BourbonStreetShots.com http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com New Orleans Pelicans information, analysis and discussion Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:58:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Pelicans v Wizards observations http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/21/pelicans-v-wizards-observations/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/21/pelicans-v-wizards-observations/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:58:50 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46542 Once again the Pelicans rolled against a team without all of its big guns, as Pierce and John Wall both sat out the game, leaving Gortat and Nene to hold the fort.  Still, don’t be confused by the final score (88-84) this was a blowout.  Monty played Darius Miller, Austin Rivers, John Salmons, Alexis Ajinca, Jeff Withey, Patric Young and Jimmer Fredette in the fourth and those guys were wrecked by Kevin Seraphin, Otto Porter and Dejuan Blair.

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

  • Asik and Davis controlled the glass when they were on the floor together.  Gortat pulled free a few contested rebounds, but he and Nene weren’t really able to stop them.
  • Asik kept getting free down the middle on pick and rolls as the Wizards chose to stay home on Davis and Gordon and not help much.  Asik is not the best at holding on to the ball or finishing, but he’s good enough to make that a dangerous play.
  • The Pelicans ran with the Anderson-Asik-Davis frontcourt for a time out there, but it showed some problems.  Porter kept getting free for shots.  It did turn Anderson into a monster offensive rebounder though.  The Wizards were trying so hard to contain Asik and Davis on the glass that Anderson kept slipping in over and over and ripping down offensive rebounds.
  • Anderson’s shot was missing, but it didn’t matter because he kept grabbing second chance shots and earning new possessions.  The Wizards were also playing with fire.  All of his four threes were wide open.  That would kill you normally.
  • Small Forward Update: Babbitt, Salmons and Miller combined for 41 minutes, 13 points on 7 shots, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 2 steals, 5 turnovers and 8 fouls.  At least they hit their shots?
  • Rivers had his worst game of the pre-season, as he kept losing the ball and/or dribbling into traffic without a plan.  His line isn’t terrible, but he struggled running that second unit in this game.
  • Tyreke looked like Tyreke last night, unstoppable power drives and a bricked three pointer that was so wide left it hit the backboard and only grazed the side of the rim.
  • Davis had 14 points on 8 shots, 1 assist, 2 blocks, 1 turnover, and zero fouls in 21 minutes.  And it didn’t feel like he was dominating out there.  All flow of the game.  He also had a scary fall in the third that prompted Monty to pull him.  The recap claims Anthony suffered a sprained wrist, but he just shrugged it off after the game as not something serious.
  • Holiday looked a little lost on offense.  Outside of the pick and roll he just kept dribbling into trouble and trying to bail himself out with mid-range jumpers and bad passes.  C’mon Jrue!
  • Andre Miller likes to grab people.  Probably because he walks like an old man now.  The refs kept letting him do it too.  That annoyed me a bit.
  • The team only hoisted 15 threes in this game, a far cry from it’s previous attempts.  Of course, the Wizards perimeter defense was so poor, that the Pelicans could get inside at will for most of the game – so threes weren’t needed.  At one point early in the game the Pelicans had outscored Washington in the paint 28-8.
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Is Small Forward Really a Problem for the Pelicans? http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/21/is-small-forward-really-a-problem-for-the-pelicans/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/21/is-small-forward-really-a-problem-for-the-pelicans/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:00:27 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46532 You’d think the answer from New Orleans Pelicans fans would be a resounding YES. With the likes of Luke Babbitt, John Salmons, Darius Miller, et al, it’s understandable there’s concern. But the answer isn’t that easy. In fact it’s rather complicated.

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

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

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

The Answer Could Be One of These Three

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

Luke Babbitt

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

There are downsides, namely defense. He’ll get shredded by top perimeter players. Yet, according to 82games.com Babbitt gave up an opponent small forward PER of 16.1. And, well, if he’s playing 5 minutes with Anthony Davis and Omer Asik defending the rim it’ll be okay.

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

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

John Salmons

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

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

Darius Miller

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

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

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

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

The Injury Factor

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

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

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

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

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

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Is Anthony Davis on the Verge of Becoming a Full-Fledged Superstar? http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/20/is-anthony-davis-on-the-verge-of-becoming-a-full-fledged-superstar/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/20/is-anthony-davis-on-the-verge-of-becoming-a-full-fledged-superstar/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:21:08 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46492 This is Season Preview week on Bourbon Street Shots, and while the focus will be on the team as a whole, the answer to the question above will likely determine how big of a jump the Pelicans make in the Western Conference. Quite simply, NBA superstars only miss the playoffs in very rare situations. Kobe Bryant missed the playoffs in his prime because Chucky Atkins led the Lakers in minutes that year. Chris Mihm was the starting center. Jumaine Jones was the 6th man. Who? Exactly!

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

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

The Criterion For A Superstar

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

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

1. Unique Stats (40 points)

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

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

2. Multiple Accolades (40 points)

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

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

3. Making Your Teammates Infinitely Better (20 Points)

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, Who Are the NBA’s Current Superstars?

Lebron James (100 points)

Kevin Durant (100 points)

Chris Paul (60 points)

Kevin Love (60 points)

Stephen Curry (60 points)

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

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

How Does Anthony Davis Become A Superstar?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Davis’s Superstardom Means for the Pelicans

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

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

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

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

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In the NO Podcast Ep 191: Two Blowouts and Western Conf Preview Part 1 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/19/in-the-no-podcast-ep-191-two-blowouts-and-western-conf-preview-part-1/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/19/in-the-no-podcast-ep-191-two-blowouts-and-western-conf-preview-part-1/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 04:15:39 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46523 Michael and I cover all the action from the last two pre-season games, I declare for Austin Rivers, Anthony Davis goes crazy (as usual) and Jrue Holiday plays fairly well. We also talk about whether Ryan Anderson is in game shape or not. Then we move on to the Western Conference, covering the teams we think will be the worst six in the West – a position most writers feel the Pelicans will stay in. Will we? The rest of the Western Conference is coming in a couple days, so give it a listen!

Enjoy the Podcast!

Like the Show or the Blog?

Like the music?

