Season in Review 2015-16: Luke Babbitt
Pelicans.com continues its look back at the 2015-16 season with player-by-player analysis of the team:
Perhaps no New Orleans Pelicans player’s in-season role swung as dramatically as that of Luke Babbitt, who averaged a meager 3.6 minutes per game in January but by April was a primary scoring option and logged 31.7 minutes a contest. The uptick in opportunity came as a direct result of a spate of New Orleans injuries, vaulting the smooth-shooting southpaw from deep reserve to common late-season starter. Babbitt capitalized by putting together the most productive stretch of his six-year NBA career. He averaged 15.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the final month of 2015-16.
“Any time you can get minutes, opportunities and shots, you want to take advantage of it. That’s what it is for all of us,” Babbitt said, alluding to a group of Pelicans who moved into much larger roles. “That’s how the NBA works. I’ve been around long enough to see guys take advantage of their opportunities. That’s what guys are trying to do here.”
Over the first 251 games of his NBA career, the Nevada product had compiled one game of 20-plus points (24 points at Houston on April 12, 2014), but he accomplished that feat three times this season from March 22 through April 3. Coming off a 2014-15 campaign in which he was one of the NBA’s premier three-point shooters, Babbitt slumped early in ’15-16, at just 32.7 percent from beyond the arc prior to the All-Star break. However, he shot a scorching 48.1 percent after the midseason hiatus and showed an improved off-the-dribble repertoire.
“With so many guys out, you have to be aggressive,” Babbitt said of added responsibility amid injuries. “When the ball is swung to me up top, there aren’t many options other than to put the ball on the floor, try to create a little bit. We’re missing (Anthony Davis), Ryan (Anderson), Tyreke (Evans), Eric (Gordon). Without those guys creating shots, the load’s going to fall on someone else.
“It’s definitely something I’ve worked on. It’s something I used to do more of when I was in college. With the guys who are out, that’s a lot of shot creation in our offense that we don’t have. So when the shot clock’s winding down or the play breaks down, guards especially have to be able to put the ball on the floor, get by their man, draw and kick.”
Essentially a combo forward who alternates between the “three” and “four” positions, Babbitt made the first start at shooting guard of his NBA career on March 12 at Milwaukee, responding with a 16-point, nine-rebound game. It was another adjustment in a season full of them for Babbitt, who is under contract with New Orleans after a signing a two-year deal in July 2015.
TOP THREE LUKE BABBITT GAMES OF 2015-16
#3, March 20: New Orleans 109, L.A. Clippers 105
Making just his second start since November, Babbitt produced 14 points and eight rebounds, helping spark a quality win over the playoff-bound and eventually fourth-seeded Clippers.
#2, April 3: New Orleans 106, Brooklyn 87
In a Sunday matinee at Barclays Center, Babbitt drained a season-high three three-pointers (he also did it two other times), part of his 21-point afternoon. It was the first time in the NBA that he scored 20-plus points in consecutive games.
#1, March 31: New Orleans 101, Denver 95
The second double-double of Babbitt’s NBA career – and first since April 13, 2011, when he played for Portland – featured 22 points and 10 rebounds. He also contributed three assists, two steals and one block in his 36 minutes of action.
BEHIND THE NUMBERS
40.4: Babbitt’s three-point percentage in 2015-16, marking the second consecutive season in which he made over 40 percent of his trey attempts. He shot a blistering 51.3 percent in ’14-15, which would’ve pushed him to No. 1 in the NBA, but he did not have enough makes to officially qualify for the league title.
12: Games in his NBA career of eight-plus total rebounds for Babbitt. Seven of those took place this season, including six between March 12 and April 9.
3: Times Babbitt logged 30-plus minutes as a member of the Pelicans prior to 2015-16. He then did it 10 times, with all but one of those instances taking place in March or April (he played 30:29 at Golden State on the Warriors’ Ring Night).