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Small Sample Size Theater Part Two

Published: November 23, 2013

Last week, we had our first installment of Small Sample Size Theater, with just one game to look at where we had all our weapons at our disposal. Cut to today, and we’ve tripled that!

The Pelicans are 3-0 since Ryan Anderson returned, though you can temper that by pointing out the fact that they have played all three teams at home and the combined record of said teams is 11-30. However, we have to remember that we did lose to poor teams before Ryan Anderson returned, so there has definitely been an improvement. It is just the extent of the improvement that we do not know yet.

For now, let us bask in the glory of a team averaging 114.7 points per game since Ryan Anderson’s return as we look at our second installment of Small Sample Size Theater.

– The Finishing Five (though I also like a readers suggestion for the ‘Ballot Five’) has been unreal in their limited time together on the court. Simple stats: 22 minutes on the floor, 68 points scored, 41 points allowed. They outscore their opponents by over a point per minute. Seriously, think about that. The score of a 48 minute game would be 148-89.

Now, to dig a little deeper. Some might think that with Anderson on the court, and above average three-point shooters in Holiday and Gordon, that this unit would be letting it fly from deep, but only 17% of their attempts have come from behind the arc. That would rank them dead last in the NBA amongst all teams, though they would be first in percentage made, because they hit 75% of them! Where that unit is getting its shots is at the rim. 29 of their 47 shots (61.7%) are coming at the rim or in the paint. Only 8 of their 47 shots have come in the “dumb zone”.

And this unit could get even better offensively by getting to the line and converting. Despite all their shots in the paint, they have only got to the line for 11 attempts and have missed five of them. Defensively, that unit is turning teams over (19 TO’s per 48) and rebounding misses (Dreb rate of 82.3%). Opponents take a high rate of shots from behind the arc – over 44% – but make very few of them (26.7%). They also get a good percentage of their shots in the paint -38.2% – but aren’t shooting from well there, partly due to Anthony Davis’s block rate of nearly 10%.

Long story short, this team gets to the rim and converts, only takes three’s when it is a wide open look, crashes the glass on both ends, and has perhaps the best defensive player in the league turning high percentage shots into low percentage shots for the opposition. Sounds like a recipe for success; 148-89 type success.

– One of the biggest questions coming into the season was whether Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis could play together. Last year, their units were very good offensively, but they were miserable on the defensive end. So, can they play together? The very small sample size says yes.

In three games, they have logged 53 minutes together and the Pelicans have outscored the competition 141-104 in that stretch. Again, we see a very high percentage of shots taken and shots made around the rim, with surprisingly poor shooting from behind the arc. From straight away, the Pelicans are 4-5 on three-point attempts (all four makes by Anderson), but are just 3-11 from every other spot behind the arc. But we know any unit with Davis and Anderson on it can score, it is on the defensive end that they will be judged.

First things first, the AD/Ryno units control the board, grabbing 88.4% of all possible defensive rebounds. And with Davis playing center in those lineups, the block rate skyrockets to 13.9%. Fearing Davis’s presence in the paint, teams settle for bad three’s more often and make just 23% from behind the arc. So, can these two play together? Yes. And why? Well, Monty’s defensive scheme hasn’t changed much, nor has the defensive effort of Ryan Anderson. You can argue that the perimeter defenders have had some effect, and that is true, but more than anything it is the evolution of Anthony Davis. SkyNet has become self-aware!

– With the Pelicans moving more and more to a three-big rotation and Austin Rivers seemingly taking the backup PG spot from Brian Roberts, the Rivers-Evans-Morrow-Anderson-Smith unit is essentially our second unit. This unit has played just a handful of minutes together, but the early returns are encouraging. They take more than half their shots from behind the three-point line and draw fouls at a ridiculously high rate (1 FTA for every 2FGA’s).

What might really make fans giddy is this unit has never attempted a mid-range shot. Not a single one. Every attempt has been in the paint or behind the arc. Defensively, they are nothing to write home about. They defend the arc, and do everything else at about an average rate, but because their offense has been so good, they have outscored their opponents by a nearly two-to-one margin and should be able to hold leads, if not extend them as the season goes on.


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