most Improved Player Award or Sixth Man of the Year at this point. Since the Pelicans’ roster has been a work in progress even after the season began, there is room for change, but leader of the bench is where Miller belongs at this time.
For now, Pels fans may just want to enjoy that Miller has faced all challenges and flashes the promise of a strong career.

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In the NO Pod Ep 297: Winning against good teams, the Boogie Experience http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/27/in-the-no-pod-ep-297-winning-against-good-teams-the-boogie-experience/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/27/in-the-no-pod-ep-297-winning-against-good-teams-the-boogie-experience/#respond Tue, 28 Nov 2017 05:45:02 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=56156 In the NO returns and the New Orleans Pelicans are above .500 and just completed a 3-1 week! Michael and I talk about a few of the games, including the Raptors, Warriors, and Spurs, addressing issues we see like the interior defense, how Rondo has played, and who our favorite Pelican to watch is. We […]]]>

In the NO returns and the New Orleans Pelicans are above .500 and just completed a 3-1 week! Michael and I talk about a few of the games, including the Raptors, Warriors, and Spurs, addressing issues we see like the interior defense, how Rondo has played, and who our favorite Pelican to watch is.

We also show Miller some love, swear off beefy Jared Dudley, and address the idea of trading Boogie.

Enjoy!

Like the Show or the Blog?

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NOLA 3-Point Club to Hold Next Fundraiser Dinner on December 5th http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/25/nola-3-point-club-to-hold-next-fundraiser-dinner-on-december-5th/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/25/nola-3-point-club-to-hold-next-fundraiser-dinner-on-december-5th/#respond Sat, 25 Nov 2017 16:13:41 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=56149 Disclosure: My father donates his time to this organization, serving on its board of directors. No one on the 3 Point Club’s Executive Committee or Board of Directors receive any kind of financial compensation for the work that they do for the organization, nor did Bourbon Street Shots for the publishing of this post. We simply like to take any […]]]>

Disclosure: My father donates his time to this organization, serving on its board of directors. No one on the 3 Point Club’s Executive Committee or Board of Directors receive any kind of financial compensation for the work that they do for the organization, nor did Bourbon Street Shots for the publishing of this post. We simply like to take any opportunity that we can to promote charitable activity such as those organized by the 3 Point Club.

The 3 Point Club of New Orleans will host its next fundraiser on December 5th at Metairie Country Club at 6:30 PM. In case you missed our first post explaining the Pelicans-themed philanthropic organization, here is the club’s President, Dr. Lance Turkish, explaining who they are and what they do:

The 3-Point Club is a community service organization, supporting the New Orleans Pelicans, the sport of basketball, and the New Orleans metro community. The club was formed in 2014 by a group of Pelicans fans with extensive experience in community service. Recognizing the importance of the New Orleans Pelicans to the community, they decided to create an organization to encourage fan support for the New Orleans Pelicans and promote philanthropic activity related to basketball. 

The 3-Point Club, in partnership with the New Orleans Pelicans, have teamed together to put on a basketball camp for children with cancer, sickle cell anemia, and those impacted by illnesses that prevent them from participating in regular youth athletic programs. The camp is held in July each year, and the third annual camp will take place in July, 2018. Families with children interested in attending should send an email to 3pointclubofneworleans@gmail.com or contact Roslyn Duplessie at 504-452-8993The 3-Point Club is also beginning a college scholarship for students whose lives have been impacted by health related issues.

The 3-Point Club of New Orleans is an IRC Section 501(c)(7) organization. Donations to the organization are not tax deductible. You can follow us on Facebook (group name: 3 Point Club of New Orleans) and on our website. We can be reached by email at 3pointclubofneworleans@gmail.com, or by mail at The 3-Point Club of New Orleans, P.O. Box 23307, New Orleans, LA 70183

More on the dinner here:

If you are interested in joining the club, a membership application can be found here.

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The Big Conundrum http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/24/the-big-conundrum/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/24/the-big-conundrum/#respond Fri, 24 Nov 2017 20:31:05 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=56141 A look into the success of Davis centric Lineups and what that means for the Pelicans The last few weeks unearthed a familiar trend. Lineups with Anthony Davis at center absolutely demolish the opposition. This trend goes years back. First it was Davis and Ryan Anderson as your front court – they blitzed opponents to […]]]>
A look into the success of Davis centric Lineups and what that means for the Pelicans

The last few weeks unearthed a familiar trend. Lineups with Anthony Davis at center absolutely demolish the opposition. This trend goes years back. First it was Davis and Ryan Anderson as your front court – they blitzed opponents to the tune of 115+ points per 100 possessions over almost 3 years. While they nearly gave up the same amount of points on the other end, the pairing still outscored opponents on the balance. Last year the Pelicans’s small ball look with Davis-Cunningham-Hill as the front court was written about extensively and the Davis centric lineups continued to dominate even after the DeMarcus Cousins trade. This year is no different. Take a look at the table below.

The first row is how the Pelicans perform when both Davis and Cousins are on the court in which we assume Cousins is the center. The second row is how the Pelicans perform when only Davis is on the court and we assume he is the center. As you can see the offense takes a giant leap forward while the defense takes a step back. On the balance, Davis centric lineups are actually outperforming lineups with both Davis and CousinsThis includes the two games at Portland and Sacramento where Cousins went off without Davis. But wait, there is more.

This is how Davis centric lineups have fared over the last 10 games, including the Denver abomination.

 

In 114 minutes, Davis led lineups are outscoring opponents by 23.9 points per 100 possessions. They sport an elite defensive rating and an incendiary offensive rating. Davis in space in unstoppable and we need to send him to the freaking moon. Davis hasn’t had this combination of ball handling and IQ in his small ball lineups, ever. The ball zips side to side as the Pelicans slam down on the gas pedal in those units, yielding a pace of 106.6. This mark would pass the Brooklyn Nets for league best.

Checkout this play from the Spurs game.

 

 

Davis has so much space that Rondo is able lob it up as Davis crashes from the 3 point arc.  I mean just look how the ball moves in this next play.

 

 

What do we make of all this?

There are two different games going on within a Pelicans game. There is a bash and smash when the Pelicans feature both bigs or any Boogie centric lineups, and there is a pace and space when Davis is given the runway with ball handlers and shooters. Make no mistake, the Pelicans need Cousins to perform at a high level to be successful in the future despite what the numbers are saying right now. Their ceiling is only as high as how good the pairing of Davis and Cousins can be. However, with how successful Davis in space continues to be, the needs profile of this team shifts a little bit.

McNamara has repeatedly pointed out that the Pelicans are in desperate need of a third big, one who can play with both Davis and Cousins, to round out the roster. We still need that third big, but the success of Davis at center changes what type of big the Pelicans should go after. I don’t think lumbering big bodies such as Lopez or Monroe should be the targets, especially with the return of Omer Asik. You want to optimize the number of minutes between the Davis – Cousins combo and the number of minutes with Davis at center. Getting a traditional big, or a big who cannot space marginalizes both lineups. Instead the Pelicans should be targeting hybrid 3/4s who can shoot a little an handle the ball a little.  The two trade targets that come to mind are Nikola Mirotić ( who @MP_NBA has advocated for for a while now), and Thaddeus Young. It is important to note Mirotić cannot be traded until January 18th. There are rumbles around the league that the Pacers’s brass isn’t too happy with the fast start they have gotten off to. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the young team, but if they continue winning the Pacers might not be too keen on moving Young.

Fortunately, as long as health remains, time may be on the Pelicans’s side for once. The more minutes they can give to the AD and Boogie pairing to grow, the more time they have to evaluate what their needs truly are before committing to a move. Meanwhile if they continue to steamroll opponents by going small, the Pelicans’s relative flexibility only increases. Especially as they start seeing players like Ajinca and Hill return from injury.  A blurry outline of what this team and roster can be is beginning to take shape. Let’s hope time adds needed clarity and success.