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Rockets v Pelicans Observations http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/15/rockets-pelicans-observations/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/15/rockets-pelicans-observations/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:10:10 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46501 The ‘ets arrived in New Orleans last night for a pre-season game, leaving behind the “Rock” part of their team in Houston. However, even without Dwight Howard and James Harden facing them, there was some informative things happening on the Pelicans end of the floor.

A list:

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

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

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In the NO Podcast Ep 190: Fredette v Rivers? http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/12/in-the-no-podcast-ep-190-fredette-v-rivers/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/12/in-the-no-podcast-ep-190-fredette-v-rivers/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 04:02:04 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46490 Michael and I talk about the gaping hole that is the Small Forward position. (As always with the Hornets/Pelicans) Then we move on to Rivers v Fredette and what that means for the rotation, whether we think Withey has a chance, and if Eric Gordon is awesome because of his appearance in NBA 2K15.

Enjoy the Podcast!

Like the Show or the Blog?

Like the music?

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In the NO Podcast Ep 189: Eastern Conference Preview http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/09/in-the-no-podcast-ep-189-eastern-conference-preview/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/09/in-the-no-podcast-ep-189-eastern-conference-preview/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 15:21:09 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46488 Michael and I talk the Eastern Conference and how we think those teams will shake out. Battles ensue over the placement of teams like the Bulls, Pacers and Hawks. Michael is wrong. No battle ensues over the placement of the 76ers, who really need to be relegated to the D-League now.

Enjoy the Podcast!

Like the Show or the Blog?

Like the music?

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Pelicans Media Day Shenanigans http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/08/pelicans-media-day-shenanigans/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/08/pelicans-media-day-shenanigans/#comments Wed, 08 Oct 2014 19:00:43 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46483 Me and Ryan Anderson doing a comedy show? A Darius Miller radio station? A stare down with Monty Williams? All of it here:

New episodes of the Trew 2 the Game podcast every Tuesday right here. Follow Trew 2 the Game on Twitter.

Special thanks to Darrell Rollo for putting the video together!

 

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Pelicans @ Hawks Open Thread http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/06/pelicans-hawks-open-thread/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/06/pelicans-hawks-open-thread/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 22:42:00 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46480 Welcome to your Game Day Open Thread! Unfortunately tonight’s game in Atlanta is not televised but you can listen to it on the radio and follow along on twitter for updates.

The most important piece of news is probably that Darius Miller is getting his second preseason start at small forward. And that’s about it since, well, it’ll be tough to analyze the game as it goes on. So! Open thread time! What do you want to talk about? Give us your thoughts on the game, or on anything Pelicans related. Some ideas:

Do you think Darius Miller could be a good fifth option as a starter?

Who is your breakout Pelican of the year?

Do you think Eric Gordon opts out of his contract at the end of the season if he has a good year?

Even if it’s not televised, oh wow is it good to have the NBA season upon us!

 

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In the NO Podcast Ep 188: Tyreke missing as SF search starts http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/06/in-the-no-podcast-ep-188-tyreke-missing-as-sf-search-starts/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/06/in-the-no-podcast-ep-188-tyreke-missing-as-sf-search-starts/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 05:57:31 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46477 Michael and I talk about the pre-season game in Kentucky and what it might mean to the starting Small Forward position. We talk about concerns around the Tyreke Evans injury and if it might mean a slow start. Then we talk Austin Rivers and if his option should be picked up – why Michael loves a potential second unit, and we predict efficiencies for various potential line-ups this season.

Enjoy the Podcast!

Like the Show or the Blog?

Like the music?

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A Most Intriguing Second Unit http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/05/a-most-intriguing-second-unit/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/10/05/a-most-intriguing-second-unit/#comments Sun, 05 Oct 2014 13:14:48 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46470 Since Monty Williams has been here, we have seen thousands of minutes without a single starter on the court. Usually, at the end of the first quarter or the beginning of the second, Monty likes to make wholesale changes and put all five reserves on the court together. Unlike most coaches, Williams doesn’t stagger his lineups throughout the game. Instead, he is a fan of building some chemistry in his second unit by playing them all together – something that has driven fans crazy in the past.

But this year, his plan just might work. Make no mistake, he will stagger his starters a bit, as Tyreke and Anderson figure to be the first reserves subbed in. Those two will play with the starters in the first and third quarters, and at the end of games as well. But expect the five man reserve unit to start the second and fourth quarters, and get a few minutes at the end of the first and third quarters as well. In total, expect this reserve unit to get on the court for 10-12 minutes a game against opposing reserves, and while we concentrate on the starters and the finishers, this unit could possibly swing 10-15 games this season with its firepower.

So, what should we expect this reserve unit to look like? Imagine Tyreke Evans with the ball in his hands while Jimmer, Rivers, and Ryan Anderson spot up for three, and the 7’2“, 275 pound Alexis Ajinca sets picks and pops for his buttery 17 footer. Or, picture Jimmer with the ball as Tyreke sets a pick, giving the opposition three choices:

1.) Go over and allow Jimmer an easy path to the bucket. When the D collapses, he can kick it to Rivers or Ryno for a three, or Ajinca for an alley-oop.

2.) Go under and Jimmer drains the 3.

3.) Switch and put your backup PG on Tyreke, who takes him to the block.

Imagine that team in transition, with Tyreke, Jimmer, and Rivers pushing and Ryno and Ajinca spotting up on the secondary break. Just imagine. Imagine all the points they can score in a very short amount of time. Now, the concern is obvious: What about the defense? This unit has, at most, two good on-ball defenders and an average rim defender at best. It has one guy who rebounds at an above average rate for his position, and multiple horrible defensive rebounders for their position. Due to those concerns, this unit would be admittedly quite awful against most of the top starting units in the NBA. But they wouldn’t be playing against starters.

Against Memphis, they would be playing against Nick Calathes, Courtney Lee, Tayshaun Prince, Jon Leuer, and Kosta Koufos. When Houston comes to town, they have to deal with Troy Daniels, Jason Terry, Trevor Ariza, Montiejunas, and Jeff Adrien. The list goes on and on. If you look at the units that most teams send out at that part of the game, it is chalk full of reserves, with one or two starters at most left in, and rarely do we see the elite players. At most, we see two serious offensive threats and one above average offensive rebounder.

