Shootaround update by HUB International: New Orleans leads NBA in three-point percentage entering Friday against Dallas

by Jim Eichenhofer

After finishing 19th in the NBA in three-point percentage last season (35.0) and seemingly not making a significant offseason addition to upgrade in that department, there was little reason to expect the New Orleans Pelicans to make major strides from beyond the arc in 2017-18. However, nearing the midway point of the 82-game schedule, New Orleans (18-16) has moved all the way up to No. 1 in the league, partly on the strength of a red-hot December. Four-time All-Star forward Anthony Davis said after Friday’s shootaround that internal improvement has been a key factor in the Pelicans taking a big leap, connecting on 38.8 percent of their attempts. New Orleans is also seventh in the league in makes (11.5 per game).

“I think guys improved over the summer,” said Davis, who tied a career high Wednesday vs. sinking four treys vs. Brooklyn. “We were here every day, shooting threes and doing the type of drills where we were coming off screens, or relocating to threes. All of our guys are shooting, so it’s only going to get better. Guys were willing to work on their weaknesses, and it’s showing in the games.”

E’Twaun Moore (47.4 percent) and Darius Miller (45.5) currently rank third and fifth, respectively, among all NBA players this season, two of the best examples of individual improvement. Moore shot 37.0 percent from long distance last season, while Miller was a career 35.1 percent shooter entering ’17-18.

Davis said Friday that both Pelicans should be selected to participate in February’s NBA three-point contest. Those picks are generally made in late January or early February.

“E’Twaun and Darius deserve to be in there,” said Davis, a more reluctant three-point shooter this season, but still shooting a career-best 40.4 percent himself. “Both of them have shot well in the month of December. They are two of the top three-point shooters in the league right now.”

Since Nov. 1, Miller is second in the NBA in percentage (48.8), while Moore is fourth (48.2). In December, Moore is at a ridiculous 60.0 percent (36 of 60); Jrue Holiday is 14th at 42.7 (32 of 75). Miller said the high percentages can be attributed partly to how many excellent looks at the basket the Pelicans are getting, partly from Davis and DeMarcus Cousins drawing extra defenders in the paint.

“We’ve got a lot of players shooting really well, but I think we give each other a lot of great opportunities,” Miller said. “I keep saying we’ve got a lot of guys who demand a lot of attention, but they move the ball very well and get us great looks. We’ve just got to continue to knock them down. (Defenses) have to double the guys in the post – they have to double AD, they have to double Cuz.”

Other notes from Friday’s shootaround:

Davis noted Wednesday that Rajon Rondo challenged Davis to get six blocks against Brooklyn, which ended up being exactly the number of rejections Davis accumulated. Davis is a two-time NBA blocks single-season blocks champion, but his swats were a bit down in ’17-18 prior to a recent surge.

“I just wasn’t going after them as much as I usually do,” Davis said of his lower numbers earlier in the season. “Guys shoot a lot of threes, but they still score a lot of points in the paint as well. I just have to go after them as much as I am now.”

The sixth-year pro has blocked at least four shots in five of his last seven appearances. He had four-plus rejections only once in his first 22 games of the season. …

As good as New Orleans has been offensively in December (ranking second in the NBA with a rating of 113.7 points per 100 possessions, behind only Houston’s 114.0), Miller believes there is still room for more at that end of the floor.

“We can continue to get better, too,” Miller said. “I don’t think we’ve reached our peak by any means. Hopefully we continue to grind the way we do, and we’ll continue to get better.”