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The V in Thanksgiving http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/23/the-v-in-thanksgiving/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/23/the-v-in-thanksgiving/#respond Thu, 23 Nov 2017 16:35:48 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=56124 I thought about writing this post at the start of the season, but it didn’t feel right, so I waited. I’m not driven or moved by arbitrary deadlines. Especially not with this. A holiday celebrating food, generosity, and history in part using sports is right. Yeah. I want to express my deep gratitude and appreciation […]]]>

I thought about writing this post at the start of the season, but it didn’t feel right, so I waited. I’m not driven or moved by arbitrary deadlines. Especially not with this. A holiday celebrating food, generosity, and history in part using sports is right. Yeah.

I want to express my deep gratitude and appreciation for Gerry V.

For those that don’t know Gerry Vaillancourt, he’s quite openly from Queens and grew up a “hoops junkie.” He played, coached, scouted, and found his way to New Orleans when the Hornets relocated, as he was their color analyst. He stayed around for years after the team was sold, being involved in local tv and radio. He recently relocated back to Charlotte, of course doing sports radio, and being closer to his family so he could be a grandfather more completely.

Gerry is an overflowing reservoir of basketball knowledge and passion. He loves to talk about it with anyone (which is lucky for me) and loves to teach (also lucky for me). He was continually involved in youth sports. And, no, not just showing up and throwing a ball out. He used to tell me in detail how some of the games went. Here’s a faithful paraphrase of his huddle speeches:

Gentleman. . . . how much fun is this? Pancakes, that was a great shot. It didn’t go in, but you keep taking it. Loopy, that was great when you passed is back. These guys love it when you do that. Everyone’s taken a shot but Double Knot . . . let’s get him the ball. You guys want to try a screen? Here’s how . . .

Gerry is professional in everything he does, but he’s not a stuffed shirt, even if he loves to wear a suit. He’s a little Keith and a little Mick. He likes to find the groove and see where it takes him while also setting the tone and terms, and he’s great with machine gun one-liners. It’s a style that is not common today, and it is missed.

I could tell you that Gerry moving was a loss for us and for me, but it wasn’t. We were lucky to have him, and all that time was just a bonus. Lagniappe for the locals.

Gerry was in my life far longer than I was in his. I listened to his shows when he got to town, and his style really resonated with me. When I had season ticket perks to cash in, I took the options to meet Sean Kelley (also a great guy and an incredible citizen to boot) and Gerry in the radio booth. I used to send them emails during games to answer Gerry’s music trivia questions. It was a highlight for me when I got a reply or a shout out on the air.

When Gerry moved over to TV, I steeled myself for rejection and reached out to him, telling him that if he needed a basketball outlet, we’d give him a platform. We met for the first of many meals at the Shimmy Shack. I was so nervous, I forgot to say “no mayo” on my Blarney Burger, and I had to choke it down with that nastiness on there because I didn’t want to distract the conversation or appear as flawed as I truly am.

As time went on, we talked basketball, and the conversations grew into all our common interests: football, food, philosophy, but mostly dogs, history, and especially music. It was always over food or coffee. This was helpful, as he used to lay out plays for me using french fries, buffalo wings, salt and pepper shakers, etc. He became a friend and a mentor, but he was always a hero of mine.

I often break the rules. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it does not. This time, it was one of the best moves I ever made. I met my hero, and I’m a better man for it.

I love you, V.

I hope I’m making you proud, and until the next cup . . .

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Thoughts on Injuries, Rotation, Roster Moves http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/20/thoughts-on-injuries-rotation-roster-moves/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/20/thoughts-on-injuries-rotation-roster-moves/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 13:44:48 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=56101 Some thoughts on the return of injured players. Frank Jackson could return in the coming weeks, with a 3-4 month window reported on September 1. Jackson was unlikely to be slated for meaningful minutes, but being an insurance policy beyond Charles Cooke could help add confidence to a move to acquire a big. Alexis Ajinca […]]]>

Some thoughts on the return of injured players.

  • Frank Jackson could return in the coming weeks, with a 3-4 month window reported on September 1. Jackson was unlikely to be slated for meaningful minutes, but being an insurance policy beyond Charles Cooke could help add confidence to a move to acquire a big.
  • Alexis Ajinca was reported to miss 4-6 weeks on October 20. At practice, Gentry was somewhat cagey about giving an update, but if he is not day-to-day, he is close. His return may remove pressure to add a backup big. Of course, he has to return, remain available, and be playable to give the Pelicans breathing room.
  • Solomon Hill may return late in February, per the update August 27. Hill’s potential return will be clearer closer to the trade deadline. Evaluations near then will affect the decision to acquire a wing, unless something falls into their lap.
  • Omer Asik’s condition is such an unknown, it best to just count him out until we know otherwise.

In the next of couple weeks, the team may know more about 2 more backup players. That knowledge and progress reports on Hill should have the positioned to get into any December-15-related action. Ajinca’s return is the one with the most near-term importance, and it is luckily the one that may just happen first.

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The value Darren Erman provides for the Pelicans on defense http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/20/value-erman-pelicans-defense/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/20/value-erman-pelicans-defense/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 12:00:14 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=56094 (Be sure to follow Brendon on twitter.) Lost in the concern over injuries and questions about Alvin Gentry’s future is a fact: Darren Erman has been a very valuable assistant during his time on the New Orleans Pelicans bench. Since taking over as lead assistant for Randy Ayers before the 2015-16 season, Erman has crafted […]]]>

(Be sure to follow Brendon on twitter.)

Lost in the concern over injuries and questions about Alvin Gentry’s future is a fact: Darren Erman has been a very valuable assistant during his time on the New Orleans Pelicans bench.

Since taking over as lead assistant for Randy Ayers before the 2015-16 season, Erman has crafted creative and resourceful gameplans and has been willing to change direction when one plan’s usefulness runs its course. He led the 2016-17 Pelicans — who won a mere 34 games — to the ninth-best defensive rating in the NBA. The other two years have been uneven, thanks to injury and inconsistency, but Erman’s willingness to experiment and adapt to change has been a positive for the Pelicans even when they’ve struggled to defend.

Three main ideas stand out as innovative uses of talent by Erman in New Orleans:

  • Using Jrue Holiday to defend bigger wings and forwards, something he rarely did in Philadelphia at the beginning of his career.
  • Turbo-switching screens during the 2016-17 season prior to the DeMarcus Cousins trade in an effort to maximize Solomon Hill and Dante Cunningham’s usefulness.
  • Changing the game plan this year to one in which Cousins drops back when defending pick-and-rolls.

Let’s go one by one.

Jrue Holiday

Prior to the season, several outlets reported that the Pelicans would lean even harder into Holiday’s utility as a switchable defender, after his success as the anchor of the switching scheme last year. It had to feel good for both the player and the coach (Erman) to see an out-of-the-box idea work so well. Holiday was able to make guys like Kristaps Porzingis and Paul Millsap uncomfortable all season, putting on legit clinics defending in the post.

Holiday is all chest and footwork when he gets down there, and much of the credit for unlocking that aspect of his game, as well as making it work within the Pels’ scheme, should go to Erman. The point guard, finally healthy, went on to finish third out of all NBA point guards in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus.

(h/t to Kumar for this clip from last season)

Turbo-Switching

It was partially his ability to defend bigger players that allowed Erman to implement a switch-everything game plan last season. Thanks to consistent ineffectiveness by Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca, the coaching staff was forced to play extremely small and rely on Anthony Davis full-time at center. With Cunningham and Hill as the best options in the frontcourt, Erman and head coach Alvin Gentry decided it was best to start them both and play through the defense.