While we can’t expect this unit to lock anybody down defensively, it could be good enough to contain opposing bench units, and a unit with an offensive rating of 112 and a defensive rating of 105 is just as good as a unit with an offensive rating of 102 and a defensive rating of 95. And that is what I expect from this second unit, if Monty does in fact choose to go with it. I expect this unit to outscore the unit it is on the floor with, and on some nights it might truly change the entire game. We saw (or heard) this in the Pelicans first preseason game last night, where a 17-5 run in the second quarter flipped the game and put the Pelicans ahead for good.

Jimmer and Ryan Anderson drained three’s, while Rivers attacked the rim. And they didn’t even have Ajinca or Tyreke last night. Regardless, last night was an example of what the Pelicans second unit can do. Can you imagine a world in which Anthony Davis comes back onto the court with bigger leads than he left with? Imagine a world where teams get blitzed by three balls, only to re-insert their starters down 10 and see Asik and AD standing at the rim, denying any chance for them to get easy buckets, which is what you need to get back into a game.

Anthony Davis is going to be a superstar. Eric Gordon seems poised to have his best season in New Orleans. Jrue Holiday is healthy and is ready to lead this team on both ends. Monty Williams has returned from Spain with a new mindset and philosophy on how to treat his players. While all of these things will be key to the Pelicans playoff push, there is a giant X-Factor that few, if any, teams will be able to match. The Pelicans bench unit has a chance to completely flip games, with two Sixth Man of the Year candidates surrounded by guys who are elite spot-up shooters for their position.

Games are usually won in the final five minutes, but for New Orleans, a few could be won during explosive stretches in the second quarter, just like it was last night.

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Pelicans Media Day Recap, Observations http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/09/29/pelicans-media-day-recap-observations/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/09/29/pelicans-media-day-recap-observations/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 01:01:35 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46459 The Pelicans hosted their media day from 1-330 at the practice facility. This was my first Media Day, but I was accompanied by Dru, who helped guide me around, and Trew, who destroyed Luke Babbitt’s dreams of becoming a giraffe.

It was a simultaneously fun and informative experience- just about each player spent time in the interview corner with the media members, and Dell and Monty also spent time answering questions. If you’d like to read some of their quotes, you can check out the Bourbon Street Shots Twitter page, where my fat thumbs battled my iPhone keypad in a quest to capture as many quotes as I could. Dru will upload supplemental media that should do a much better job providing comprehensive coverage of the event.

Most of the quotes from the day were fairly standard, but there were a few patterns across players/staff and a few quotes that stood out to me.

  1. On the whole, the Pelicans players are extremely nice. Nothing phony about it. Friendly, though many of them are quiet.
  2. Just about every player was asked about the playoffs.. and most said the same things:
    • they want to be there
    • it’s tough in the Western Conference
    • it’s more important to focus on the immediate (training camp–> preseason –> regular season). They talked about the process of getting better and jelling.
    • ^^there was a conscious effort by both the staff/players not to perpetuate the “playoffs or bust” agenda. Dell talked about “sustained success.”
  3. Players and staff all made it a point to address injury issues last season.
  4. Monty talked about how Jrue can play off the ball on offense
  5. Jrue wouldn’t bite on what “position” Tyreke would play. When prompted, would say Tyreke is best “on the court.”
  6. Dell said Tyreke was probably working out in the Pelicans facility more than any other player
  7. Eric Gordon had a knee jerk reaction when asked about his player option and whether he’d exercise it
  8. Gordon said this is the first time in a while that he’s entering a season without significant injury issues. He said he wants to get back to being explosive and playing above the rim. He looks like he’s in very good shape
  9. Jeff Withey mentioned that he got hurt right before Summer League started.
  10. Ryan Anderson said there were times after the injury where he wasn’t sure if he’d ever play again. He said he’s blessed.
  11. Patric Young had perhaps the most informative quote of the day when he mentioned that AD does not like playing center. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it should be considered in the “Is AD a 4 or 5?” moving forward. 
  12. Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon were among the last players to go to the interview station- at a time in which a good bit of the media had already filtered out. I’m guessing this was intentionally done to avoid an overload of questions about Ryno’s injury and Gordon’s role moving forward (sixth man vs. starting, etc.)

This is an optimistic time for fan bases and teams, as most have their health and players are coming out of offseason work where they improved their games. It’s important to keep that in mind to help temper expectations for the season. With that said, I didn’t notice any player looking like he was in bad shape. Gordon looks fitter and Rivers/AD definitely look bigger.

Thoughts from Trew 2 the Game

Former ESPN NBA analyst Ric Bucher was all over the Pelicans practice facility during Media Day. He was in New Orleans serving as a media training consultant, something that the league mandates. I could tell the Pelicans were more comfortable around the cameras, reporters, and photographers.

When I first interviewed Austin Rivers in 2012, he seemed comfortable. When I interviewed him at Pelicans Media Day 2014, he was feeling it. Anthony Davis was playful (as usual) but more importantly, he was in charge. Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson were electric. Russ Smith and Patric Young held their own in the face of my “tough” questions (video coming soon), and will likely be Media Day darlings come their next contract. Such a fun team.

Ric Bucher was a nice guy who seemed to genuinely care about the team. While he wouldn’t take all of the credit for their skills on media day, it was evident the team has improved. They’ve got to do it on the court, of course, but the comfort level this team has with each other is there. They playfulness is there. The excitement is there.

The expectations are there too.

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Tyreke Evans to Miss 3-5 Weeks with Right Hamstring Injury http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/09/27/tyreke-evans-to-miss-3-5-weeks-with-right-hamstring-injury/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/09/27/tyreke-evans-to-miss-3-5-weeks-with-right-hamstring-injury/#comments Sat, 27 Sep 2014 20:10:30 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46452 According to a statement released by the New Orleans Pelicans this afternoon, Tyreke Evans will be sidelined for about a month after straining his right hamstring in a pick-up basketball game. As a result, the Pelicans will yet again be without Evans for a portion of the team’s preseason activities; Evans injured his ankle in New Orleans’ first preseason game last year.

