New Orleans Pelicans Issues Go Beyond Monty Williams

Published: January 17, 2015

Let’s get one thing straight – I am not a ‘Monty Apologist’ or a ‘Fanboy’. I wouldn’t even call myself an optimist by any means. Yet, because I don’t scream FIRE MONTY! from the mountain tops, I have been called all of these things dozens of times. The truth is that I want this team to win and win big as much, if not more, than anyone else. But as I attempt to ascertain why this team is not living up to the expectations of some, it is impossible for me to put all of the responsibility on one man. There are several issues with this basketball team, and yes one of those issues is Monty, but he is not alone, and simply replacing him will not have the effect that it seems like most fans would expect.

Before I get to the other issues, I want to address several common complaints about Monty, separating them into 3 categories (true, untrue, unknown).


1.) Monty’s system results in a pace that is too slow for the talent he has here

The counter to this argument was always that Monty’s teams played at a slow pace because of its personnel, and when the team was filled with guys like David West and Chris Paul or Jarrett Jack and Chris Kaman, then the slow pace was understandable as that is what the personnel preferred. But this Pelicans team is currently sitting at 24th in pace despite having multiple players that would thrive in a high-octane offense.

2.) Monty is too conservative when his players get into foul trouble

Anthony Davis should never come out when he has two fouls in the second quarter. Ever. AD averages exactly two fouls in 36 minutes, so the data says that it will take him another 72 minutes to foul out. Unless the Pelicans are going to play in a six overtime game on that night, the numbers say that you don’t have to worry about him fouling out, even if he has two in the second quarter. He is simply to valuable to the team and you can’t get those minutes back.

3.) Monty is too conservative with his minutes overall

A counterargument would point at the San Antonio Spurs, where Monty learned his craft, and say that the Spurs conservative plan for minutes allocation should be followed by everyone. But, this is a relatively new thing for Popovich, and is a result of their current age. Duncan was a 38-41 minute per game guy in his first six seasons. On this team, AD gets 36 and Jrue and Tyreke get 34 a piece. You can point to several other top end guards the same age and see that they get 36-38 minutes per game. It seems small, but when you have a team as thin as the Pelicans, then the 8-10 minutes that you can give to AD, Jrue, and Tyreke and take away from Rivers, Salmons, and Ajinca could be huge. Would it be insane to say that is worth an extra two points per game? If that were the case, the Pelicans expected W/L record right now would be 22-17.


1. Monty should stagger his lineups more

The numbers say that this would just be stealing from Peter to pay Paul. The Pelicans are much better when both Jrue and Tyreke are on the floor, compared to when just one of them is on. By staggering those two, you might reduce the number of bad minutes, but you also reduce the number of good minutes a given lineup would produce. At the end of the day, it would likely be a net neutral and could have negative long-term effects, as it reduces the chemistry you want those two to build for down the line.

2. He never calls a time out to stop a run

This is simply not true. What is true is that he does not call a timeout every time the opponent goes on a run, because that would be impossible and/or not prudent, but he often calls timeouts to stop runs and quite often draws up a really nice play out of those timeouts (another false criticism).

3. Monty doesn’t demand that guys get AD the ball

From Monty himself and other players in post game, this is always an emphasis both before and during the game. Monty emphasizes it in practice and he emphasizes it on off days. Nobody is more frustrated about AD not getting more shots. But simply wanting something to happen does not make it happen. Guards often get impatient as AD takes too long to get position. Other times, guards simply call their own number or teams take away Davis and let the guards try to beat them. Now, it might be fair to call Monty out for not getting more creative in his plays, but there is no truth to the statement that Monty does not make this a priority.


1. Monty doesn’t get on his players enough

We rarely see Monty yell at a guy during the game, so the assumption is that he doesn’t get on them at any time – even though 90% of his time spent with these guys happen behind closed doors. We have seen him bench guys, give them DNP’s, drive guys out of town, and immediately pull them from a game after a bad mistake. What we haven’t seen is him scream and yell at a guy, though, and because of that we assume it never happens even though he disciplines them in ways that would likely be more effective than yelling at them. There aren’t middle schoolers. Heck, there is the issue of whether yelling even works. A new report came out saying Oregon football coaches never yell at their players, and they have been pretty darn successful. But the truth is that I don’t know, and you don’t know, so this should not be an argument for or against him.

2. Monty doesn’t tell his players to go for two-for-one’s

C’mon, none of you really believe this right? Right? I think this is a multiple part problem.

A.) We were spoiled by CP3, one of the smartest players ever and this made us think it was the norm, which leads me to…

B.) Fans think that executing a 2-for-1 is the norm in the NBA. But since this has become a complaint in recent weeks, I have started tracking opponents we play. I consider 36-40 seconds borderline 2-for-1 territory. If there is that much time left, you have a choice to make: Shoot fast and get two possessions or take your time and get 1. I counted 37 possessions by our opponents that met this criteria and the opponent only took a shot with more than 24 seconds left 13 times. Charlotte had 3 such possessions like this when we lost to them a few weeks back and was 0-3. It’s not just us.

