Behind the Numbers: Pelicans at Timberwolves (10/23/21)
A look at three key numbers related to Saturday’s game at Target Center between New Orleans and Minnesota (7 p.m. Central, Bally Sports New Orleans, 100.3 FM):
54, 55: Combined shooting percentage from the field and three-point line, respectively, for the New Orleans starting backcourt of Devonte’ Graham (57 percent from floor, 59 percent on treys) and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (52, 50) through two games. Perhaps even more key statistically than their scoring averages (Graham 19.5 ppg, Alexander-Walker 19.0 ppg), it will be important for the pair to generate efficient offense, especially when Zion Williamson returns to the lineup. With Williamson on the floor, New Orleans backcourt players may see their shot volume decrease, but the quality of their attempts is likely to increase based on the attention defenses must devote to the 2021 NBA All-Star.
12.5: Average free throws per game for New Orleans in losses to Philadelphia and Chicago, which ranks No. 27 out of 30 teams at this exceptionally early stage of the campaign (Denver has taken a league-low 8.5). Williamson by himself averaged 8.7 foul shots per game last season; his injury removes a very important element from the Pelicans’ attack, not only in the free throws Williamson generates but in the team’s ability to get into the bonus earlier in quarters. Brandon Ingram averaged 5.2 foul shots in 2020-21, but has only taken five over two games. Alexander-Walker’s six total free throws tops the Pelicans this season, tied for 45th among all NBA players.
24.1: Average age of Minnesota’s roster as the 2021-22 regular season commenced, via en.hispanosnba.com, making the Timberwolves the NBA’s fourth-youngest team (behind only Oklahoma City, Memphis and Detroit). Based on how few experienced players New Orleans has, it’s perhaps a bit surprising that the Pelicans are only the league’s eighth-youngest roster at 24.7, but Garrett Temple (35) brings that number up a bit. Temple’s multi-year NBA teammate, Tomas Satoransky, will turn 30 next Saturday (Oct. 30) when New Orleans hosts New York in the Smoothie King Center.
PREVIOUS GAME STARTING LINEUPS
NEW ORLEANS (0-2)
Friday loss at Chicago
Devonte’ Graham, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Herbert Jones, Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valanciunas
Notes: Josh Hart started at forward in Wednesday’s defeat vs. Philadelphia, but sat out Friday due to a quad injury. … Friday’s group logged 20:53 on the floor and posted an excellent net rating of plus-20.0 per 100 possessions. Wednesday’s starting five only got 8:22 of action together prior to Hart exiting vs. the 76ers in the first half.
Wednesday win vs. Houston
D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Josh Okogie, Jaden McDaniels, Karl-Anthony Towns
Notes: A good sign for the Timberwolves and this collection is that the same group – but with Ricky Rubio at point guard instead of Russell – registered an 8-5 record last season, by far the team’s most successful combination. Okogie and McDaniels are good complements to the offensive firepower of Russell, Edwards and Towns. That trio combined for 81 points vs. Houston, led by 30 from Towns and Edwards’ 29.