There are many possible reactions to this news, most of which will likely be negative. We have the “Pelicans can’t catch a break” storyline, as the team picks up right where they left off last season in regards to injury woes. There is the concern for Evans individually, who some believe got off to a slow start last season as a result of his preseason injury. Others will be frustrated because of the setting in which Evans suffered the injury (playing pick-up basketball), but that is not something that should cause people to criticize Tyreke’s judgement. Many NBA players play pick-up games during the offseason as a way to stay in shape, and his injury could just as easily have happened if he was scrimmaging with teammates.

Then there is the bright side. Even if Evans misses a full five weeks of action, that timeline puts him on track (though possibly not at 100%) to return for the Pelicans’ second game of the regular season. Ultimately, given that 3-5 week timeframe, the most likely scenario is that Evans will miss all of training camp and preseason, but will be back for opening night in the New Orleans Arena against the Orlando Magic. The biggest question outstanding at this point is at what capacity he will be able to contribute.

Evans is coming off of his best all-around season, posting career highs in games played, PER, assist rate, offensive rebound rate, and defensive rebound rate. When healthy and playing with a healthy Pelicans lineup (if that ever happens again), he should be able to contribute immediately at a high level.

Thoughts? Concerns? Questions? Let us know in the comments.

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A Critical Time for Austin Rivers http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/09/26/a-critical-time-for-austin-rivers/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/09/26/a-critical-time-for-austin-rivers/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 12:00:23 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46447 With the New Orleans Pelicans roster pretty much set, the onset of training camp and preseason is key Monty Williams to get an idea of the rotation he plans to use. Players will have an opportunity to edge out one another for limited minutes. And there is no one on the Pelicans who needs a strong training camp than Austin Rivers.

Last season the now third year guard saw his minutes decline yet saw a marked improvement in many of his stats. The departure of Brian Roberts seemingly opened the door for Rivers to be the backup point guard, but the trade for Russ Smith and signing of Jimmer Fredette (and, to an extent, John Salmons) muddled up the situation for the former 10th overall pick.

Rivers has been an absolute gym-rat this offseason, telling John Reid:

”I was constantly working the entire summer,” Rivers said. ”I gained 10 pounds and I’ve got stronger in my upper body. This is my year…I’ve strictly worked on mid-range and getting my body stronger this summer,” Rivers said earlier this week. ”I’ve got both of those things and I’m ready to prove and show people that this year.”

Rivers’ attitude is what you’d want to see, and expect, from a coaches’ son. No one will question that. But let’s look at how his improvements might help the Pelicans.

Getting Stronger

Getting to the rim has never been a problem for Rivers. He has a strong handle and beat defenders off the dribble. But finishing at the rim has been a weakness. Rivers has a slim build and gets knocked around easily when he gets into the restricted area as evidenced by his 48.64 shooting percentage there. Adding ten pounds and upper body strength should help River finish through contact for the and one opportunity. Raising that shooting percentage to at least the league average should allow Rivers to help the Pelicans’ second unit avoid scoring droughts.

This strength will, in theory, allow him to fight through screens better while on defense. Russ Smith is a tenacious defender, and with Monty being a defensive coach, you better believe Rivers needs to see his defense continue to improve if he wants to stay on the court.

Mid-Range

River was atrocious last season from mid-range, shooting a lousy 24.39%. Raising that would obviously help his points per game. More than that, it is also an area on the court where Rivers should get a ton of good looks. Known as a rim attacker, defenders tend to cheat off Rivers and sag back into the paint. This packs the area under the rim making it harder for Rivers to get good looks up close.  It also takes passing lanes to bigs like Anthony Davis away. Developing a reliable mid-range game will keep defenders honest and allows teammates more options for moves like backdoor cuts.

And if this has been his main focus this offseason, you can be certain Monty instructed him to do so. The Pelicans’ offense will revolved around Anthony Davis and letting him and River run mid pick and rolls should worry opponents if Rivers starts making his shots. Pick your poison, and most teams will choose to take away Davis. Leaving a wide open Rivers. Hopefully for a made two.

 

Are these the areas we want to see Rivers improving? Yes and no. Getting stronger is important because getting to the rim and getting fouled is compounded by Rivers’ poor free throw shooting—though it’s worth noting that went up 10% last season. Focusing on his three-point shot over mid-range would set Rivers up to be a floor spacer and help replace some of the production from Anthony Morrow, but at this point the coaches and Pelicans’ fans will welcome any improvement to Rivers’ game. If not, it may be time to give up on him.

So, do you think it’ll be, as he says, Austin Rivers’ year? Let hear it in the comments.

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Average Guards Galore http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/09/25/average-guards-galore/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/09/25/average-guards-galore/#comments Thu, 25 Sep 2014 17:09:13 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46441 It’s that time!  Training Camp is around the corner.  The Pelicans are about to embark on another rough and tumble slog through a Western Conference that has more titans than Godzilla, Pacific Rim, Destiny, and Mecha Anime combined.

The Pelicans arrive on the scene with their own trio of giants in Asik, Davis and Anderson that should provide a storm of complimentary skills capable matching any frontcourt they could face.  The only questions about that unit that remain are “Is Anderson Healthy?” and “Will Anthony Davis Marry me?”

The big name backcourt trio is another story.  These guys are going to have 36 million of Tom Benson’s dollars lavished on them, and in return are required to be the fuel for that fine, fine frontcourt motor.  Yet I don’t have a clue if they are worth it.  I can point to a lot of promising signs.  Tyreke Evans was phenomenal after the all-star break, living on a steady diet of unstoppable drives to the rim.  Eric Gordon regained the shooting stroke that made him so highly paid and stayed healthy until the season was out of reach.  Jrue Holiday is a freakin’ former all-star, hit some big shots, and showed moments of brilliance as an off-the-dribble shooter and defender.

There is one nagging question however, I can’t get away from.

Are they anything more than average NBA guards?

This comes up because I’m putting together a projection for the team, and using analytics like PER, RAPM, Win Shares, and WP48 to try to come up with an estimate.  Guess what.  Most of those measures rate our trio of guards as pretty ordinary dudes.  No, not bad.  Just ordinary.