The Pelicans limited opponents to an effective field goal percentage of .509 that season after hemorrhaging points and allowing over a .520 effective field goal percentage the prior season. It was the best the Pelicans’ defense has looked in years, and at the same time helped the Solomon Hill and E’Twaun Moore contracts look more reasonable.

Cousins

This year, Cousins has replaced Davis as the Pelicans’ representative in the top 20 of defensive box plus-minus in the NBA. He is dropping to around the free-throw line on pick-and-roll coverage, corralling ball-handlers rather than blitzing them or switching onto them. It’s probably the best use of his skill set and size — his feet are quick, but Erman has him using that foot speed to recover down low rather than trap up high.

Cousins does not have the hip flexibility of Davis, so he isn’t able to react to plays as well up toward the 3-point line. Instead, he keeps his head up on a slow backpedal toward the rim as the play develops in front of him. For the most part, his play has been a positive for the Pelicans’ defense.

Through nearly 600 minutes, the Pels’ defense has been more than 10 points better with Cousins on the court, according to NBA.com on/off data. Bigger problems elsewhere on the roster (Rajon Rondo, Jameer Nelson and Darius Miller, to start) explain the team’s poor performance on defense to this point.

Erman, Cousins, Davis and Holiday are an elite combination as the core of a competitive defense. The Pelicans’ lead assistant has shown once again this season why he is so valuable to the team as a defensive coach.

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Coming to Terms with Rondo http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/19/coming-to-terms-with-rondo/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/19/coming-to-terms-with-rondo/#respond Sun, 19 Nov 2017 17:14:22 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=56077 Here is how I overcame my initial concerns with the Rondo signing to view him favorably now. When the New Orleans Pelicans signed Rajon Rondo, I was a bit stunned. I was not stunned because of the magnitude of the move or anything like that. I was stunned because I, frankly, had fairly uniform negative […]]]>

Here is how I overcame my initial concerns with the Rondo signing to view him favorably now.

When the New Orleans Pelicans signed Rajon Rondo, I was a bit stunned. I was not stunned because of the magnitude of the move or anything like that. I was stunned because I, frankly, had fairly uniform negative feelings about Rondo as a player-personality based on light observation from years before, plus I had some technical and roster concerns.

So, I wrestled with these in the moment and beyond, having to reconcile my fandom and ideas about the best moves for the team and these concerns.

I thought I’d share my thoughts when we made his official debut, as that would give me the most time to come to terms with it. That got delayed, then moved up, etc. So, it’s today. Whatever.

Initial Thoughts

When news of the signing broke, I was on duty to cover team news for our gang, and I was in Austin recovering from a late night of doing nothing with some of my best friends in the world. Oh, I had fish and chips, too. Mmmmmm. If you can park, Austin is great.

Anyway, I was flooded with thoughts pretty quickly. Like a volley from long bows:

  • I don’t like Rondo. He had an attitude problem early on with the Celtics, and I really didn’t like some of his interactions with Chris Paul when he was in New Orleans. Really.
  • Character matters. Whatever character means in this case, it matters. This is not good.
  • At what salary? This slams the hardcap down on their heads, is it the full TMLE, or did they swing a minimum deal? It was up in the air.
  • That ain’t shooting! I guess we are going with better shots for not-better shooters. Fine, but it is perhaps telling (though not about Rondo) if they missed on that many shooters. I have to keep an eye on this.
  • Still, I don’t like Rondo.
  • His middle name is Pierre? Nice. (I was looking it up on the phone on the couch downstairs during my grieving cycle; this is part of “bargaining.” I included this tid-bit in my initial write-up.)
  • Remember, you like the hardcap, you idiot (still bargaining).

Current Thoughts

  • Fan Concerns:

    This was the foremost issue for me. I don’t subscribe to this non-fandom writers have or claim to have (depending on the writer). I am a fan, and I declare it with pride. I can be objective, but I am fan. I write and do that at least in part because I am a fan. I, thankfully, have not had to deal with a player I just do not like. Rondo coming in forced me to have a look hard at the situation. Billy Corgan once defined a fan (a near-example, but he said it way before) as someone who is going to give you a real chance to be appreciated. I like that, so I decided to give Rondo a chance because I was giving the Pelicans a chance on the matter.

    So, I dug in and did research (a typical approach for me is to read up). I was right about Rondo, but I was right about Rondo-2008, or however you wish to refer to that era of Rondo, to be more specific. I’m not sure about Rondo-2017. I’ve gotten a fairly applied label as a malcontent in my life, and I’ve gotten unfair ones. I’ve been there. I see the stuff about Rondo that has been said, and I contrast that to what those closest to him say and how this team responds to him on and off the court (they respond favorably). The difference is hmmmmmm-inspiring. At some point you just have to say, if he hates the Mavericks, there is good in him.

    And the door opens . . .

    We’ll see what sort of leeway he has with me in this fandom department if there’s ever an incident . . . I have no idea how I’ll react . . . but so far, that leeway has increased, for sure, and my expectations are changing. I know beyond the shadow of doubt that character really matters to the staff. They look for it, they foster it, whatever “it” is here. Rondo having arrived to this good emotional place from elsewhere may give him credit as a player-coach on these matters. It’s a perspective, and when teaching, it’s good for the students to know you have been in their chair. It gives common ground (like hating the Mavericks). I can see how he can actually be a net-plus here.

    I’m glad for this. This is part of the good that comes from free agency, and from long standing fandom. I like to think I’m a better person now, too, and I’m glad I can appreciate that about Rondo.

  • Technical Salary Concerns:

    In the end, the hardcap came down. The leap-ahead trade didn’t come in. This was the best move to improve the team, Rondo or no.

  • Roster Concerns:

    None. Rondo is by all accounts cerebral and both a clear and effective communicator (player rave about this with just the merest of prompting). He might rub people the wrong way, but he’s straight up. He’s also got the ear of Cousins, which has value that is hard to calculate but is certainly positive and something that has a certain . . . leverage.

  • System Concerns:

    None really. As long as the dude is going to get up and play, still has something in the tank, he’s a fine addition. There are many ways to play this thing, and it’s all about getting good shots. The worse the shooter, the better the set up needed to make it shake out right. NOLA didn’t improve the shooting that much, so they went this route. Fine. It’s a valid choice. He could play defense. I hope he still can. I think he can at least help others do it, so, fine.

So, yes. Time, a little research, and some introspection got me over my initial reactions. It was fan concern for the most part that had me feeling negative, and that is 100% legit. Working through this was an important step. I’m not going to give anyone else a pass just because Rondo shaped up, but I think next time my reaction will be more wait and see, which is more pleasant. That’s helpful for me, at least.

Final Thoughts

I don’t have any. That’s the point.

Learn to learn.

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In the NO Ep. 296: Rondo back, Tough Games incoming http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/14/in-the-no-ep-296-rondo-back-tough-games-incoming/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/14/in-the-no-ep-296-rondo-back-tough-games-incoming/#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 05:30:26 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=56050 Michael and I touch on a bunch of subjects, including trading for a big man, turnovers, improving offensive play, Rondo being back, and an upcoming slate of tough games. Will the Pelicans continue to play winning basketball? Enjoy! Want it on Itunes? Direct download? RSS Feed? Like the Show or the Blog? Follow @BourbonStShots]]>

Michael and I touch on a bunch of subjects, including trading for a big man, turnovers, improving offensive play, Rondo being back, and an upcoming slate of tough games.

Will the Pelicans continue to play winning basketball?

Enjoy!

Like the Show or the Blog?

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Can the Pelicans Reduce Their Turnovers? http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/13/can-the-pelicans-reduce-their-turnovers/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/13/can-the-pelicans-reduce-their-turnovers/#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 22:30:06 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=56027 This post first appeared in an abbreviated form on Twitter @BourbonStShots Sunday morning. Follow for more. The short of it: I don’t see a problem, a reduction would be nice, and a slight reduction in some bad behavior should be sought, but I’d take an increase in turnovers if they came the right way. Let’s […]]]>

This post first appeared in an abbreviated form on Twitter @BourbonStShots Sunday morning. Follow for more.

