Pelicans Power Rankings: Week 5, Broken Wings

Get Well Brow! - Jonathan Daniel

A sad week to be a Pelicans fan.

It's the first time, in quite a while, we've seen our team go above .500 this deep into a season. 17 games in, our record over the past two seasons: 5-12 and 3-14. In fact, this is the first time we've been above .500 since we started the 2011-12 season 2-0 (does anyone remember the EJ injury?) and the first time we've been above .500 since 2010-11.

Yet, we can't celebrate it as much as we should? Why? Read on and you'll find out why.

1. SBNation by Jason Patt - 17 (Last Week: 12)

Here's another team with a key player sidelined due to injury. Anthony Davis suffered a non-displaced fracture in his left hand in a win over the Knicks on Sunday, which could derail what was shaping up to be an incredible season for the second-year player. Injuries stink.

2. NBA.com by John Schuhmann - 15 (Last Week: 16)

Just when we were starting to see how potent the Pelicans could be with their best five players on the floor, Anthony Davis went down with a broken left hand. With Ryan Anderson shooting like he is (28-for-52 from 3-point range), the 'Cans should still be able to score some points, but they face two top-five defenses this week and have been a pretty bad defensive team with Davis on the bench.

3. ESPN by Marc Stein - 15 (Last Week: 13)

All-Star Weekend in New Orleans is sure to be good. But it'd be even better if the Pels have a rep in the big game, which is a far longer shot today than it was yesterday after The Unibrow (ugh) suffered a fracture in his left hand ... just as things were looking up due to Ryan Anderson's return.

4. Yahoo! Sports by Marc J. Spears - 15 (Last Week: 17)

Anthony Davis missed last season's game in his hometown of Chicago to injury. He'll do so again after breaking his hand on Sunday.

5. CBS Sports by Matt Moore - 20 (Last Week: 16)

The Anthony Davis injury is going to give them even bigger issues, but the rest of the team seems to be figuring some things out.

6. USA Today - 17 (Last Week: 14)

Anthony Davis broke his hand, but he probably still could block a shot if necessary.


7. Hoops World by Moke Hamilton - 15 (Last Week: 19)

In Sunday’s 104-99 win at the Knicks, the Pelicans suffered a major loss. In the first quarter, Anthony Davis suffered a non-displaced fracture in his left hand. There is no timetable for his return, but the loss will be felt. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery.

8. Sports Illustrated by Matt Dollinger - 18 (Last Week: 17)

Think the Pelicans are happy to have Ryan Anderson back? New Orleans is 3-0 seen the big man's return. Anderson's been on fire off the bench, averaging 19.3 points and hitting 4.3 three-pointers per game on a scintillating 61.9 percent shooting. That kind of production will put Omer Asik rumors to rest.


9. ProBasketballTalk by Kurt Helin - 14 (Last Week: 15)

Anthony Davis breaking his hand is brutal news, both for this team — he is their best player — and because he was going to be a focal point for the All-Star Game in New Orleans this year. Hope he is back soon.

10. ESPN Hollinger Power Rankings - 14 (Rating: 100.564)


Notes

If it hasn't been made clear - Anthony Davis will miss some time because of a non-displaced fracture in his hand. The initial recovery time is pegged somewhere between 4~6 weeks but the sadder part is we're entering the brutal part of our schedule (after the soft schedule of November yielded a terrible 7-8 record). Over Davis' projected absence (and I'm assuming the 6 week mark here which means he'll come back somewhere around January 18), we'll play the Spurs (once), Warriors (twice), Rockets (twice), Pacers (once, on the road), Clippers (once), Heat (once, on the road), Oklahoma (twice) and Portland (twice). That's 12 games (in 22) where we play a team in the Top 10 in Efficiency Differential. That's not counting the two games we have to play against Denver (Top 10 in efficiency differential right now although I expect that to go down soon) and a whopping THREE games against Dallas (a decent~good team). All in all, we'll only play 2 games against teams without any serious playoff hope (Celtics and Kings) over Davis' absence.

This will make or break our season. If we somehow survive that stretch with anything close to .500 ball (a 8-14 finish would be acceptable), we'll still have a chance to sneak into the playoffs (if we finish 8-14 over that stretch, we'll have a record of 17-22). If, however, we fail miserably (a 10 game losing streak spanning December 21 to January 7 battling top teams in both the Western and Eastern conference is VERY possible) and we're looking at a 2-20 or 4-18 finish, that might be two big of a deficit to make up in the remaining season.

One (or two) big things that the Pels have on their side this time around - Tyreke and Jrue are slowly finding their groove. Check this out (past 9 games):

MPG ORTG USG% TS% PPG RPG APG SPG BPG TPG
Jrue Holiday 35.9 115 21.5% 53.6% 15.7 5.4 9.0 1.7 0.6 2.8
Tyreke Evans 27.9 114 25.7% 55.5% 15.9 4.9 4.0 1.9 0.6 1.9

With AD out, expect those two to carry more of the load moving forward. The problem that keeps coming back to me: who do we insert in the Holiday/Gordon/Evans/Anderson quartet? Those 4 combined will be eaten up on the glass and were a terrible group on defense (with the blame both on Monty AND those four players), even with AD.

Hopefully, Monty experiments a lot with Aminu/Anderson in a small ball lineup. Without AD, teams will out-rebound us, whether we play Aminu/Smith or not. The key now could possibly be making our strength stronger. That means completely unlocking our transition game by creating more havoc via steals. We currently rank as the 4th best team at forcing turnovers; our opponents turn the ball over on 15.8 percent of their possessions, trailing only Miami (DOH, 17.4%), Detroit (16.8%) and Washington (16%). In fact, we average 9.7 steals per game, second only to Detroit (10.1). A lot of that has to do with EJ (1.9), Jrue (1.6), Evans (1.3) and Aminu (1.3) -- that's approximately 6 steals for you.

The defense will get worse from here, so we might as well commit to who we really are -- a good-to-great offensive team that's best defensive strategy is to become even more opportunistic. Thoughts?

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