Take Jrue Holiday, for instance.  Over the past couple years, Jrue has been between 5 and 15% better than an average NBA point guard in the following categories: Rebound rate, Assist Rate, Blocks rate, Steals rate.  He’s been 5 to 15% below average in eFG%, TS%, Free throw Attempts, Three point makes and turnover rate.  So . . . a guy who will help in a bunch of categories, but not much of an efficient scorer.

Tyreke Evans is in the same boat.  Compared to NBA Shooting Guards, he is above average in assist rate, rebound rate, block rate, free throw attempts and steals rate.  He is below average in eFG%, TS% and turnovers.  Production-wise, he’d essentially be the shooting guard Jrue Holiday if the sheer number of Free throws he generates didn’t make him slightly more efficient overall than an average shooting guard.  Slightly.

Lastly, we have Eric Gordon, who is the opposite of his backcourt mates.  He’s above average in eFG%, TS%, and Free throw attempts.  He’s below average at rebound rate, assist rate, turnover rate, block rate, and steals rate.  So while he’s more efficient than your average guard scoring, he contributes nearly nothing anywhere else.  Net: average.

So what do you do with that?  Production-wise, you end up with a trio of pretty average dudes.  Do we still point to their age and say “They’ll improve?”  The standard production trajectory of an NBA player peaks during ages 24-25. (Good god.  Davis is 21.)  All three of these guys are 24 or 25.  Is average their peak then?  For some players, you could point to their defense to classify them as a better than average player – but the Pelicans were awful defensively last year.  Not much proof of this.

So what do you guys think.  Is average a fair label?  If Dell Demps’ gambles on young veteran guards produces mostly average players is that a success for you?  An all average team should win 41 games, remember!  Right?

Does it even matter?  Couldn’t average be good enough if you have Anthony Davis?

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Pelicans “Brave New Court” Redesign Wish List http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/09/24/pelicans-brave-new-court-redesign-wish-list/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/09/24/pelicans-brave-new-court-redesign-wish-list/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 17:50:28 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46429 When Grantland’s Zach Lowe revealed earlier this month in his court design power rankings that our New Orleans Pelicans were embarking on an ambitious redesign of the basketball court, the ears of Crescent City Basketball fans perked up. His words:

The Pelicans have a brave proposed court redesign that might be the league’s boldest, but they have not received final approval to deploy it this season, per several league sources. 

Since then, I haven’t slept much. What could it be? I’ve gone from dreams of having the best, weirdest court design in the NBA to nightmares of having the worst, weirdest court design in the NBA. Let’s analyze the possibilities.

The original. RIP.

The center piece of every NBA court design is, wait for it…center court. Some teams go traditional here with their primary logo (Boston) while some teams go with a secondary logo (San Antonio). Instincts tell me that the primary Pelicans logo will no longer be at center court like it previously was. Here’s hoping the Pels follow the Spurs’ lead (in more ways than this…a common thought among Pelicans fans, I know) and slap a large fleur-de-lis at center court.  It’s happened before with the Hornets, so why not again? The black and gold next door neighbors have the city symbol in the middle of their field. My only request is go big. Cleveland Cavalier “C” big. Also not opposed to a large Louisiana outline like this. Could a huge center court design be the brave request?

A skyline inspired court would be unique and it wouldn’t be unheard of in New Orleans. Will from The Bird Writes pointed this Sun Belt-beauty out to me on Twitter:

Likely not for everyone, but in my eyes this thing is beautiful. Combine this with the fleur-de-lis center court idea and you’ve got a winner that screams New Orleans. It’s also possible that the entire court is comprised of the wings from the primary logo. That seems like a brave move.

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One of the best quirks about the courts in Sacramento and Toronto is the “hype slogans” in the bottom of the court. “Sacramento Proud” is cool, “We The North” is phenomenal. The New Orleans Pelicans better throw a hype slogan down there. We don’t have a predominate one currently, and these things are best left to being organically created or a common local saying. That said, here’s a list of candidates.

I’m In - The closest thing to a hype slogan the franchise has had doesn’t seem like an ideal choice, but I believe it could work. The campaign was successful. “I’m In” on the court could take back the slogan and add some permanence to the phrase. I still think the team should reissue those stickers and magnets with the new brand.

Let the Good Times Roll - It’s long, but it’s so New Orleans. Not a bad idea to make the general “buy tickets to basketball games” slogan be a classic New Orleans motto.

Who Dat – Unlikely, yes. Misplaced, maybe. But some think “Who Dat” will eventually make it’s way to the basketball court, though current fan attempts to fit it in feel forced. If the marketing department (and Tom Benson) have their eyes on sharing the Saints’ battle cry, putting it on the court is a great start. While they’re at it, have a player start the chant before every game too. It’s entirely possible another “dat” phrase is in the works (groan), as many local businesses have adopted it to varying degrees of success.

Bless You Boys – A generic nickname for the Saints could also apply to the Pelicans. Pro: it’s so New Orleans. Con: forcing a Saints trademark into the Pelicans would be frowned upon by some. But this is the internet and everything gets frowned upon. I’m all in for Bless You Boys.

Let’s Geaux Pels - It’s what the crowd chanted at Pelicans baseball games back in the day. It’s what voice of the Pelicans Joel Meyers signed off the rebrand press conference with. It’s simple. It could work. This is my favorite  of the bunch.

One Call That’s All – Since Lil Wayne is Lil Wayne and Sean Payton doesn’t count, Morris Bart is the most prominent Pelicans fan who calls New Orleans home.

Honorable Mention New Orleans References – Cha Ching, See the Special Man

Honorable Mention Generic Bird Terms – The Flock, Fly With Us, Bird Gang, This is the Nest

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With every wish list, though, comes the dread list. Those things that we don’t want to see happen. Among those things is too much Smoothie King. Don’t get it twisted, I’m all aboard the Smoothie King Center train. I just don’t want to see the sponsor poured down our throats. Would much rather sip it through a straw. Crossing two fingers that the painted area is not just a Smoothie King cup. Crossing the rest of my fingers that the brave idea was not to have the Smoothie King logo in center court.