The short of it: I don’t see a problem, a reduction would be nice, and a slight reduction in some bad behavior should be sought, but I’d take an increase in turnovers if they came the right way.

Let’s talk turnovers. The easy thing to do is point to the poke-out stat, press that, and feel both proud and happy because the staff pointed to the same thing. Well, they did that in part to make it easier for you to write about the topic they dictated while limiting real questions. It worked. (Andrew asked a real question!)

Now, let’s REALLY talk turnovers (thanks to basketball-reference.com for the statistics, thanks to Fox Sports New Orleans for the broadcasts, and thanks to me for the season tickets).

Establishing Expectations

How many turnovers should the Pelicans have?

Zero is the ultimate goal, but that is simply a practical impossibility. So, I’ll say that’s the lazy answer with respect to setting an expectation. We can’t say whether there is a problem or not unless we know the basis of comparison, and comparison to the never-achieved goal is fruitless (and gutless, and brainless). Let’s get that sorted out first.

Like I said, it’s easy to look up numbers, then pretend you watched the game and know what they mean. If you can’t connect the numbers to reality, you’re just pushing pixels. Some people force themselves to do this, and it just ends up making them look bad. It happens. Oh, well. Let’s start elsewhere: one of the major sources of turnovers that is otherwise viewed as a positive.

As of Monday, the top AST/100p are: 30.3 (GSW), 25.4, 25.1, 24.8, 24.8, 24.7, 24.4, 24.3 (NOP), 23.3, with next being two 23.0’s. The low is 17.5 (PHO).

Now, and again, “Turnovers are the cost of being in the assist business.” Looking at the AST/TOV (/100p), we see the top rates are 1.77 (GSW), 1.66, 1.60, 1.59, 1.55, 1.55, 1.55, 1.50, 1.48 (NOP), 1.45, 1.43, to round out the top 10. (This factors in the Clippers game, which the preview post did not, so we have pretty decent range established if the Clippers game truly represents an extreme.) The low rate is 1.11 (PHO).

Why look at these numbers rather than just turnover numbers first? Again: “Context.” We have to set the expectation in order to understand the situation, and the above helps us do that.

While turnovers come from sources other than passing, many of them actually do come from passing, as evidenced by the fact that the players with large numbers of assists also have large numbers of turnovers (even controlling for minutes, so it’s not a “minutes fuel everything” typical bad analysis,which is one reason why per-game type statistics are great in some contexts, horrible in others. Looking at usage, which would factor in how often a player takes a shot and misses (which is not a turnover if the other team gets the rebound despite them getting the ball because the bone fide potential for points is there in most cases), does not show the same sort of trend. Time with the ball is a factor, but I wouldn’t expect to see a straight line relationship (where ratios mean even more) because of effects of “waiting” and bringing the ball up the court, things like that.

We also know that Gentry values passing. While his system is misunderstood often as “people run,” passing is absolutely necessary (as is just shooting a decent shot), and Chris Finch’s additions use passing (and handoffs), too. So, the assist numbers set up an expectation of “top 10” type of team with respect to turnovers, and the good ratio refines that to, say, “second 5” (i.e. 6-10) . . . the bottom half of the top 10. Here, “top” means in terms of absolute rate . . . which is bad.

The Pelicans are 8th in TOV/100p: 17.9 (PHI), 17.6, 17.4, 17.1 (GSW), 17.0, 16.8, 16.7 (HOU), 16.4 (NOP), 16.4, 16.1, 3 teams at 16.0 to round out the top 13. The low is 13.8 (CHO). This is above average, but it’s not exceptionally so. The real cases literally outside the norm are PHI, LAL, and UTA, as quick plot will show the interested parties. They really are just 1 turnover per 100p above the mean of 15.4 (about 6.5%, relatively speaking). They are fewer than 3 turnovers per 100 possessions over the min in the NBA. So, knocking out about 3 per game would seems like a stretch goal. Also, a back-of-the envelope calculation of applying the best assist efficiency with lowest assist rate and comparing that to lowest number of turnovers, we get about floor of about 4 turnovers of the “not-tied-to-assists” type (trying to back out what was baked in). I don’t think even this is achievable, but it shows that trying to demand “none” is what I like to call “goofy.” This can be viewed as a parallel to the difference between people being stunned that players miss any free throw but there being a base miss rate of about 1/4 that is just hard to escape greatly when you look at actual teams, actual players, actual fouls.

So, guess what, the Pelicans just aren’t that bad with respect to turnovers AND their turnovers tend to be part of trying to generate assists. So, to some significant extent complaining about turnovers is like complaining about a business spending too much money but making good return on that investment. Sure, you want to spend less money, but only less of the money that is not leading to profit. If you want to lower your cupcake-making costs, you don’t reduce the number of cupcakes; you reduce the marginal cost, operational unit cost, or the overhead and waste. You want spend that money on cupcakes is more is going to come in.

So, now that we have established, at least enough to satisfy me, that turnovers are not the plague you are going to be led to believe, let’s form the right question and answer it.

To do this, we take the cost-benefit / business thing farther. Assists are the product of “good not-shooting” and turnovers are the product of “bad not-shooting (-yet),” and we leave the non-assist, non-turnovers . . . so, some passes, etc. . . . as simply neutral parts of the game that certainly have some effect, but whose effect is indirect (though perhaps more influential, but that doesn’t change the effect studied here, and I doubt it). What we are interested in reducing is turnovers that are waste distinctly from those that are part of the investment in assists. Also, we’d like to take a look at lowering the per unit cost. That is harder (because they are already kind of efficient there), but that’s not a reason not to try. This is a pretty simple business model, where the assist is the collection on the investment, the receiving of cash back into the account from the client or customer you tried to place your time and resources . . . the basketball . . . into. There is a certain loss rate, which we just showed. We can talk about working on that and look at reducing the waste turnovers that aren’t or should not be a part of sound investment separately because they are distinct.

Different Kinds of Turnovers

I’m not going to defend turnovers here; the team is better off without them, all other things being equal. However, we don’t have all other things being equal, so, that kind of jibber-jabber is of limited value at this point in the analysis. There should be reductions of some kind, however, as noted, and some kinds are going to be harder to reduce than others. Let’s look at where the turnovers are coming from, then see about categorizing them so we can better answer the better question.

Players (AST/TOV (/100p)):

  • Cousins (7.1/6.5)
  • Holiday (8.5/4.3)
  • Allen (1.5/3.2)
  • Nelson (7.4/2.8)
  • Davis (3.5/2.7)
  • Clark (4.7/2.3)
  • Diallo (0.7/2.3)
  • Moore (3.5/1.6)
  • Miller (1.1/1.4)
  • Cunningham (1.6/0.6)

Picking through the list looking at minutes, turnovers, whether a playing faces the top defense primarily, and the ratio, I think it’s easy to see that the glaring component problem is in fact Cousins (you can go look this stuff up if it isn’t intuitively clear where the wind is blowing is here). Cousins agrees, actually, per his post-game comments against the Clippers. Against the Raptors, he said he thought the turnovers were coming from trying to make the right play (so, in part, trying to create assists). Holiday, while his numbers are ok, actually has some on-paper room to improve a little here, too. I’m not sure he will, as he’s pretty set in his style.

Everyone else produces turnovers, but it’s either not a glaring problems, they produce a good number of assists, they don’t get the minutes to do real damage, etc. It should be noted here that Dante is among the best at protecting the ball. They may be because he is under less attack then others, but he’s also doing something right. Kudos!

