Pelicans generating big numbers since Ryan Anderson's return
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Perhaps it’s a bit early to tag them with a catchy nickname such as the “Furious Five” or the “Fantastic Five” – as some New Orleans Pelicans fans have suggested – but the talented group of Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis has certainly been worthy of something more apropos than “Five Guys” (another submission) since assembling two weeks ago.
On Nov. 16, Anderson made his regular-season debut vs. Philadelphia and helped yield immediate dividends, with New Orleans piling up a season-best 135 points. Following Friday’s 121-105 offensive eruption against those same 76ers, the full-strength Pelicans are now 4-2 since Anderson’s return, averaging a staggering 109.8 points per game (to use one comparison, Houston is leading the league at 109.3 ppg). Other than a 93-point hiccup against defending Western Conference champion San Antonio, New Orleans has scored 100-plus points in every game of the stretch. Prior to Anderson making the Pelicans’ attack whole, they had only reached the 100-point mark twice in nine games.
As always-informative NBA.com writer John Schuhmann pointed out while attending Friday’s Pelicans-76ers game in Philadelphia, the Holiday-Gordon-Evans-Anderson-Davis group has been one of the league’s premier five-man units offensively, based on points per possession. Although they may be forced to contend with some difficult defensive matchups as an undersized group, their collective offensive firepower often more than compensates. That was certainly the case Friday, when the fivesome logged extensive time together and helped produce 35- and 34-point first and fourth quarters.
“They have a lot of guys that stretch the floor, a lot of guys who can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket, and big strong guards, and they’re a good, solid team,” said Philadelphia forward Thaddeus Young, whose team allowed a whopping 128.0 points per game in two losses to New Orleans. “They have young guys but they’re veteran guys and they can play.”
Although Philadelphia became the fourth straight New Orleans opponent to reach the century mark, the Pelicans breezed to a relatively easy win based on their gaudy scoring numbers. In conjunction with a change at starting small forward from Al-Farouq Aminu to Anthony Morrow, Pelicans Coach Monty Williams also shrunk his rotation, meaning heavier minutes for his five best scorers. Holiday (40 minutes, 34 seconds), Gordon (39:45) and Evans (35:15) each registered season highs in playing time against the 76ers. Davis (37:55) also approached his season-most minutes of 2013-14.
Here’s a look a key statistic for each member of the quintet since Anderson made his return in mid-November:
Key stat through Nov. 15: 6.8 assists per game
With Pelicans at full strength: 9.0 assists per game
Not surprisingly, Anderson’s return has helped open up space for his teammates and also given Holiday another option to locate for an open shot. Anderson has cashed in by shooting 51.2 percent from three-point range, fourth in the NBA through Friday. Anderson ranks No. 1 with 3.5 made treys per game, better than even Golden State’s Stephen Curry (3.3).
Key stat through Nov. 15: 16.2 points per game
With Pelicans at full strength: 15.5 points per game
Gordon’s numbers are a bit negatively skewed in the recent six-game sample by a 2-for-9, four-point performance at San Antonio, a game in which he played a season-low 19 minutes. However, he scored a season-best 26 points at Philadelphia and shot 50 percent or better in consecutive games for the first time in 2013-14.
Key stat through Nov. 15: 34-for-94 shooting (36.2 percent)
With Pelicans at full strength: 34-for-74 shooting (45.9 percent)
In fairness to Evans, a preseason ankle injury continued to bother him into the regular season, contributing to a poor shooting start. However, when Anderson was sidelined, Monty Williams often noted that Anderson’s return would likely have a major positive impact on Evans. It clearly has, as evidenced by Evans making exactly the same number of baskets (in three less games) while taking 20 fewer shots.
Key stat through Nov. 15: Pelicans were 3-6 without Anderson
With Pelicans at full strength: Pelicans are 4-2 with Anderson
Anderson is off to the best start of his outstanding six-year NBA career, highlighted by a scoring average of 19.0 points (his previous top tally in a season is 16.2). Despite launching 6.8 three-point attempts per game so far, he’s connected on 51.2 percent of those shots. From the field overall, he’s a tick below 50 percent at 41-for-83.
Key stat through Nov. 15: 3.1 blocks per game
With Pelicans at full strength: 5.0 blocks per game
Davis’ scoring is actually noticeably down since Anderson’s return (from 21.8 ppg in the first nine games to 16.3 in the recent stretch), but carrying a lighter load offensively could be a good thing for the 20-year-old. During that same stretch, the second-year pro has improved upon shot-blocking numbers that were already eye-popping, including consecutive nine- and eight-swat games vs. Philadelphia and Utah, respectively. He had another four blocks against the 76ers on Friday, giving him 13 in the two Philadelphia matchups.