Earlier in the week, David's article broke down how the Pelican's shot selection could be much improved, but thankfully, the roster includes at least one Monty-proof shooter in Ryan Anderson. Yep, he's one important dude. However, the team collectively deserves some praise as well.
Currently, our Offensive Rating ranks 6th in the league (107.7 points per possession). Yes, our shooting is slightly better by most metrics (FG%, eFG%, TS%) but most of the credit should be given to a) the execution and b) the team's athleticism and skill.
Having an eyesore is not indicative of how teams take care of the basketball
Did you know the Pelicans are 4th in the league in turnovers with 13.5 per game? It's an improvement by a full turnover from a season ago, but it's more impressive when considering the quickened pace (88.5 --> 93.8). This is best shown through team turnovers per possession. Last year, it was 15.8%, good for 26th in the league. This year, we stand at 14.0%, 3rd best.
A few days ago, Rohan's analysis accurately pointed out that despite Holiday's high turnover percentage, the rest of the team has mitigated the damage. While it's true we shouldn't rely on a number of our players to continue enjoying their remarkable turnover rates, it isn't far-fetched a good number of them approach, or even set, career bests in the category. Monty Williams has proven to run a tight ship -- those that aren't designated as play-makers will likely continue to be pigeonholed into their specific roles.
The two other turnover tornadoes in Rohan's link, Deron Williams and Ricky Rubio, their respected teams are both in the top tier of both turnovers per game, 14.7 (7th) and 15.1 (11th) and turnovers per possession, 15.0% (9th) and 14.6% (7th).
In the last ten years, there have been numerous point guards with a high TOV% that have not destroyed their team's overall execution. In 2011-12, Steve Nash posted the worst TOV% (27.1%!!!), but the Suns, as a team, posted only 14.7% turnovers per possession, good for 8th best that season.
Furthermore, Nash, Rubio and Williams all wish(ed) they had other high USG% play-makers. Deron is surrounded by antiques, Rubio relies on the somewhat flat-footed Kevin Love and Nash had, well, nobody. Jrue has Tyreke Evans and to a lesser extent, Eric Gordon. So, going forward, it is conceivable that Holiday's donations to opponents start trending downwards. It's doesn't have to be all on him, all the time. However, even if he fails to find the elusive comfort zone, the Pelicans should be fine.
Athletes, length and skill matter
Besides turnovers, where else have the Pelicans vastly improved their offensive performances?
1) Fastbreak points per game. Currently tied for 5th, 17.5 points per game. Last year, 28th with a measly 9.7 points per game. You know the name of the game: easy points make the game simpler.
2) Extra scoring chances per game [Offensive Rebounds + Opponent Turnovers - Opponent Offensive Rebounds - Turnovers]. Currently 2nd, with 6.1 chances a game. Last year, 12th with .5 chances. Teams get roughly the same number of possessions, but additional scoring chances can come about through rebounding, ball handling, and pressure defense.
3) Floor % [Estimates the percentage of possessions on which a team scores at least one point.] Currently 4th at 50.7%. Last year, 12th at 48.9%. I'm a little surprised by last season's ranking, with the numerous lulls we remember all too well, but our ORtg was smack dab in the middle of the league.
4) 4th quarter points per game. Currently 1st, 28.4 points per game. Last year, 18th with 23.7 points per game. In the past, the data shows good teams with solid offenses have exhibited excellent execution down the stretch of games.
5) Average scoring margin. Currently 12th, +2.4 points per game. Last year 24th, -3.9 points per game. Win-Loss records aren't as definitive of how good of a team is, especially with smaller sample sizes. Almost always, if a team finishes in the top half of the league in scoring margin, they're playoff bound.
6) Freethrows attempted per offensive play. Currently 12th, at 22.0%. Last year, 24th at 19.2%. We may be shooting too much from the deadzone, and not enough from 3-point range, but at least we've got an uptick in freebies.
Frequent contributor, unnamed, and I have often commented the importance of having athletic, long and skilled players on the floor. More times than not, the difference in the outcome of games boils down to which teams have the better talent. Although it is a very simplistic ideology, it is sometimes overlooked.
Many have attributed the success of the Jordan Bulls to this factor. Yes, they probably had the best player to ever play the game, but they also had Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant and a host of solid role players: rebounders like Dennis Rodman and a slew of deadly perimeter shooters like Craig Hodges, Steve Kerr and John Paxson. They were able to circumvent a traditional point guard and center by being the more athletic and skilled team any given night.
The Pelican's offense is slowly creeping towards the creme of the crop. Through personnel changes and player development, they have markedly improved in a host of categories. The talent deserves the majority of the accolade, but we'd be doing a disservice if we didn't give Monty Williams and his staff some of the credit too. During Monty's tenure, New Orleans offensive rating has gone 19th, 28th, 16th and now, 6th. Remember, that first season had Chris Paul and David West.
Undoubtedly, the Pelicans and it's coaches can still improve in a number of areas, shot selection being among one of the chief concerns. Regardless, this team is morphing into sometime special on the more 'exciting' side of the floor. If you remember Rohan's +6 theory, it doesn't matter which side of the court gets most of the acclaim.