Behind the Numbers presented by HUB International: Trail Blazers at Pelicans (3/15/19)

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

A look at three key numbers related to Friday’s game at the Smoothie King Center between Portland and New Orleans (7 p.m. Central, Fox Sports New Orleans, WRNO 99.5 FM):

5: Charges drawn by Kenrich Williams, who leads New Orleans this season, even though he’s just 11th on the roster in total minutes played (724). Drawing charges is often viewed as a very unglamorous aspect of basketball, but it demonstrates a willingness to sacrifice one’s body for the betterment of the team, while sometimes helping to put an opposing player in foul trouble and slowing down their attacks of the basket, with them realizing they can’t just barrel recklessly to the rim. It’s also an area where the Pelicans could stand to improve next season as a team; they currently rank No. 27 in the category, averaging just 0.29 per game, via NBA.com (only Philadelphia, Portland and Sacramento draw fewer). By comparison, New Orleans ranked 13th in charges drawn in ’17-18, at 0.61 per game. As Pelicans interim GM Danny Ferry said of Williams during his Wednesday appearance on the Black and Blue Report: “Kenrich has a great basketball IQ. He plays with a great passion and intensity. (The Pelicans are) a smarter team when he’s on the court, even as a rookie. He just has a knack for playing the right way and doing smart things out there.”

16.3, 15.9: Rebounds per 36 minutes for Cheick Diallo and points per 36 minutes for Frank Jackson since the All-Star break, respectively. Diallo’s rebounding rate is No. 1 on the Pelicans during that timeframe, as the third-year pro continues to pack a ton of production into a modest allotment of playing time. Diallo also ranks fourth in points per 36 minutes since the break, at 20.5. Meanwhile, Jackson is averaging 19.0 points over the past three games, tallying 20 vs. Toronto, 23 at Atlanta and 14 against Milwaukee. The rookie from Duke has seen a dip in his three-point accuracy over the past week, going just 4/21 from beyond the arc in the last three games, but he’s gaining invaluable experience. Jackson has logged 20-plus minutes in nine of the club’s 11 games since Feb. 21, after doing so just 12 times over New Orleans’ initial 59 contests. Ferry on the Pelicans’ young players showing effort and taking advantage of greater opportunities to contribute recently: “That’s their DNA, a little bit. That’s why we brought them in as an organization. Their DNA was to play hard. They certainly have shown that, and it’s exciting.”

5: Consecutive Western Conference playoff appearances for Portland, a number that should officially increase to six straight soon (the Trail Blazers are currently 41-26 and in fourth place, eight games ahead of No. 9 Sacramento, giving Portland a postseason magic number of 8). Multi-time All-Star guard Damian Lillard has helped lead the Blazers to a berth in the rugged West every season of his career other than his rookie campaign, when Portland finished 33-49. Since then, the Northwest Division team has averaged 47.8 wins over the previous five seasons, a number that likely will increase after 2018-19 is added to the calculation. The current Blazers rank fifth in the NBA in offense at 112.9 points per 100 possessions, three spots ahead of the Pelicans in that category (111.3). Defensively, Portland enters this weekend ranked No. 15, deadlocked with Golden State at 109.4 points allowed per 100 possessions.