Offensive Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Published: December 6, 2013

This offseason was one of changes. From the New Orleans Hornets to the New Orleans Pelicans; Trades and free agent signings revamped the roster; Even the New Orleans Arena got a makeover. But there was another change hinted this offseason that fans needed to wait on.

The team’s offense.

Head coach Monty Williams wanted to open up his playbook more than he has in the past. He wanted to get out and run a little more. There were going to be fun changes, more exciting basketball. So with 18 games gone so far let’s take a look at what’s different than last season.

As I mentioned the other day the Pelicans are looking for the roll man in the pick and roll less than they were last season. Thanks to we can see that the numbers are 7% this year compared to 9% previously. It’s slightly surprising given how devastating Anthony Davis is on the pick and roll and the fact that the team scores 1.13 points per possession when the play ends with the roll man which is good for 3rd in the league.

There are a few factors that contribute to this. First, there are now three guards who like to look to shoot. Jrue Holiday, while the team’s point guard, has also looked to shoot first and pass second as most of his shot attempts have come early in the shot clock—though over the past 10 or so games he has certainly improved on this.

Early shot clock usage is also true for the rest of the team. breaks down shot clock usage into increments of 0-10, 11-15, 16-20 and 21+ seconds elapsed. 0-10 seconds is often transition scores so the more telling number is percentage of early half court offense.

This season the Pelicans attempt 28% of their shots with between 11-15 seconds elapsed. That’s a 4% increase over last year. Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans are both guards who have tremendous confidence in their shot. If they think they have some enough space they have no problem going with the pull up jumper. While there are times when this offensive strategy works, the Pelicans’ pick and roll ball handlers are only scoring .71 ppp this season which ranks 24th.

Another factor is with the loss of Robin Lopez, there aren’t any bigmen who are great at rim running other than Anthony Davis. Jason Smith is more of a pick and pop shooter (and the stats above don’t factor in that type of play), and while Ryan Anderson sets many high screens however he usually pops out to the three point line. The lack of another under the basket type bigman has forced Monty Williams to change the team’s emphasis when it comes to first options on the pick and roll.

The departure of Lopez also has factored into the Pelicans post play. Post up possessions are down 1.5% this season and are currently the Pelicans 2nd worst offensive category at .69 ppp (28th in the league). This is hardly a surprise with the team’s current front court players. Even Davis prefers to shoot his mid range jumper than play with his back to the basket.

But the Pelicans have the fifth best offensive rating in the NBA so it isn’t all bad.

The Pelicans have improved their rankings in isolation plays by 4 this season despite the percentage basically staying the same. Most likely this is attributable to the troika of guards brought together this offseason. Gordon, Evans and Holiday all have a tremendous ability to get to the rim and finish, often times slicing the defense up at will.

And then there is transition offense.

This other than off cuts this is the Pelicans highest point per possession category. With the athleticism and speed that the Pelicans have on the court with the revamped roster they  17.1% of their offense comes in transition which is up from 10% last year. Attacking while defenses are not set, or while on a fast break, leads to efficient offense.

There is a cliche which goes good defense leads to easy offense. Well the Pelicans are not playing good defense this year they certainly are forcing steals and blocking shots. Both of these lead to transition offense and it’s nice to see Monty let his team get up the court as opposed to letting the defense get set.

The final verdict on many of the offseason changes has yet to be made. Just like the offense, it might take a whole season before any decision can be fully made. But there certainly is a lot to like.


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