2013-14 Season in Review: Luke Babbitt

Pelicans.com continues its look back at the 2013-14 season with player-by-player analysis of the team:

LUKE BABBITT
Age: 24
NBA experience: Four seasons (one with Pelicans)
Games played/started: 27/2

2013-14 OVERVIEW

NBA teams sometimes find players in the most unlikely places. Including Russia.

After the Pelicans signed Babbitt to a free-agent contract on Feb. 4, he may have become the first player to compete in the Russian Professional Basketball League and the NBA in the same winter. Babbitt, who had spent the previous three seasons as a reserve for the Portland Trail Blazers, went overseas in 2013 for the first time, but his stint lasted just 18 games for Nizhny Novgorod. Understandably, he was excited to return to America and the NBA following his brief detour.

“It’s a great opportunity, one I couldn’t turn down,” Babbitt said after his first Pelicans practice. “When I heard about it, I was just thankful to Dell (Demps) and Monty (Williams). Obviously there have been a lot of injuries here. I’m just looking to fill in wherever I can.”

Over the next two-plus months, Babbitt was periodically called upon to deliver perimeter shooting, as a power forward comfortable playing away from the basket. He appeared in 27 of New Orleans’ final 35 games and was instrumental in several of the club’s late-season victories. The Pelicans were 4-3 when Babbitt reached double figures in scoring, including wins over Oklahoma City, Miami, Atlanta and Milwaukee. Some of his best performances came after he had gotten DNPs in prior games.

“I think it’s just a mindset of staying ready all game, practicing hard every day,” Babbitt said of being able to perform under any circumstance. “Not really getting too high or too low, continuing to work when you’re not playing. Getting in the gym early and staying late. Being a professional comes with it.”

While averaging a career-high 17.5 minutes per game, Babbitt finished 2013-14 with a 6.3 scoring average, also his best in the NBA. He shot 37.9 percent from three-point range, helping create room for some of the Pelicans’ other scorers. That long-range accuracy made him a matchup problem for bigger power forwards, who generally don’t want to stray too far from the paint on offense.

“Being able to attack that mismatch,” Babbitt said of one key for him. “Not only that, but when you can bring (an opposing power forward) or a (center) out, it will open it up for Tyreke (Evans) to have better driving lanes. Even Anthony Davis, he’ll get better looks at the basket when it’s not clogged in there. That’s part of my role on this team.”

TOP THREE LUKE BABBITT GAMES OF 2013-14

#3: March 22, 2014 – Miami at New Orleans
In a surprise start, his first of the season, Babbitt nailed three three-pointers among his 10 points, figuring prominently in a 105-95 win over the two-time defending NBA champions. “He was determined tonight,” said Tyreke Evans of Babbitt’s key production as a fill-in starter.

#2: March 21, 2014 – New Orleans at Atlanta
The epitome of a “secret weapon,” Babbitt hadn’t played in seven days and sat for nearly all of the first three quarters at Philips Arena, but made a big impact. In just 12:12 of playing time, he scored 11 points and went 3-for-5 on treys. The Pelicans racked up 42 fourth-quarter points in a 111-105 road win.

#1: April 12, 2014 – New Orleans at Houston
In the team’s final road game, Babbitt and the short-handed Pelicans gave the Rockets all they could handle for three-plus quarters, eventually losing 111-104. Babbitt scored a career-high 24 points, easily surpassing his previous NBA top game of 18 points.

Mar. 22 vs. Heat

Mar. 21 at Hawks

Apr. 12 at Rockets