Each player commits turnovers, but Cousins and Holiday are the players with the most turnover leverage, and they actually have most of the improvable kinds. Let’s go through some major categories of turnovers and see how many of them might be waste.

  • Losing the Handle: This is going to happen some, and players have to be a threat to drive (that’s part of the triple threat . . . pass, drive, shoot), so it’s good to that extent. However, guards seems to pick Cousins’ pocket as he drives past them. He needs to account for that, maybe by pulling up or passing. Also, this could represent an opportunity to screen or force a switch using a cutter nearby. I’ll trust Cousins to win 1-1 against Davids and Goliaths, just not against tricksy hobbitses. Jrue also loses the handle more that I’m happy with. He recovers, but it messes up the flow . . . not sure there’s a cure. In general, this is just going to happen to some extent . . . zero steals against you is, again, an unrealistic expectation, but there is some low-hanging fruit to clean up so you can bank some small, easy profit. Low return here, but high rate-of-return on cleaning this up.
  • Stolen Unaware: This is the one that ticks me off. Holiday (more than Cousins here) will be looking for a pass or shot . . . FOR TOO LONG . . . and someone walks up, has a cup of coffee, how’syamomanem . . . and steals the ball. Not like, oh wow look at that steal. This is more like the thief looks at the camera, curls his handlebar mustache, cackles, then takes it with two hands while raising his eyebrows in a flutter as I am led to believe all criminals do. Dude. DUUUUDE. Hold it a little different while you think, because you don’t seem to be holding it right. Up by the upper torso seems right. And hold on tight. TIIIIGHT. Also, no way to lose it if it’s passed or shot, just saying. I think this is the most avoidable sort of turnover for this team in the long-run. Give me this today. Take my nachos, give me this.
  • Offensive Fouls: Eh, whatever. I was all in on Tyreke leveling some dude in the first and having a (blood?) red carpet later on. I know there are other offensive fouls, but this just doesn’t bother me too much. This isn’t empty. It’s a borderline case. A tick difference in timing, you are going to the line. So, if anything, MORE aggression . . . or, let’s call it decisiveness to build the theme. It’s also not terribly common; still avoid this as much as possible while still keeping people on notice.
  • Missed Connection: Someone passes, no one catches. This happens. The pass itself is also a possibility for a steal. However, the right pass can increase the expected value of a shot tremendously, so it’s typically a risk people look to take. The Pelicans do. (The Warriors do, too, by the way). Some of this has to do with the quality of the pass, the decision to pass, the capability and preparedness of the receiver, and the working relationship between the two. This seems to be improving. Boogie is clearly working on this, and some receivers, such as Diallo, are still working on it. It’s a work in progress, at least, as opposed to a work stoppage.

Let’s take a quick look at something else here. There is a tendency to highlight turnovers, for obvious reasons, and awesome passes, for obvious reasons. What’s not highlighted are the boring little passes that occupy most of the game. To really track anything, you need to pay attention to the vanilla background in the rocky road of the game. Many of the “the best” passes are very nearly turnovers. The best passes are the ones with no risk, and those are somehow no-brainers . . . then when someone misses the open shot, they are roasted. This fun and all, but it’s bad analysis. You have to appreciate all the carrying of all the water, not just the splish splash at the party or when someone throws you in, if you want a solid evaluation.

Can the Pelicans Reduce Their Turnovers?

I took it upon myself to ask them.

If we look at the game logs, we can see if the Pelicans have shown any improvement.

Taking rates of 1.5 and 2 as benchmarks, a couple of things jump out:

  • A few really good games in this regard are helping the averages (which is fine . . . that’s why the benchmarks aren’t based on Pelicans’ numbers). This is also not uncommon. Teams aren’t machines that operate at average rates.
  • The situation has been better recently. Maybe it’s getting better, and maybe it will continue to get better.

Time into the season does seem to be helping them. It could be a fluke, admittedly, but the preponderance of evidence gives me hope that not only is this real, but also that the improvement likely isn’t over.

There are waste turnovers, those need to be given constant attention to keep them low. Cousins is a league leader in turnovers and fouls. Cutting down the offensive fouls also keeps him on the court longer in some games and keeps him in Boogietown, which is what we all want. Boogie is being some-combination-of-being-asked-to-do-and-being-allowed-to-do-too-much. That may be necessary for the time being. That needs to be reduced, too. If a reduction in turnovers and fouls gives him confidence or at least faith in a temporary consequence-free environment . . . oh, that poor, poor little defense man.

Rondo’s return may represent a bit of a blip to start (depending on how practices go), but he should introduce a steady hand and relieve some burden on the point-Boogie, which is more of a great side than a main course. . . . point-Boogie is nice roasted cauliflower while Boogie making his way to the basket with an outlet is prime rib with au jus. This is the best hope to reduce turnovers and improve those assists for the team. It should give Cousins a little more juice for getting in the mix and being disruptive rather than being a steadying influence. Yeah, 2017 demands that I had to type that DeMarcus Cousins is a steadying influence. At any rate, their existing relationship and trust will help that.

It has to be remembered that the Pelicans’ natural turnover rate is higher than one might hope in a vacuum due to their focus on passing. As the team works on reducing the more glaring and more wasteful ones, the scoring will improve as will the defense. An offense as dependent on passing as the Pelicans are will be disproportionately affected by turnovers, so the unnecessary ones are certainly a target. However, the overall problem is actually much smaller than it may appear: I’d be happy to see it reduce about 2/100p, which is about 2 per game really. There is just a certain amount of “breakage” you have to eat in this business. You can try to imagine it otherwise, but the data speaks for itself.

In the long run, turnovers, in the best of all worlds, actually go UP. We want the empty, waste turnovers to go down, and we want the investment turnovers to go along with the assists and points that come with them. One-and-a-half for you, two-and-change for me . . . sign me up.

All day.

Now, if we can get back to asking about the inconsistencies on offense elsewhere, which is a real topic, that’d be great, but what is the chance of that happening when it’s so much harder to talk about?

It’s not a low chance here, at least . . .

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Pelicans Current Winning Ways Are Fun, But Unsustainable http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/08/pelicans-current-winning-ways-are-fun-but-unsustainable/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/08/pelicans-current-winning-ways-are-fun-but-unsustainable/#respond Wed, 08 Nov 2017 13:30:18 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=56009 Currently, the Pelicans are on a three game winning streak, and at 6-5, are over .500 for the first time since 2015. That’s the good news. The bad news is that their current formula for how they got there is unsustainable when projecting over an 82 game season. Simply put, the Pelicans are relying on […]]]>

Currently, the Pelicans are on a three game winning streak, and at 6-5, are over .500 for the first time since 2015. That’s the good news. The bad news is that their current formula for how they got there is unsustainable when projecting over an 82 game season. Simply put, the Pelicans are relying on two mega stars to carry them every game, and might be riding them into the ground just to get early regular season wins.

Anthony Davis is leading the league in minutes played per game (40.3) when you take the Portland game out of his averages. DeMarcus Cousins is 3rd at 38.3 (Oh, and Jrue Holiday is 4th, by the way). Over the course of a season, this would put Davis and Cousins at over 3100 minutes played, which would be huge leaps for both with regard to their career highs. Cousins career high came last season, when he played a total of 2465 minutes. Davis’s career high also came last season, as he logged 2708 minutes over 75 games.

To expect two guys to increase their career highs in minutes played in a season by 20-25 percent each is unrealistic. And if they don’t play that many minutes with this current roster? Well, then the Pelicans simply won’t be good enough to win, hence the “unsustainable” part. With both players on the court, the Pelicans are playing at a contender level (+6.8 per 100 possessions). If even one of them is off the court, they are worst team in the league bad (-11.7 per 100). And the reason is simple: The Pelicans currently have the most top-heavy rotation in league history.

