One Team, One Stat: Pelicans push the pace, but to no avail
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2016-17 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the New Orleans Pelicans, who tried to turn up the pace.
The New Orleans Pelicans averaged 98.9 possessions per 48 minutes last season, up from 93.7 the year before.
In a year when 26 of the 30 teams increased their pace, the Pelicans made the biggest jump in how fast they played. Alvin Gentry came from the first team in the last 39 years to win a championship after leading the league in pace, and tried to bring some of that success to New Orleans.
According to SportVU, the Pelicans took 56 percent of their shots in the first 12 seconds of the shot clock last season, the eighth highest rate in the league, up from only 41 percent (28th) in 2014-15. They were the most likely team to get a shot with 13-18 seconds on the shot clock.
That should have led to offensive improvement. The numbers tell us that early shots are better than late shots. But somehow, the Pelicans still took a step backward in effective field goal percentage and overall offensive efficiency. They shot much worse in late-clock situations than they did the previous season and they didn’t get to the basket nearly as often. Only 33 percent of their shots came in the restricted area, down from 39 percent (highest rate in the league) in ’14-15.
Gentry brought the pace, but not the ball movement from Golden State. The Pelicans remained a bottom-10 team in passes per possession and recorded secondary assists on only 20 percent of their assists, the third lowest rate in the league. (The Warriors ranked first at 33 percent.)
Defensively, the Pelicans allowed their opponents to shoot only 11.0 percent of their shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock, the lowest rate in the league. They also allowed fewer shots in the restricted area. Good news, again … seemingly.
But they also took a big step backward on that end of the floor. As they tried to protect the rim better, they struggled to contest shots on the perimeter. According to SportVU only four teams contested a lower percentage of their opponents’ jump shots. And while they cut down on their opponents’ attempts in the restricted area, only two teams allowed a higher field goal percentage there.
Overall, the Pelicans were one of only three teams (Chicago and Phoenix were the others) to regress by at least 2.0 points per 100 possessions in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Injuries hampered them for a third straight year, but it’s hard to know if a faster pace works for this roster.
In their 41 fastest paced games, the Pelicans went 12-29 and were outscored by 6.0 points per 100 possessions. In their 41 slowest paced games, they went 18-23 and were outscored by only 2.0 points per 100 possessions.
Injuries and absences are already an issue for the Pelicans this season. And the departures of Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson represent continued instability around Anthony Davis, who has struggled to stay on the floor himself.
Put it all together and Gentry has yet to find something to build on.
10 MORE PELICANS NOTES
New Orleans has been a below-average defensive team for five straight years and is one of two teams (Sacramento is the other) that has ranked in the bottom 10 in defensive efficiency in each of the last four seasons.
Along with fewer shots near the basket, they also had the league’s biggest decrease in offensive rebounding percentage, from 27.1 percent (fourth in the league in ’14-15) to 21.2 percent (24th) last season.
According to SportVU, the New Orleans defense allowed the league’s highest field goal percentage (52.0 percent) and points per possession (1.23) on drives.
Were outscored by 311 points total last season, but their most-used two-man combination – Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday – was a plus-182.
Were outscored by 7.0 points per 100 possessions in 988 minutes with Anthony Davis at power forward and by 2.8 points per 100 possessions in 1,175 minutes with Davis at center.
Davis has seen an increase in usage rate every season, but his effective field goal percentage was a career-low 50.8 percent last season. He remained one of the league’s best finishers at the basket, but continued to move further away from it. Last season, 49 percent of his shots came from outside the paint, up from 46 percent in ’14-15 and 37 percent in ’13-14.
Jrue Holiday had a usage rate of 28.7 percent last season, up from 22.7 percent in 2014-15. That was the third biggest increase among players who logged at least 1,000 minutes both seasons.
In three seasons (plus one postseason) together, the lineup of Holiday, Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Anderson and Davis played only 230 total minutes. It outscored its opponents by 72 points (15.0 per 48 minutes). There were only 17 games in which all five guys played last season, but they played together only 33 total minutes together in just 10 of those 17 games.
According to SportVU, Langston Galloway averaged 63.0 touches per turnover last season, the most among point guards with at least 1,000 touches.
Galloway had an effective field goal percentage of 49.4 percent before the All-Star break and 39.1 percent after it. That drop-off (-10.3%) was the largest among players that took at least 250 shots before the break and 200 after it.
NBA TV’s Pelicans preview premieres at 6:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Oct. 13.
John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.
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