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Life Without Anderson Part II: Ball Movement

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

**A week ago, I started this series to examine how the Pelicans could possibly circumvent Ryan Anderson being out indefinitely. The first part dealt with Tyreke Evans simply needing more court time. Well, almost immediately after publication, we learned of Holiday's broken tibia and, essentially, made the sequels rather irrelevant. However, I still feel it's important to get this one out. Although the data is a week old, the numbers should still be nearly identical. (Currently I can't get the NBA player tracking data to work so the following #'s will satisfy our purposes.)

The NBA's new tracking data has a wonderful new category called secondary assists. They define it as "quantity of passes made by a player to the player who earned an assist on a made shot. Assister must make a pass within 2 seconds and 1 dribble for initial passer to earn a secondary assist."

Pelican Secondary Assists Per Game from Prominent Guards/Wings:

  • Jrue Holiday = .7
  • Tyreke Evans = .6
  • Al-Farouq Aminu = .5
  • Eric Gordon = .3
  • Brian Roberts = .3
Meanwhile, a random list of other players:
  • Chris Paul = 2.2
  • Russell Westbrook = 1.8
  • Derrick Rose = 1.7
  • Tony Parker = 1.7
  • Kobe Bryant = 1.5
  • Andre Iguodala = 1.4
  • Monta Ellis = 1.3
  • LeBron James = 1.2
  • Rudy Gay = 1.1
  • Wesley Matthews = .9
  • Dion Waiters = .8
Wow! So purported black holes like Gay and Waiters, when in the few instances they do pass, have higher secondary assist numbers than any Pelican guard or wing???

The eye-test has probably clued a number of us in that the Pelicans don't move the ball well, but did anyone suppose it would be this bad? For a team averaging 22.1 assists a game (12th in the league), it's shocking how non-existent the scoring comes from quick, successive passes. And it's really a shame we don't have prior years of data to gain an even better idea at probably how pathetic this is.

Many of us are aware of the importance of ball movement, but for those who need a refresher, it's everything. There are two ways to get a defense off-balance: breaking down your man and passing the basketball quickly.

I'm sure none of us have a problem recollecting the dozens of times in a single game a Pelican has beaten his man off the dribble. Now how many of you remember a quick ball reversal? Or a string of several passes where the decision to move the ball was automatic and it led to an easy score?

I'm still waiting...

Welp, don't feel bad, because I can't remember multiple instances in any recent game neither. If our players aren't taking a shot, they're passing it to guys who are, or worse, those players are now taking their time and evaluating their options. Either way, the defense is never fully being tested by having to make multiple quick rotations.

So who deserves the blame for the stagnation?

I surmise it's a two-prong issue. First, the coaches haven't stressed enough the importance of quick decisive ball movement. This is quite evident in plays coming out of time-outs. Too many times, the ball is simply in-bounded and that player then attempts to break down his man individually or with the aid of a PnR.

Second, the players still lack the necessary comfort zone with one another or the offense. Unfamiliarity is natural among new teammates. Remember how much the media questioned the "Big 3" in Miami their first year together? There were a number of assumptions that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were not a good fit together as both required the ball to be dominant. Now, it's all a distant memory.

For the remainder of the schedule, I'm going to be looking to see if Jason Smith, Anthony Davis or any other pick-and-pop player, learns the concept of quick ball movement. Whether players move the ball multiple times to swing it around the perimeter to the other side of the floor. Whether a player makes use of a dribble or two to simply get into better position to make the next pass.

With so many key members of the rotation sidelined, it is more important than ever for the Pelicans offense to utilize ball movement. Just once, it sure would be nice to hear Joel Meyers blame someone for making one extra pass too many.