C.) Getting a high quality first shot in this situation requires high IQ players who can shoot off the dribble. Tell me, how many of our guards meet one of those criteria, let alone two?

3. Monty doesn’t motivate our players

This usually becomes a standard complaint when the Pelicans lose to a team that the fans feel they should have beat. Terms like lethargic are thrown around or there are assertions that the players didn’t care. These unmeasureable things are measured by the eye, and then put on Monty. The bottom line with all these things is that they just can’t be proven and by throwing out vague arguments, you demean the value of legitimate arguments. More arguments does not equal a better argument. Stick to quality over quantity when evaluating Monty, because I think we would all want to be evaluated on facts not speculation when it came to our jobs.

Outside of Monty, What are the Issues With This Team?

The Roster is chalk full of guys with low basketball IQ and one-dimensionality. Basketball IQ is hard to measure, but you know it when you see it and more importantly, you know when you don’t. You don’t want a coach micromanaging every aspect of the game. Ideally, you want at least one or two coaches on the floor directing the offense and the defense, making sure guys are in the right place at all times. Currently, the Pelicans don’t have any of these guys.

There was a telling play in the 76ers loss last night where Quincy Pondexter forced his guy baseline and expected there to be help waiting for him. Quincy expected this for two reasons: 1.) Because that is the scheme the Pels run and 2.) Because he has been playing with a high IQ team for several years now, and that rotation would have been made in Memphis. Offensively, it is a lot of the same stuff, as guards often dribble into the paint with no alternative plan other than to hoist up a bad shot in traffic. There is never a cut to the rim when an off ball player notices his man standing around watching – instead that player just stands around and watches too.

And lastly, this team is chalk full of one-dimensional players. People look at the Atlanta Hawks and wonder why a roster with seemingly inferior talent can have such a superior record. Well, quite simply, they have a number of guys who can beat you in multiple ways IN ADDITION TO their specialists. The Pelicans have AD, Jrue, and a bunch of specialists. When those specialists get a match-up that is beneficial to them, they can look like quasi All-Stars, and on those nights the Pelicans usually win. But when Tyreke faces a team that protects the paint, or Ryno has a man up in his chest all night, or Asik has to guard a more mobile big man who doesn’t play next to the basket, they become non-factors. And on top of all of that, the Pelicans highest paid player isn’t even one-dimensional. There is nothing that Eric Gordon does at an elite level anymore.

So, you have four guys who are eating up over 60% of your cap who can be taken out of a game on any given night. They can only contribute with good to ideal match ups, and are a net negative when the one part of their game that gets them paid is not working. And to be honest, each of these guys are who they are. Asik is not going to develop hands and/or a post game. Tyreke Evans can go from horrible to below average as a shooter, but he will never be a threat. And Ryan Anderson has add a few nifty moves inside the arc, but overall, that is not going to provide efficient enough offense to make up for his terrible defense.

You can have one or two of these guys long term, at a reasonable salary. But you can not dedicate so much money to build a top heavy roster full of guys who can disappear on any given night.

The Next Step For Monty and the Pelicans

So, should Monty be the coach or not? Let’s be honest, that’s what you want to know and that is what you are going to judge this piece on. Well, to be perfectly frank, I do not think Monty Williams should be the coach of the Pelicans beyond this season and I can even make the argument that he should go prior to the All-Star break.

If the goal is to win a championship, Monty has not shown anything to make us believe that he will be able to get the Pelicans to that level of play. He is a dedicated, well-intended man, but it is nearly impossible to be the best team out of 30 without a superior basketball mind at the helm. Monty’s destiny is most likely to be an elite assistant coach, but there is nothing in his resume that screams ‘basketball genius.’

Now, most would argue that it is pointless to fire Monty in-season, because that just means one of the assistant coaches will slide over and the hope for playoffs will likely be lost due to the lack of continuity. My response would be that this team is not making the playoffs anyway, and the possibility of a shake up could wake this team up from its dogmatic slumber. It also will send out a signal to top coaches both in the NBA and college that a once-in-a-lifetime job has opened up. The possibility exists to coach the next all-time great NBA player through his prime, and it is something every coach must consider.

You look at a guy like John Calipari, and he is not going to make a quick decision at the end of the year if you fire Monty in May and Cal is already on the recruiting trail. But let him start thinking about it now. Same goes for Shaka Smart, Fred Hoiberg, and a number of top assistants around the league. Let all of them know that this job will be available in mid-April, and that Anthony Davis will sign a new contract in July that will lock him up for at least five more years.

Who wouldn’t want that job? Let them start thinking about it today. Let them get their assistants and possibly even the executives they want to work with lined up, so that they can hit the ground running the second the season ends. Because they are going to have a lot of work to do, not only with the systems they want to implement, but with the roster they want to construct. It will be an uphill battle, but you are starting with the guy most likely to be the best player on the planet over the next five years.

And hopefully, a much improved coach and roster.



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