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Scoring at rim pretty much a big easy against Pelicans

Numbers notebook: Even with Omer Asik and Anthony Davis, New Orleans' rim protection has been woeful.

POSTED: Jan 2, 2015 12:28 PM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann

NBA.com

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Although he has a defensive reputation, Omer Asik (right) ranks 36th in rim protection this season.

The list

Highest percentage of opponent shots from the restricted area
Team OppFGM OppFGA OppFG% Rank %FGA
New Orleans 611 1,006 60.7% 17 38.0%
Philadelphia 522 873 59.8% 13 35.1%
L.A. Lakers 578 939 61.6% 19 35.0%
Minnesota 600 898 66.8% 30 34.7%
Phoenix 615 979 62.8% 24 34.3%
League average 60.4% 32.2%
OppFGM, OppFGA, OppFG% = From the restricted area
%FGA = Percentage of total FGA

The context

Shots in the restricted area are the most efficient shots on the floor, good for 1.21 points per attempt. So this is not a list you want to be leading by a wide margin.

The Pelicans traded for Omer Asik to improve a defense which ranked 25th last season, allowing 107.3 points per 100 possessions. But, though Asik has played in 28 of the team's 32 games, the New Orleans defense hasn't improved.

Through Thursday, the Pelicans rank 26th defensively, allowing 106.8 points per 100 possessions. The amount that their defensive efficiency has gone down is equal to the league average, which has dropped from 104.0 points per 100 possessions to 103.5. (It typically goes up as the season goes on.)

A healthy Ryan Anderson and the continued development of Anthony Davis has made the Pelicans a better offensive team. But at 16-16, they are just one game ahead of where they were after 32 games last season (15-17). They needed to make a big jump defensively and haven't.

It seems crazy that a team with Asik and Davis can be one of the five worst defensive teams in the league. But that's the case ... and it's why the Pelicans, despite their talent, haven't been able to win more than two straight games all season.

Overall, the Pelicans have been solid defensively with Asik and Davis on the floor together, allowing 101.6 points per 100 possessions, a rate which would rank 11th in the league, in 544 minutes. But they've fallen off after a strong start, they've struggled to score in those minutes, and when either of the two starting bigs has gone to the bench, their defense has been pretty terrible.

Pelicans efficiency with Asik and/or Davis on the floor
On floor Min OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Asik + Davis, through Dec. 2 262 98.4 94.2 +4.2 +29
Asik + Davis, since Dec. 2 282 101.9 108.4 -6.5 -41
Asik + Davis, total 544 100.2 101.6 -1.4 -12
Only Asik 182 105.5 122.5 -17.0 -52
Only Davis 562 114.1 108.5 +5.6 +81
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Anderson ranks as one of the worst rim protectors in the league. Opponents have shot 60.0 percent at the rim when he's been there, a number that ranks 91st of 93 players who have defended at least four shots at the rim per game over at least 15 games, according to SportVU.

But neither Asik nor Davis has protected the rim that well either. Among those 93 players, Asik ranks 36th (48.9 percent) in rim protection, while Davis ranks 50th (50.9 percent). And with both Asik and Davis on the floor, opponents have taken 34.5 percent of their shots from the restricted area, a mark which keep them in the list above. So their lack of rim protection isn't just about Anderson.

Part of the problem is the Pelicans' perimeter defenders. They're starting games with Luke Babbitt trying to defend small forwards and ending them with either Austin Rivers or Jimmer Fredette trying to defend quicker guards.

Part of the problem is their pick-and-roll scheme, which has both Anderson and Davis come out high in an attempt to contain the ball-handler. Anderson is simply too slow footed to contain or recover well. And while Davis will block the occasional jump-shot to start a fast break, the scheme takes him away from the basket. Per 36 minutes, Asik has defended 11.8 shots at the rim, while Davis has defended only 7.5.

The Pelicans' transition defense could also be better. They rank 19th in opponent fast break points per game and 16th in percentage of opponent shots that come in the first six seconds of the shot clock (according to SportVU). But those numbers should be better when you consider that New Orleans commits the third fewest live-ball turnovers per game.

New Orleans has a top-10 offense and is just a game out of eighth place in the tough Western Conference. But the Pels have had the worst defense of any team (in either conference) competing for a playoff spot. And unless it gets dramatically better soon, Davis will become the third straight No. 1 pick to miss the playoffs in his first three seasons.

The video

Watch the Suns' 40 shots in the restricted area (one short of their season high) against the Pelicans on Tuesday.

Here's Babbitt getting scorched by Goran Dragic.

Here's Davis out high on a pick-and-roll, allowing another drive by Dragic.

And here's Dragic going away from Anderson's hard hedge to drive straight to the basket for a dunk.

The bottom of the list

The Charlotte Hornets have allowed their opponents to attempt just 27.6 percent of their shots from the restricted area. The Hornets take care of the ball (they rank second in turnover rate), which helps them in transition (they rank third in percentage of opponent shots taken in the first six seconds of the shot clock, according to SportVU).

The Hornets' more conservative pick-and-roll scheme has also kept their bigs closer to the basket and their opponents away from it.

The Kings are next, having allowed their opponents to attempt just 29.5 percent of their shots in the restricted area, just 28.4 percent with DeMarcus Cousins on the floor. After Sacramento is Washington (29.9 percent), the Clippers (30.4 percent) and Dallas (30.6 percent).

The Wizards are the only team in the bottom five that ranks in the top 10 in defensive efficiency. While preventing layups is a good place to start, there's a lot more to playing good defense.

Trivia question

What two teams have two players in the top five in restricted-area field goal attempts?

League-wide values per shot through Thursday

-- Restricted area - 60.4 percent - 1.21 points per shot

-- Other paint shots - 39.5 percent - 0.79 points per shot

-- Mid-range - 39.9 percent - 0.80 points per shot

-- Corner 3-pointers - 39.5 percent - 1.18 points per shot

-- Above-the-break 3-pointers - 34.1 percent - 1.02 points per shot

More shot location notes

-- The league has yet to make a shot from the backcourt this season, 0-for-152 through Thursday. Last season, it shot 16-for-144 (3.4 percent) from the backcourt.

-- Indiana (eighth and third) and Golden State (10th and sixth) are the only two teams that rank in the top 10 in both preventing restricted area shots and defending them. Not coincidentally, Andrew Bogut and Roy Hibbert rank first and third in rim protection, according to SportVU.

-- Chicago has forced its opponents to shoot 48.0 percent of its shots between the restricted area and the 3-point line, the highest rate in the league.

-- Philadelphia is at the bottom of that list, having forced their opponents to shoot 34.0 percent of their shots from between the restricted area and the 3-point line. The Sixers still rank as an above-average defense, because they've forced a lot of turnovers.

-- The Bulls are also No. 1 in preventing corner 3-pointers. Only 97 of their opponents' 573 3-point attempts (16.9 percent) have come from the corners. In the same number of games, the Bucks have allowed more than twice as many (232) corner 3-point attempts.

Trivia answer

New Orleans and Detroit.

Tyreke Evans leads the league with 299 shots in the restricted area, while Davis ranks third. Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe also rank in the top five.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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