PER is only one stat amongst many, and is by no means the be all, end all, but in this case it shines a light on something we can all see with our eyes anyway. AD and Cousins have been fantastic, putting up MVP level PER’s (31.8 and 26.9 respectively). After that, not one single current Pelican is putting up a PER higher than 11 (which is replacement level by the way). The NBA has never seen a team with a discrepancy like this. Countless times in the past, a team has been buoyed by two superstars, but never has the drop off to their 3rd, 4th, and 5th players been this dramatic.

Remember, the great Jazz teams with Stockton and Malone? Of course you do, and those two guys are the ones who get all the glory. As they should, they were great. But Jeff Hornacek put up a 19.3 PER in 97-98. Shannon Anderson was a slightly better than average starter at 15.7. And 5 other regular rotation players ended up between 12.5 and 15 as well. Heck, even the Deron Williams/Boozer teams that were just solid playoff teams had 9 guys in their rotation with a PER over 11, including 7 with one over 14.

The Thunder, carried by KD and Westbrook for all those years, had between 6-9 guys every year with an above replacement player PER. The Blazers, in the Roy and Aldridge years – and then again in the Lillard/Aldridge years, routinely had 6-10 players with a PER that was at 12 or higher, and never had a third guy lower than 17. I can go on, and on, but you get the point. Two guys can’t possibly do it alone, and even if they can, you would need these two to play an unreasonable amount of minutes, and an unlikely amount of games to just be able to carry this team to around 45 wins and a potential playoff spot in the West. The odds of one guy being able to maintain that heavy of a workload for 80+ games is low. The odds of both of them doing it is miniscule.

So, what’s the solution? Well, luckily there are a couple. First, and foremost, some of the other guys on the roster (or currently in suits) could step up and take on more of the workload. The top candidate here would be Jrue Holiday, obviously. He is already logging the minutes, but seeing some actual offensive production would help as well. If he were even able to just give the Pels his career averages, he would increase his scoring over five points per 100 possessions, while also producing an additional 2 assists per 100. Those 9 extra points per 100 could dramatically ease the burden off AD and Cousins.

Another candidate is Rajon Rondo, who is scheduled to be back in the next week or two. His playmaking could theoretically open up opportunities for other guys, enabling struggling players like Holiday, Moore, and Cunningham to be more effective. Solomon Hill will help as well, when he returns in a couple of months. His ability to play the four and push Cunningham to the four more often, will allow AD and Cousins to rest more, theoretically. But all this pails in comparison to what one more quality big man could provide, and the fact of the matter is that the big the Pelicans need is not currently on the roster.

Forget any current timetable for the possible returns of Ajinca and Asik – those two are done and can never be relied upon again to give anyone consistent, productive minutes in the NBA. Conversely, Diallo is currently healthy and could very well be a solid rotation player some day, but that day is not today. In the 46 minutes he has played so far, he has given the Pelicans plenty of energy, but opposing teams rebound and score at will when he is on the court and one or both of our other bigs are off. When Diallo is on the court, the Pelicans only capture 64% of available defensive rebounds, which would make them the worst defensive rebounding team in the league if that is projected over an entire game. They also give up 122 points per 100 possessions. Not good.

No, what the Pelicans have to do is find a third big to give their two superstars a chance to rest, and to also steal a few games when the inevitable happens and one (or both) of their stars have to miss a few games. The Pelicans had a nice comeback win against the Kings without Davis, but there are probably only 4-5 teams the Pelicans can beat if they were missing one of their superstars, given their current state. Put a quality big like Greg Monroe, Robin Lopez, or Zach Randolph in the starting lineup when AD or Boogie goes down, however, and the Pels could probably still hang with half of the league. Even if you conservatively only expect AD and Cousins to miss a total of 12 more games, the difference between going 6-6 in those games vs. 2-10 could easily mean the difference between playoffs and no playoffs.

More than anything right now, Dell Demps should be actively searching the market for a third big man. The same offer that he was putting out there to attract a Reggie Jackson type (Ajinca, Asik, and a first) should be used to go after an overpaid, quality big. Because of the nature of Asik and Ajinca’s contracts, he could only realistically look to trade with rebuilding teams who are willing to swallow $16 million in dead contracts this year and next just to get the reward of a first round pick and Asik’s partially guaranteed deal in 2019 – which could be a nice little trade chip at that time.

This essentially limits his options to: Robin Lopez, Zach Randolph, Tyson Chandler, Greg Monroe, Dwayne Dedmon, Ehsan Illysova, and Nerlens Noel. None of these guys are stars, but they all would be qualified to be major upgrades as backup bigs and quality spot starters. As for the actual logistics of the trade, only Chandler, Lopez, and Noel could happen right now. Randolph, Dedmon and Illysova were signed this offseason, so would have to wait until December 15th, and Monroe would have to wait until December 15th because the Pelicans would have to include more salary (likely Cunningham) in the deal for it work via their hard cap situation.

Be it right now, or on December 15th, or some other time before the trade deadline in early February, the Pelicans must add a third big man to ease the burden off AD and Boogie. But even that won’t be enough. They need at least 2-4 more players currently on the roster to step up and play at an above replacement level rate. It’s been fun to watch AD and Boogie carry the load, lifting the Pelicans to victories and a winning record. But they shouldn’t be asked to do this much. It’s unsustainable, and the Pelicans know this. Which is why they have to get out in front of it. The sooner, the better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jrue Holiday – Is It Really That Bad? http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/07/jrue-holiday-is-it-really-that-bad/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/07/jrue-holiday-is-it-really-that-bad/#respond Tue, 07 Nov 2017 13:00:29 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=56004 When the Pelicans signed Jrue Holiday to a 5-year, $126 million contract, they figured they would be getting their third key All-Star. He would help bolster the Pelicans roster with scoring from the guard position and play gritty and athletic defense. At the Pelicans press conference in early July, Demps made it clear that Jrue […]]]>

When the Pelicans signed Jrue Holiday to a 5-year, $126 million contract, they figured they would be getting their third key All-Star. He would help bolster the Pelicans roster with scoring from the guard position and play gritty and athletic defense.

At the Pelicans press conference in early July, Demps made it clear that Jrue was at the top of their priorities in free agency. “We’re excited to have Jrue back in New Orleans,” the General Manager said. “Since the outset of free agency, he’s been our number one priority … On the court we feel Jrue defines the two-way player. We believe his best years are in front of him.”

Plenty of optimism was present on that day from the organisation. People were far more sceptical outside, with many poking fun at the Pelicans for committing so much money to such an unproven commodity.

New Orleans currently sits at 5-5 with many fans and pundits having been disheartened at Holiday’s performance thus far. Currently he’s averaging 13.5 points and is shooting 26% from three, both well under his career averages.

But, are things really as bad as they seem? Is Jrue Holiday performing as it seems?

Digging into the numbers

It’s clear that when you look at the numbers that Holiday isn’t playing well. He’s shooting 42% from the field, the worst mark of his career. Same with his PPG (13.5) and 3-point mark (26%). Of guards that are averaging at least 30 minutes a game, Jrue has the 4th worst TS% (48%). The only guards that are worse are Lonzo Ball, Justin Holiday and Austin Rivers.

 

Holiday has never been known to draw many fouls, but his current Free-Throw rate is dismal at .112, the lowest of his career. His outside game isn’t much more impressive, he’s yet to hit a three pointer in November (0 for 13 currently). Among those qualifying guards (30 mins/g) Jrue has the worst three-point percentage outside of Ben Simmons who hasn’t hit a three all season. It’s that bad.

The Pelicans offensive rating goes from 89.7 to 107.7 with him off the court, a jump of 18 points per 100 possessions. That is massive.

OK, so is there anything that we can deem positive or innately promising?