What about the floor? The Bucks, Magic, Nets, and, ahem, Hornets have brave floors. Will we see feathers integrated into the design? My guess is no, but I also would have never guessed what Pierre looked like pre-surgery.

Is the brave request to lift the floor up off the ground and add a protective net as an homage to the New Orleans Jazz? Reaching here, I know.

The team has not reported on if the court has been approved and when the new court will be revealed. We’ll have the information for you as soon as it becomes available.

Follow @Trew2theGame on Twitter and Listen to the Podcast

trew2game

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A Set of Pelicans Basketball Cards Lied to Me http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/09/09/a-set-of-pelicans-basketball-cards-lied-to-me/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/09/09/a-set-of-pelicans-basketball-cards-lied-to-me/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 16:00:18 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46388 I’ve held my breath for far too long. The basketball off season is far too long. It’s time to unleash the truth. The truth is that the Pelicans Basketball Card Pack offered by the Pelicans team store inside the Smoothie King Center duped me. Was it the pack itself that did the duping? Was it the person that organized these cards in this specific order that tricked me? Is it the team’s fault that something this sneaky sneaked past the merchandise guardians? I don’t have all the answers. All I have are these basketball cards pretending to be New Orleans Pelicans inaugural season basketball cards.

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Facts derived from the wrapping on this pack include the price ($10), the amount of cards (50), and what is inside (Pelicans History Pack). The only visible card without unwrapping the pack is the Ryan Anderson one pictured above. Facts derived from the Ryan Anderson card pictured above include that this is definitely a photoshop (look at his face), so this is therefore not a real photograph taken during a game (that basketball is definitely being bounced in a media day green screen type of way), and aw man did I just get bamboozled (keep reading).

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This is the second card in the bunch. It’s a minor reach as Austin Rivers played for both the New Orleans Hornets and the New Orleans Pelicans. Didn’t think much of this one, though. I can live with a former Hornet and current Pelican in my Pelicans History 50 card pack. It being the second card in the bunch gave me caution. I wouldn’t scoff at a Hornets card in the back half of the deck. But the second? I included the wrapping on this picture to hammer home the point that what I purchased was a “Pelicans History Pack.”

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Hello, Peja. Hello under-appreciated yellow third jersey. Hello…OKC patch? Okay, for the third card in my Pelicans 50 card history pack I get Peja Stojakovic setting himself up for a shot in which he has a 45% chance of making. That’s great. I really enjoyed those years we had a marksman like #16. Those years our guys had to wear that OKC patch? That’s not a fun memory. I’m not sitting over here on my merchandise high horse trying to customize my own pack of cards, I get that’s not how it works. But so far my Pelicans History Pack has one Pelican, one Hornet, and one Hornet wearing an OKC patch. This is progressive de-heightening. It’s getting worse.

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These cards are together to represent the only batch of the pack that ever laced up in New Orleans. Austin Rivers, Desmond Mason, Ryan Anderson, Baron Davis, Peja Stojakovic, and Tyson Chandler. A hair over 8% of my Pelicans 50 card History Pack actually played basketball in New Orleans. Some of them also played for the Charlotte Hornets and some of them also played for the Oklahoma City Hornets. I understand that New Orleans basketball history is confusing, but this pack’s lineup is really shoving it my face. Let’s go to the last slide, class.

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Now, I can admit – part of the reason I purchased this “Pelicans History Pack” is that I was curious what was considered Pelicans History. I didn’t think there was going to be a Shoeless Joe Jackson card in the bunch but I also didn’t think there would be a bunch of North Carolinians. I definitely didn’t think they would outscore New Orleanians 44-6.  Imagine on opening day in Charlotte this year you purchase a “The Buzz is Back” Trading Card set. You open the set and you see Chris Paul in a Hornets jersey, Emeka Okafor in a Hornets jersey, and then Emeka Okafor in a Bobcats jersey. This shouldn’t have been called a Pelicans History Pack. This should have been called “Inventory Clearance Pack #1.”

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Chris Trew is a comedian, pro wrestling manager and Pelicans season ticket holder. His podcast, Trew 2 the Game, has new episodes every Tuesday and is available on Stitcher and iTunes. Follow him on Twitter here.

 

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In the NO Podcast Episode 187: Anthony Davis at the World Cup http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/09/01/in-the-no-podcast-episode-187-anthony-davis-at-the-world-cup/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/09/01/in-the-no-podcast-episode-187-anthony-davis-at-the-world-cup/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 03:14:29 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46414 Michael and I talk Anthony Davis and his showing at the FIBA World Cup! We address what he’s done so far, what he can take away from this experience, what we still want to see, and if I was right about him not breaking out. Then Michael loves him some Eric Gordon. Sigh. And then I ambush him!

Good times!

Enjoy the Podcast!

Like the Show or the Blog?

Like the music?

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The New Orleans Pelicans’ Most Intriguing Squadron http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/08/22/the-new-orleans-pelicans-most-intriguing-squadron-nba-basketball/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/08/22/the-new-orleans-pelicans-most-intriguing-squadron-nba-basketball/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:57:12 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46392 The New Orleans Pelicans’ addition of center Omer Asik answers a question that had no clear answer last season – who to start at center. A more uncertain question, however, is how minutes and rotations will be managed among the Pelicans’ three-headed front court monster of Asik, Ryan Anderson, and Anthony Davis. The default assumption is that two of those three will be on the court at almost all times, which should certainly be the case. However, there is another possibility that must be considered – can all three play together effectively?

On its surface, this idea may seem a bit suspect. None of those three players have been considered anything resembling a “wing” at any point in their respective NBA careers, and yet playing Davis, Anderson, and Asik together would require at least one of them to fill that role. However, every situation is unique, and the combination of each player’s skill set warrants a closer look at potential feasibility.

Lineup: Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Omer Asik


The Logic

Anthony Davis is a very special player, as his length and athleticism (not to mention his pre-growth spurt familiarity with playing on the perimeter) allow him to excel in a variety of roles. His individual skill set is most effectively utilized in the front court, but the Pelicans may be best served by moving part of his role within this lineup to the wing. First of all, the addition of Asik gives the Pelicans the elite defensive center that they have long been searching for, allowing them to utilize the wide range of skills possessed by The Brow in different ways which will have the greatest positive impact in a given situation.

