Did You Know That… The two most recent seasons are the two most efficient offensively in New Orleans franchise history?
If you consider yourself a basketball purist or traditionalist, the NBA’s steady rise in three-point attempts – as opposed to hard drives to the hoop – may bother you. At one point in time, the goal of a 3-on-1 fast break was to create a dunk or layup, but nowadays, you frequently see that situation result in a pull-up 25-footer.
Well, there’s absolutely no question that the sport has become more of a perimeter game in recent years, with clear evidence of that everywhere you look. Despite the fact that three-point shooting accuracy in 2019-20 across the NBA (35.7 percent, via Basketball Reference) is nearly exactly the same as it was 10 seasons ago (35.5 percent), teams this season have launched an average of 33.9 treys per game, compared to just 18.1 during that ’09-10 campaign. As a result, it should be no surprise that free throws have dropped from a team average of 24.5 per game in ’09-10, to the current level of 22.9.
Although it may not be evident at first glance why the NBA continues to trend in the direction of more threes, one explanation lies in the usage of analytics to determine which shots generate the most efficient offense. Since basic math dictates that a three-point basket has 50 percent more point value than a field goal inside the arc, a team only needs to shoot 33.3 percent from beyond the arc to match the output of a 50.0 percent rate on twos. Combined with a larger number of NBA players being comfortable firing frequently from deep, ’19-20 marks the ninth consecutive season that leaguewide three-point attempts have increased.
How has that philosophy most impacted New Orleans? Well, despite occasional concerns from fans and media that the Pelicans take too many jumpers – they’re sixth in the NBA this season at 37.6 attempts per game, third-ranked in makes at 14.0 – that approach has led to the best offenses in the team’s 18-year history. In fact, this season and the previous campaign have produced the two highest offensive ratings the franchise has ever seen. As measured by NBA.com, the current Pelicans score 110.6 points per 100 possessions, which is second only to last season’s rating of 110.7 (despite the fact that the ’18-19 club experienced rampant injuries and a bizarre, controversy-filled second half of the season).
Here is the list of every season in New Orleans history, with the third-best offensive performance occurring a dozen years ago, when the then-Hornets captured the Southwest Division crown and posted a team-record 56 wins:
New Orleans offensive efficiency by season
Season … ORtg Rank among NBA teams
2019-20 … 110.6 15 (only played 64 games of 82)
2018-19 … 110.7 12
2017-18 … 108.5 12 (advanced to Western Conference semifinals)
2016-17 … 104.7 26
2015-16 … 104.8 18
2014-15 … 107.1 9 (lost in first round of playoffs)
2013-14 … 106.2 13 (first season as Pelicans)
2012-13 … 104.5 15 (final season as Hornets)
2011-12 … 99.9 28 (66-game season)
2010-11 … 105.4 18 (lost in first round of playoffs)
2009-10 … 106.5 17
2008-09 … 107.6 13 (lost in first round of playoffs)
2007-08 … 110.0 6 (advanced to Western Conference semifinals)
2006-07 … 103.7 23
2005-06 … 102.3 26
2004-05 … 98.2 30
2003-04 … 100.7 15 (lost in first round of playoffs)
2002-03 … 102.4 18 (lost in first round of playoffs)
These two most recent Pelicans seasons also coincide with record-breaking three-point years for New Orleans, which is averaging a whopping 14.0 made treys in ’19-20, after sinking 10.3 the previous season. Like the NBA as a whole, the Pelicans have set a new record in that category with regularity this decade, including every season since ’15-16. Coincidentally – or perhaps not, you decide – that ’15-16 squad broke a franchise record that had stood for eight years, by draining 8.6 threes a game. Led by Peja Stojakovic, the ’07-08 Hornets registered the previous team best, averaging 7.7 in the category.