Jrue ranks 9th in the league for guards in FG% within 10 feet of the basket at 65.5%. It seems that he’s doing a far better job of converting around the basket as he was converting 56.5% last season for the same distance.

However, despite his invigorated and much improved ability to hit closer to the basket, he isn’t drawing more fouls. Remember, his FTr is the worst it’s ever been in his career.

Since the Boogie trade Jrue has averaged 13.6 points, shot 42% from the field and 28% from three all with less than 1.5 FTA’s per game. His True Shooting percentage ~50% would be one of the worst for guards over that period.

Whether it’s been the addition of Boogie or something else, Jrue hasn’t seemed as aggressive for long periods of time. The only game where he seemed to be more determined to get his shot was against Cleveland. Holiday’s usage rate this season is the lowest it’s ever been since his rookie season.

Turnovers have been a seemingly repeated issue for Holiday. His TOV% is at 16.6% though, not really all that abnormal for him (16.3% for career). However, he’s not creating for his team-mates as well as he needs to. Though he’s averaging 6.2 assists per-game, his assist % (25.3%) is very poor for a guard that the Pelicans need him to be.

That actually puts the turnover rate into perspective. Even though it’s not that ridiculously high, he’s not at all taking the risks he should to create for his team-mates.

Holiday’s defense is the key skill and attribute which makes him such a valuable player on the team. Often he’ll be tasked at taking the opponents best guard or even small-forward. For the most part Holiday is a fantastic defender. His lateral movement is excellent and he’s very good at anticipating his opponents moves.

But this season there are a few things that are off the mark somewhat. First, his steal % is the lowest it’s ever been at 1.6%. His defensive Box-Plus-Minus is also not fantastic at 0.1 and isn’t at all off-setting his woeful offensive start to the season.

That’s the important nugget to take from this, his defensive output isn’t covering up his offensive deficiencies to give the team the net-positive it requires for such a large investment.

What to make of all this

It’s been a truly awful start to the season for Jrue Holiday. He’s not shooting nearly as well as he usually does. I would expect that to return to normal once Rondo gets into the line-up. He just won’t stay at the same mark he’s currently on.

However, the same issues that Pelican fans have been witness to over the last few years remain. Holiday can’t get to the foul line, an important trait for NBA guards. He’s not a terrific ball handler with numerous spurts of turnovers in key situations where he’s been asked to initiate the offense.

Jrue is off to a rough start. Because his jump shoot isn’t falling as it usually does, his negative impact is made bigger and bigger. He’s not being aggressive, which isn’t all that unusual. But even for him he’s not taking the risks he normally does and will often just disappear for long stretches.

He’ll be better, but it’s not entirely certain that he’ll be what the Pelicans need him to be – a top 10 player at his position. In no category is Jrue a top-10 guard (outside of FG% within 10 feet). Not in assists, free-throw rate, scoring or any category you can think of.

His style of play doesn’t show any real developments, he’s not doing anything drastically different from a style point of view. This season he’s playing the same type of game, he’s just not performing to his career standards. Eventually numbers will work their way back towards the mean.

But in the long run that’s not why the Pelicans gave him the $126 million contract. They need him to improve and develop, not be behind his career numbers hoping to work his way back to the average. They need their 3rd All-Star.

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In the NO Pod EP 295: Jrue still bad, Team staying afloat http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/05/in-the-no-pod-ep-295-jrue-still-bad-team-staying-afloat/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/11/05/in-the-no-pod-ep-295-jrue-still-bad-team-staying-afloat/#respond Mon, 06 Nov 2017 04:34:23 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=56001 Michael and I spend some time talking about how awful the players have been on this team beyond the twin towers and how it’s forcing the team to play them a lot of minutes. We also talk about how bad the team is even with just one player is on, I rant about the Prevent […]]]>

Michael and I spend some time talking about how awful the players have been on this team beyond the twin towers and how it’s forcing the team to play them a lot of minutes. We also talk about how bad the team is even with just one player is on, I rant about the Prevent Offense, and Michael addresses his thoughts about the dead Reggie Jackson trade rumor.

Then we preview the next 3 games.

Enjoy!

Like the Show or the Blog?

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Anthony Davis’ Change in Shot Selection – Fluke or Trend? http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/10/30/anthony-davis-change-in-shot-selection-fluke-or-trend/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/10/30/anthony-davis-change-in-shot-selection-fluke-or-trend/#respond Mon, 30 Oct 2017 14:00:46 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=55979 There aren’t many things to gripe about regarding Anthony Davis’ offensive game, but one of them may be his affinity for long 2s (two-point shots outside of the paint). Last season, Anthony Davis attempted 572 such shots, accounting for 40% of his total attempts for the season. He made 245 of those long 2s (42.8%), […]]]>

There aren’t many things to gripe about regarding Anthony Davis’ offensive game, but one of them may be his affinity for long 2s (two-point shots outside of the paint). Last season, Anthony Davis attempted 572 such shots, accounting for 40% of his total attempts for the season. He made 245 of those long 2s (42.8%), making it the least efficient type of shot in his arsenal from a shot location perspective (0.856 points per shot attempt). Even his 132 three-point attempts – of which he made only 30.3% – resulted in a higher points per shot average of .909. So far this season, however, Davis’ shot distribution looks vastly different than his prior career numbers:

The main difference, of course, is the fact that Davis is moving about half of those mid-range shots to beyond the 3-point line. Despite his sub-par career three-point percentage of around 30%, the points per shot for that 3P% (0.9) is noticeably better than what AD achieves on his career 41.4% rate from mid-range (0.828).

With that concept in mind, it would be interesting to consider how this new shift may impact the Pelicans’ season. Let’s say that Davis attempts the exact same number of shots as last season (1,526) with 40% of them coming in the restricted area, 20% from elsewhere in the paint, 25% from mid-range, and 15% from 3-point range. Let’s also assume that he makes those shots at the exact same rates as last season. The result would be an increase of 70 points, almost one per game. If Davis can increase his 3P% from a bad 30% to a below average 33%, then that would add another 18 points on top of that 70.

That may not sound like much, but consider this: 11 of the 30 NBA teams finished last season with a net rating of somewhere between -1 and +1. Separation occurs closer to the top and bottom of the league, but for those teams packed around the middle (where the Pelicans may find themselves this season), that point or so per game could end up being essential in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

The easiest and most convenient explanation for AD’s change in shot selection – apart from small sample size – is the poaching of assistant coach Chris Finch from Denver. Comparing Davis to the Nuggets’ star big man Nikola Jokic is admittedly an overly simplistic way to test that theory, but it provides some interesting results. Last season, Jokic attempted 10.2% of his shots between 16 feet out and the 3-point line, per basketball-reference.com. This season? That number is all the way up to 27.8% through 5 games. Teams are no doubt paying more attention to him now, but that is too drastic of a shift to ignore. Couple that with the eye test, and there is a decent amount of evidence to suggest that this shift is more by design than by coincidence.

 

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In the NO Pod Ep 294: Wait, are they 500? http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/10/29/in-the-no-pod-ep-294-wait-are-they-500/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/10/29/in-the-no-pod-ep-294-wait-are-they-500/#respond Mon, 30 Oct 2017 04:39:35 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=55976 A winning week brings the New Orleans Pelicans to .500 for the first time in . . . ever I think. Pretty sure it’s never happened before. In basketball. We talk Sacramento and that awful first half, whether Cleveland was giving a damn, and what could have been if Davis didn’t get hurt in that […]]]>

A winning week brings the New Orleans Pelicans to .500 for the first time in . . . ever I think. Pretty sure it’s never happened before. In basketball.

We talk Sacramento and that awful first half, whether Cleveland was giving a damn, and what could have been if Davis didn’t get hurt in that Portland game. Then we preview the four game upcoming week and make a bold prediction. Bold I tell you!

Enjoy.

Like the Show or the Blog?