This theory leads to the next point, which relates to how Davis and Anderson’s skill sets complement each other. Anderson possesses the long range shooting ability of a wing player, but is not agile enough to defend most of the wings in the NBA. Conversely, Anthony Davis possesses both the wingspan and athleticism to defend on the wing, but he is most effective offensively when playing closer to the rim. Combine the two, and a team possesses the ability to play both players together alongside another big man in the middle. Due to New Orleans’ prior lack of a center talented enough to justify playing alongside both Anderson and Davis, this idea was one that had little reason to be strongly considered last season. With Asik now filling that void, this “3 big” lineup is one that could be very dangerous.

Why it Could Work
  • Defensive versatility. With Asik protecting the rim, New Orleans can be pretty flexible in regards to who defends the 3 and the 4 between Davis and Anderson and make decisions based on match-ups. Against teams like the Thunder and Spurs, the Pelicans would likely be best served sending Anthony Davis out to match up with the likes of Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard on the perimeter (this would probably be the expectation for the majority of opponents). Conversely, the Pels could likely get away with keeping Davis in the front court against a team like the Grizzlies that isn’t going to beat you with its wings. Anderson’s height would be enough to help contest perimeter shots, and even if (when) his matchup gets past him, he will have to pull up for a mid-range jumper, dish it off to a teammate, or deal with the likes of Davis and Asik inside. Given those options, that match-up seems ideal against teams with more one-dimensional small forwards. Regardless of the direction that the team would decide to take, the main point is that a lineup with such solid defenders at both the point of attack (Holiday) and closest to the rim (Asik) – not to mention the defensive versatility of Anthony Davis – gives a team a ton of flexibility in regards to who fills out the remaining two spots.
  • Dribble penetration ability. Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans combined for 18 drives per game last season, and each of their individual per-game drive averages ranked among the top 12 players in the NBA, per SportVU’s player tracking data. Furthermore, the Pelicans averaged almost 1.2 points per possession last season on drives from either of those two players, far more efficient than an average NBA possession. The importance of this inclination of both guards to attack the rim repeatedly cannot be understated, as this unit would lack a strong third ball handler. Davis is competent, but does not have the ability to consistently take his man off the dribble (yet). Connections exist between both drives and corner 3-point attempts as well as corner 3s and a team’s effective field goal percentage, so there is reason to get excited about the thought of Jrue or Tyreke drawing in the defense, then kicking it out to Ryan Anderson (or even Anthony Davis) in either corner.
  • Perimeter length. A defensive perimeter trio of Holiday, Evans, and Davis provides some serious length and athleticism, which could be really taxing on opponents. Jrue is one of the better defensive PGs in the league, and while Tyreke’s overall defensive numbers don’t look too great, his struggles have come primarily against spot up shooters. If Evans can learn to close out better – and he should be able to play a bit more aggressively knowing that Asik is protecting the rim – he can still be an above average defender overall. As for Davis, while moving him away from the rim on defense certainly takes away a bit of what makes him so special, there is upside that can be realized from doing so as well. Davis’ exceptional height and wingspan allows him to play further off of his assignments on the perimeter than others could justify, and his athleticism gives him the ability to stay in front of those same players when they put the ball on the floor. Between he, Evans, and Holiday, opposing guards and wings will have some serious difficulty protecting the basketball and getting into the paint.
  • Rebounding. Over the past two seasons, Al-Farouq Aminu’s most redeeming quality was his rebounding ability (in 2012-13, he led all small forwards in rebound rate by no small margin). With Anthony Davis filling that role, you get that caliber of rebounding (in addition to everything else he brings to the table) to add to Anderson (an above average offensive rebounder) and Asik (the second best rebounding center in the NBA over the past two seasons). Don’t expect opponents to get many second chances, and on the other end of the court, the Pelicans could see a bunch of their own.
Why it Might Not
  • Floor spacing trouble. Yes, this is a lineup that includes Ryan Anderson, but it also consists of two players (Evans and Asik) who have given little reason to date for their jump shots to be respected. Players can help off of Asik in the middle and likely still recover in time, and whoever defends Tyreke can sag off in favor of helping on either Jrue or Anderson to prevent open long range looks from them. If designed correctly and if Davis continues to make himself more and more of a threat, make no mistake that there should be enough shooting on the court to keep opposing defenses honest, but it must be designed properly. Speaking of that concept…
  • Offensive design. While historical data league-wide says that drives often lead to open corner 3s, creating those opportunities within the framework of a specific team is another beast entirely. The Pelicans averaged the 3rd most drives in the NBA last season, but attempted the third fewest corner 3-pointers in the league last season. Jrue and Tyreke can break down defenses all day long, but if A) they don’t look to kick the ball out to the corner frequently enough or B) there is no shooter there for either of them to pass the ball to, then it doesn’t really matter how much opposing defenses collapse.
  • Pick and roll defense. Anthony Davis has proven his ability to match up with opposing small forwards in one-on-one situations, but he often struggles when fighting through screens. While the news that he is up to 242 lbs should benefit him in this regard, a Pelicans lineup including three “big men” creates the potential for some serious mis-matches for talented guards resulting from pick and roll offenses. If the Pelicans defense gets caught in too many switches, a defense with some real promise could quickly be left completely out of sync. Furthermore, asking Davis to chase perimeter players around for extended minutes could result in him tiring much more quickly than he would otherwise, so that is something that would have to be consistently monitored as well.
Additional Questions
  • Who serves as the primary ball-handler? Under normal circumstances, Jrue Holiday is this team’s point guard, but this lineup does not present “normal circumstances.” With Holiday’s strong perimeter shooting ability, it could be in the Pelicans’ best interest to utilize him off the ball and play Tyreke Evans at point guard. Doing so could allow both wing spots on the court to be manned by a good 3-point shooter (Holiday) and a lethal one (Anderson), in addition to Davis’ proven ability to knock down shots outside of the paint. The main concern with doing so is whether or not Evans can get his teammates involved to the same degree as Holiday, but the ease with which Tyreke is able to get into the paint is a skill that could really help this group score.
  • How would this group fare against small-ball lineups? First things first – this group would dominate undersized lineups on the boards, as well as sufficiently defend the paint. That being said, there are certainly issues to be addressed elsewhere. The Pelicans experienced big problems defending perimeter shooting last season, and asking Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson both to cover shooters may not go over well. For example, envision this lineup going up against a Thunder unit of Westbrook, Jackson, Morrow, Durant, and Ibaka. Even if (when) AD gets matched up with KD, is Ryan Anderson really supposed to chase one of those guards around the perimeter? Obviously, any lineup featuring Kevin Durant is going to be difficult to stop, so that example is a pretty extreme one. But what about a Spurs group of Parker, Ginobili/Green, Leonard, Diaw, and Duncan? What about Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Green, and Lee from the Warriors? The issue may not be how to “stop” those types of lineups from scoring, but instead to simply reduce their effectiveness and ensure that the mismatches created benefit the Pelicans more then their opponents.
Summary

