Herbert Jones takes a layup at Minnesota

Pelicans shootaround update: Herbert Jones ‘unbelievable energy’ gives New Orleans a boost

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

At this exceptionally early stage of the regular season, Herbert Jones ranks 10th in total minutes (61) among all NBA rookies and – by a fairly wide margin – has earned the biggest role of any 2021 second-round pick, starting two games for New Orleans. Yet perhaps the best way to measure his impact comes from examining the plus-minus statistic, where the small-sample-size numbers jump off the page. The Pelicans have outscored their opponent by 30 points with Jones on the court, leading the team in that category. No other New Orleans player is on the positive side of the ledger, after one-sided losses to Philadelphia and Chicago, followed by a much more competitive defeat at Minnesota.

In Saturday’s 96-89 loss, the Pelicans were plus-7 with Jones in the game, minus-14 without him. Despite only scoring two points, his imprint was unmistakable, particularly during a second-half stretch when he grabbed several of his six offensive rebounds, drew a charge on a Minnesota fast break and disrupted the Timberwolves’ halfcourt attack.

“The offensive rebounds he grabbed for us were big,” center Jonas Valanciunas said. “He’s a talented kid, a hard worker, he’s there every night. Does he need some experience? Yes. But he’s there working every night and that’s all we can ask from him.”

“His energy was unbelievable, giving us second-chance points, rebounding, guarding their best player, switching onto guys, taking charges,” guard Devonte’ Graham said. “His energy and his presence were definitely felt, and we’re going to need that the whole entire season.”

The Pelicans didn’t complete many of their offensive possessions with a made bucket (35 percent shooting from the field, 23 percent from three on Saturday), but teammates see Jones as someone who can ignite a fast break with his aggressive defense, athleticism and speed.

“He was active on the defensive end and that’s something we’re going to need from him throughout the season,” forward Brandon Ingram said, “just being active and trying to run on stops, getting out in transition.”


Other notes:

Josh Hart (quad) was upgraded to questionable on Sunday’s injury report. Daulton Hommes did not appear on yesterday’s injured list after he was a DNP in the first Minnesota game.

MINNESOTA SCOUTING REPORT

Offensive efficiency rank: 23 (102.8)

Defensive efficiency rank: 1 (91.5)

Net rating: 5 (+11.3)

Pace: 1 (106.75)

Streak: Won 2

Go-to guy: Karl-Anthony Towns is off to a fantastic start in 2021-22, leading the Timberwolves in scoring (27.5 ppg) and shot-blocking (2.5 bpg), despite fouling out of Saturday’s second straight victory for Minnesota. The versatile two-time All-Star is shooting 60 percent from both the field and the three-point arc, while perfect in his seven attempts from the foul line. The 6-foot-11 center can punish smaller defenders in the paint or take opposing bigs out to the perimeter, as one of the league’s premier shooters at his position.

On the rise: Anthony Edwards (24.0 ppg) looks like he’s ready to take a big leap in his second NBA season, after he was picked No. 1 in the 2020 draft by Minnesota. The 20-year-old University of Georgia product is already one of the league’s most exciting dunkers, explosive scorers and best postgame interviewees, constantly providing confident and entertaining quotes. Edwards erupted for 29 points and six three-pointers in a Wednesday season-opening home rout vs. Houston.

PREVIOUS GAME STARTING LINEUPS

NEW ORLEANS (0-3)

Saturday loss at Minnesota

Devonte’ Graham, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Herbert Jones, Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valanciunas

Notes: This group has logged a total of 39 minutes together, by far the most of any New Orleans five-man combination. No other quintet has double-digit minutes under its belt, partly because in the opener vs. Philadelphia, starting forward Hart was injured during the first half. Of the team’s nine lineups that have logged six or more minutes, only three have a positive net rating. … Six of New Orleans’ next eight opponents are from the Western Conference, including two games against Sacramento.

MINNESOTA (2-0)

Saturday win vs. New Orleans

D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Josh Okogie, Jaden McDaniels, Karl-Anthony Towns

Notes: This group has logged a total of 26 minutes together, the only Minnesota combination that’s played more than seven minutes. Timberwolves starters have a net rating of plus-22.1, while the second-most used lineup is at plus-31.3, featuring Edwards, Towns, Malik Beasley, Taurean Prince and Jordan McLaughlin. … Following Monday’s game, Minnesota has consecutive matchups with recent MVP winners, visiting Milwaukee, then hosting Denver.

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