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5 Pelicans Facts for 5 Games This Season http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/10/28/5-pelicans-facts-for-5-games-this-season/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/10/28/5-pelicans-facts-for-5-games-this-season/#respond Sat, 28 Oct 2017 12:30:31 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=55972 The New Orleans Pelicans currently sit at 2-3 to start the year. Their losses are on the road to Memphis and Portland with one at home to Golden State. Their wins are both on road in Los Angeles to the Lakers and against the Kings. It’s still very early, but it doesn’t take you long […]]]>

The New Orleans Pelicans currently sit at 2-3 to start the year. Their losses are on the road to Memphis and Portland with one at home to Golden State. Their wins are both on road in Los Angeles to the Lakers and against the Kings.

It’s still very early, but it doesn’t take you long to see that many already have ardent opinions on how this club is faring. Let’s try to simplify proceedings with some very early stats that we should be paying attention to as we move ahead in the season.

The Pelicans Rank 9th in the NBA in Pace (101.4)

Last season there was a clear plan to get the Pelicans to push the ball and take early and good shots in the shot-clock. With some adjustments mid-season with the DeMarcus Cousins trade New Orleans ended up ranking 8th in the NBA.

Things have continued into the 2017-18 campaign as the team currently sits at 9th this season with 101.4 possessions per 48 minutes of game-time.

With Assistant Chris Finch coming in from Denver it was reasonable to expect this to slow some as the team tried to figure out how to run the offensive sets. However it is clear that this team intends to keep things quick, mainly when they get a turnover or a defensive rebound.

Cousins and Davis have done a decent job of getting the outlet pass to a guard or moving the ball up the court themselves.

This isn’t to say that the team doesn’t get bogged down in isolation ball for sustained periods of time. Often when they’re not getting steals or blocks their offense stops moving. The energy doesn’t seem up-beat.

With Rajon Rondo to return soon it’ll be interesting to see if this pace continues considering Rondo’s experience in slow-paced offenses.

New Orleans currently has the most injuries in the league

Well, they’re actually tied with the Chicago Bulls with 6 injuries. But, once again the Pelicans are injured and no one is really all that shocked. At this point everyone has come to expect them and we’re all just waiting for the next one.

No amount of knocking on wood will save this team.

Jrue Holiday is on pace to average $62,650 per field goal made

It’s no secret that Jrue Holiday is off to a very slow start to the season. When Rajon Rondo went down it was necessary for Holiday to move back to point-guard. This was never the plan when the Pelicans signed him to the $126 million extension. The team always wanted him to operate as the two-guard.

Holiday will be paid $25,686,667 this season. If he were to be paid by the field goal, on his current pace, it would be costing the Pelicans $62,650 per field goal made. Just think of that every time he hits a shot. That just cost the team $62,650.

DeMarcus Cousins Leads the League in Free-Throw Attempts

Everyone is well aware of just how good DeMarcus Cousins is playing right now. Averaging 33/14/5 is no easy feat and that’s not accounting for the 2.8 blocks and 1 steal he has per game.

But, what has been under-appreciated has been his ability to get to the free-throw line. Cousins has 58 free-throw attempts, 8 more than the next player Steph Curry (50).

His 11.6 attempts per game well out paces his career average (7.6) so it would be reasonable to assume that he won’t be getting to the line as much as we move ahead.

This statistic juxtaposes the recent comments made by Chris Webber who was perplexed when Gentry said he can “settle too much when he drives to the basket.” Kenny Smith properly dissected the comments:

“What I think he meant, what I see a lot of times is they are giving DeMarcus that easy 15 to three-point shot… He’s not as athletic as let’s say an Anthony Davis. So he barrels in off of the dribble, losses control and losses the basketball and doesn’t get a good shot.”

Cousins is still very much being aggressive, so Charles Barkley (who criticised Cousins for taking so many threes) probably need to pipe down a bit.

The Pelicans are crashing the boards more

With an offensive rebounding rate of 23.2% the New Orleans Pelicans rank 15th in the NBA. This far out-performs last season’s dismal mark 18.5% (which was lower for much of the season).

The Pelicans are making a more concerted effort to grab offensive rebounds. However, it has come at a cost as New Orleans ranks 25th in opponent fast-break points allowed (14.8 per game). Last season the Pelicans ranked 16th giving up 13.6 per game.

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Bad Wins and Good Losses http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/10/27/bad-wins-and-good-losses/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2017/10/27/bad-wins-and-good-losses/#respond Fri, 27 Oct 2017 19:23:54 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=55961 It is early in the NBA season and the Pelicans have shown flashes of what could be an extremely difficult to defend, well oiled, offense. They have also shown an offense that consistently shoots itself in the foot.  At times, the Pelicans have made shots running a single P&R with barely any movement after that […]]]>

It is early in the NBA season and the Pelicans have shown flashes of what could be an extremely difficult to defend, well oiled, offense. They have also shown an offense that consistently shoots itself in the foot.  At times, the Pelicans have made shots running a single P&R with barely any movement after that action. They have been forced to make something out of nothing and resort to throwing up a tough shot that goes in (hell, they even won against the Kings playing like this most of the game). Other times they look great – moving the ball, screening for each other on and off ball, and getting their best players in their most effective spots to read the double then shoot, drive, or pass only for the shot to miss. Now doing all of this screening and moving is a lot of work to get the shot you want, and I can imagine that it’s frustrating missing 3-4 easy looks nearly back to back. That is probably why players revert taking tough shots with little movement, because players are tired or stars feel the need force shots when role players aren’t hitting their easy looks. This in turn causes role players to force shots when they get the ball because they are unsure when their next shot will come. Maybe it is a combination of both. Whatever the reasoning may be, this is what we have seen from the Pels offense thus far.

Just as good shots can miss, bad shots can be made. The result does not change the quality of the shot. When the Pelicans played the Kings they played a style of basketball that could only barely compete with the lowest tier teams on any given night and the Pelicans won with a herculean night from Demarcus Cousins. When the Pelicans played the Warriors, although they hit some highly questionable and uncharacteristic 3pt shots in the first half, they moved the ball consistently, screened well, and stuck with their gameplan.  Yet the Pelicans lost 128-120 and if you ask many, it never felt as though the Pelicans had a real chance of winning. Night in and night out, I would much rather see the Pels put the same effort that they had in the loss to the Warriors than the effort we saw in the win against the Kings. You should not base your comfort with how a team played solely on wins and losses. The effort they played with against the Warriors was not good enough to win and won’t be enough to win against other top tier teams such as the Cavs, but it is good enough to beat most teams in the NBA on any given night. If you lose, just tip your hat to the other team because you played to your strengths and that’s all you can really ask. The style of play in the win against the Kings was tough to watch at times, it was slow, it didn’t have any movement, and it seemed almost entirely improvised for a large portion of the game. This kind of play can win you games, but only against the worst teams in the league, and that is mainly due to having the best bigs in the league, not playing better basketball.

Now look, I’m not saying don’t be happy with the Kings win. The team fought hard in an emotional and historic game from Boogie and finished their road trip 2-1. That is something to be proud of. What I am saying is don’t be comfortable with that game or how they played as a team just because they won. If this team is going to have a successful season they will need consistent play to build their identity, not this randomness we are seeing early in the season where one game the ball is moving and guys are cutting and the next game guys look lost, stand still, and act like this is their first time playing together. Their next game is against the Cleveland Cavaliers and I don’t expect a win, but what I do expect is for the team to come out with a gameplan that doesn’t just post up Boogie (or AD if healthy) and stands still, but one that has weak side motion on post ups so Boogie can use his vision and passing skills to bust the double when it comes. One where the ball moves consistently to keep the defense on their toes. One where players actively cut and create angles for the ball to get to them, because a little movement can go a long way in the NBA.

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