When a team has a player as versatile and talented as Anthony Davis on its roster, it allows for (and should strongly encourage) creativity when it comes to how the rest of the lineup is filled out. The Heat followed this logic with LeBron James, a player who played all five positions on the court throughout his stint in Miami. While Davis isn’t going to play point guard for this Pelicans team anytime soon, his ability to capably defend any spot on the floor is something that New Orleans has not yet capitalized on to a large degree. Adding Omer Asik gives the Pelicans a new and interesting excuse to do so, and given the unique attributes of the other players within this suggested lineup, it is a group that has incredibly intriguing potential. Additionally, there is the unfortunate truth that Eric Gordon’s awful defense made him a net negative last year; while there is reasonable hope that he improves this upcoming season, a Holiday-Evans-Davis-Anderson-Asik lineup puts the Pelicans’ best five players on the court together as things currently stand. Whether or not this unit sees substantial minutes together is another issue entirely. What say you, Monty?

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Breaking Down the New Orleans Pelicans Schedule http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/08/13/breaking-down-the-new-orleans-pelicans-schedule/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/08/13/breaking-down-the-new-orleans-pelicans-schedule/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 23:11:22 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46369 In the NBA, not all schedules are created equal. In addition to playing your division foes twice as much as you play the other conference, you also have numerous other factors that can effect the difficulty of your schedule, including: number of back to backs, your non-division conference schedule, and differing lengths of East and/or West coast swings. Today, the New Orleans Pelicans got their schedule, so let’s take a look at the Good, the Bad, and the Interesting.

The Good

The Pelicans kick the season off with three of their first four games at home (including the first 2) and could easily start the season off 4-0, as their lone road game is at Memphis – a team they have owned as of late. Orlando comes into New Orleans to start the season on October 28th, followed by Dallas, then Memphis on the road and the Charlotte Hornets (still weird) at home. They could get off to a great start, which could give them confidence as they head into their next two games (at San Antonio, at Cleveland).

The Non-Division Conference Schedule. It broke down the following way:

Four Times: Thunder, Lakers, Kings, Wolves, Nuggets, Warriors,

Three Times (2 at home, 1 on road): Phoenix, Utah

Three Times (2 on road, 1 at home): Clippers, Blazers

It’s not perfect, but it is better than it could have been. The only one of the non-playoff contenders that we don’t get 4 times is Utah and we only have to go to Phoenix once – a tough place to win. One fewer game against the Clippers can’t hurt, even though we will only get to see CP3 once (on January 30th). Ideally I would have flip flopped Utah and Portland, and maybe OKC and Phoenix, but again, mostly good news here.

The final game of the season will feature the Pelicans at home against the Spurs. History says that they have usually shut it down by then, and with the West being so competitive, that final game could mean the difference in a playoff spot or perhaps a higher seed. Also, in two of the other match ups against the Spurs, San Antonio is on the second night of a back-to-back. Feel free to rest Duncan and Ginobli, Pop!

The longest East coast road trip features almost all of the cupcakes. People like to bag on the East, but it got better this summer. The Pelicans five-game East coast swing in mid-January features Boston, Detroit, Philly, Toronto, and New York. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to see them go 4-1 on their longest East coast road swing.

The Pelicans get the Cavs twice early, which means that they could get the next potential powerhouse before they really start to gel. Remember that the Heat struggled early in their first season, and it is likely that the Cavs will be playing much better in March than they will be in December. The Pelicans get both of their games with the Cavs over with by December 12th.

The Bad

20 Back-to-Back dates. That is a little more than the average (usually around 18), and March and April look especially tough in that area. Although, this might be the new norm if teams get extended All-Star breaks in February. What’s really bad, though, is that 13 of the back-to-backs have a road game as the second game of the back-to-back, historically the hardest game to win.

Not enough Saturday home games – only 4 all season.

Eight NBATV games is nice, but spotlight games on ErSPN, ABC, or TNT are a whole different animal, and the Pelicans only have two of those – Home against Miami on February 27th (ESPN) and at Golden State on December 4th (TNT).

Mid-November through early January could be brutal, especially if the team hasn’t gelled yet. After those first four games, the Pelicans next 33 games will provide quite a test. The Pelicans will play San Antonio three times and OKC and Cleveland twice. They also have two mini West Coast road trips and six back-to-backs, with a couple of them being quite brutal (SA-Chicago, Phoenix-SA, etc.)

The Interesting

All-Star Weekend has turned into All-Star Week, as the NBA has given teams eight days off to recharge in mid-February. The Pelicans will host Indiana on February 11th, and then won’t have to play again until February 20th at Orlando.

Omer Asik will visit Houston for the first time on December 18th.

The Pelicans will be in New York for an afternoon game on MLK day.

If you are looking for the Pelicans to make a run, expect it to happen in January, and it can carry through until March. The Pelicans have that easy road trip I talked about and then follow it up with 10 of the next 12 games at home before hitting the All-Star break. The schedule doesn’t really get hard again until late March. Honestly, if the Pelicans can just make it to early January and are anywhere near .500, they could go something like 30-15 over their final 45 games.

So, what are your thoughts on the Pelicans schedule?

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