Why The New Orleans Pelicans Shouldn’t Play Transition Basketball

Published: July 18, 2014

It isn’t a question of pace but of getting out in transition is something Mason pointed out to me on twitter the other day. I was saying that I think the New Orleans Pelicans will play with a slower pace because of the Omer Asik trade, but Mason was right: Transition is the correct word even though it ties in with pace.

But whatever. The Pelicans shouldn’t get out and play in transition.

It almost seems counter intuitive with the Asik signing. The team has athletic players in Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, and Anthony Davis, and now a guy to swallow up the ball on defense. This New Orleans Pelicans team is almost built to run.

But that doesn’t mean they should.

Even with Asik’s rim protection and rebounding skills the Pelicans still suffer in two areas…

Defensive Rebounding

The Pelicans ranked 21st in DRB% last season. They simply gave up too many second chance points. Combine that with being below average in causing turnovers and you have opponents who maintain offensive possessions. It’s no surprise the Pelicans ranked 27th in defensive efficiency last season.

Adding in Asik and his career 28.2 DRB% helps but the team is still losing Aminu and his rebounding abilities. Anthony Davis will certainly improve but opponents will reason they are going up against a monster front court and look to take one of the two Pelicans towers out of the paint through the use of high pick and rolls, etc. Unfortunately, Asik can’t fix everything himself.

In Monty Williams’ first season the then-Hornets finished with a defensive efficiency of 10th best in the league. They also ranked 2nd in DRB%. That defense was anchored by Emeka Okafor—much like the Pelicans defense will be stabilized by Asik. But the main reason for the high DRB% was the gang-rebounding style Monty likes to use. It was not uncommon to see four then-Hornets crashing the glass after an opponent’s miss.

You can look at the stats and say Asik and Davis are better rebounders than Okafor, Aaron Gray, David West, and Jason Smith. No one will debate that but their stats that season dip because everyone on the floor was hitting the boards. Yet, even with two superior rebounders this coming year, I expect to see more gang-rebounding and less transition because…

The Perimeter Defense Is Bad

The Pelicans’ guards and wings are going to get beat on the perimeter. This forces the bigs in Davis and Asik to rotate over to try and contest open looks or clog the lane to the rim. Sure they may force a miss but they will be taken out of rebounding position because of this. And that opens the door for the opponent to grab offensive rebounds or at least establish superior position under the hoop. Gang-rebounding eliminates this. Defenders flaring out in transition doesn’t. Getting stops should be the priority over scoring easy points, at least right now for this team.

This doesn’t mean the Pelicans won’t get out and run after defensive stops, but I find it more likely they play in transition close to the 9.8% of the time in 2010-11 than the 13.6% from last season. Monty likes the slow defensive, grind it out style of basketball; and there is enough fire power to score in a slower half court style of offense. It’s not as fun and exciting, but if it leads to a playoff spot, like in 2010-11, I don’t think anyone will really complain.


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