A Late Preseason Look

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Published: October 21, 2016

Now we’ve seen all 6 preseason games, dealt with a couple injuries, and just 1 cut that was offset by a signing.

  • There’s only so much to take from preseason, but they are definitely making an effort to get the passing going. Last season, the team was starved for passing. It was so starved for passing, in fact, that Tim Frazier actually made a visible improvement when he was on the court last season. I’m not knocking the guy, but it’s not like he was an NBA starting-level point guard at the time. He was just a point guard starting in the NBA. The passes are not just coming from that initiating guard, though. They are coming from all around, and that is great.
  • Don’t just look at the assists in the box score, either. You have to just watch the passes and the situation. Avoiding sticky situations, remembering that discretion is the better part of valor . . . these are what we are looking for to evaluate passing, not Chris Paul level trickery and dexterity. Choices.
  • Choices, choices, choices.
  • With passing comes turnovers. That’s the cost of doing business. Anyone saying otherwise simply doesn’t understand the business. While an increase in turnovers is unavoidable, the real effect of these turnovers is what needs to be taken into account. If the team can keep the turnovers so that they do not lead to efficient shooting opportunities for the opposing team while leading to more efficient shots for the Pelicans, bring it on.
  • Asik is looking good, at least with respect to what they expect of him. There is tremendous misunderstanding about just what Asik is supposed to do, and the misunderstanding is a moving target. He’s supposed to defend and get rebounds. He can only do so much of that when guards run free, like they did last season, or when he’s hurt, like last season. Somehow his rebounding prowess is either forgotten, ignored, or assumed to have fled by the most common critics. Also, a guy with those kinds of rebounding skill simply can not lack all manual dexterity, as is sometimes joked. However, rebounding is a self-directed activity with which he has tremendous familiarity. Passes to him are not self-directed and are not nearly the same kind of motion. I’m not saying that he catches passes like champ. He does not. I think this poisons the outlook with respect to his rebounding, and that is a mistake. Scoring, taking punishment for Davis, etc. are secondary. He could be more patient on screens. Overall, I expect to read some shuffle-ball-step “out there” this season about the Turkish center.
  • Ajinca looks ok, but not as good as Asik. I think the starting job competition was simply an attempt to give him some shine on the trade market. Not sure how that panned out, but maybe someone thinks he’s a better fit than their 9th guy. At any rate, this brings me to . . .
  • Lance Stephenson seems to have made a decent case for a roster spot. Gee’s claim to a spot seems to have two prongs of unknown importance. First is a little better fit at traditional small forward. Second, a tangle of relationships with Anthony Davis. Stephenson has had no obvious behavioral issues, which is what many of his detractors assumed would (or still will) happen. Stephenson is unequivocally more versatile than Gee, and more of a fit with Holiday, Pondexter, and Evans out for some time. Both are good defenders. Stephenson is also not without advocates in the organization. Specific scouting on Stephenson, particularly his defensive ability, style, and attitude, got and kept his advocates’ attention. His performance with the team, including outside of games, has left the staff with a decision to make; he is not making this easy for them. Even if they cut him, he got a fair showing with the team and had to have helped his reputation around the NBA. This is as good for the Pelicans as it is for Lance.
  • Trade talks are out there, but I don’t expect the Pelicans to make a splash, however. They need to shed contracts, not gain them.
  • I think Frazier needs to play primarily with Buddy Hield for Buddy’s benefit and both need to come off the bench for the team’s benefit. I’m guessing they start Galloway, Moore, Hill, Davis, and Asik. Nice defense, nice scoring. Some rebounding, some passing. Galloway is not a prototype point guard, but neither is Holiday. Alternatively, Frazier could start, despite the defensive hit the lineup would take, then go back to the third point guard when Holiday returns. I think that is worse for Buddy, however.

The heads have started to roll, so it could be today or just before the deadline, or whenever in between.

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