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Winning Moves, Part II: Utilizing More Catch and Shoot Situations

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Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Before the start of the regular season, five specific areas will be discussed in depth that I believe will be key in getting the Pelicans to the postseason. They will be as follows:

  1. Greater Ball Movement
  2. Utilizing More Catch and Shoot Situations
  3. Increasing Front Court Touches for Anthony Davis
  4. Correctly Maximizing Rotations
  5. Establishing an Identity on Defense

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A Limited Offense

Last season, the Pelicans offense was too one dimensional by NBA standards. Definitions are as follows:

  • Catch and shoot = any jump shot outside of 10 feet where a player possessed the ball for 2 seconds or less and took no dribbles.
  • Pull Ups = any jump shot outside of 10 feet where a player took 1 or more dribbles before shooting.
  • Drives = any shot where a player dribbles from at least 20 feet from the basket into an area within 10 feet of the rim, excluding transition opportunities.

Catch & Shoot FGA Catch & Shoot FG% Pull Up FGA Pull Up FG% Drives per Game Drives FG%
2013-14 Pelicans 21.7 (28th) 41.5% (3rd) 17.6 (23rd) 37.6% (12th) 28.9 (3rd) 45.4% (15th)

With a basketball in hand, the Pelicans made attacking the hoop a priority. They paced the league in total player points on drives with 1682, led by Tyreke Evans 485. That's pretty impressive considering the hectic style of basketball employed by Brett Brown in Philadelphia, and Darryl Morey's three-or-rim shaped offense in Houston.

The Pelicans 2369 drives comprised 68.1% of all of their shots inside 10 feet. That ratio was the third highest rate in the league, but as to where other teams in the top 5 were adept in utilizing other parts of the floor leading to smart shots, notice the Pelicans were not.

% of close shots consisting of drives Three Point Rate Close Touches
Heat 80.3% 29.8% (6th) 15.5 (18th)
Hawks 68.8% 32.4% (2nd) 17.6 (10th)
Pelicans 68.1% 19.3% (29th) 13.1 (29th)
Suns 66.8% 30.0% (5th) 14.8 (24th)
Rockets 65.9% 32.6% (1st) 16.6 (15th)

Now, drives to the rim are never a bad thing, but when it's the only form of efficient offense, that's not good. Opposing professional teams are very capable at stopping a team's first option, especially when it entails clogging the paint. Consequently, it shouldn't be shocking to learn that playoff caliber teams, those with a low amount of close in touches, all ventured out and lived at the three point line.

Close Touches per game Three Point Rate
Pelicans 13.1 (29th) 19.3% (29th)
Blazers 13.1 (28th) 28.7% (10th)
Thunder 13.1 (27th) 27.4% (13th)
Warriors 14.0 (25th) 29.3% (7th)
Clippers 14.9 (23rd) 29.2% (8th)
Raptors 15.1 (21st) 28.5% (11th)

What makes matters even more peculiar are the field goal attempts and accompanying percentages in catch and shoot situations.

Catch & Shoot 3FG% Catch & Shoot 3FGA
Pelicans 40.4% (4th) 11.5
Blazers 39.8% (8th) 17.5
Thunder 36.5% (22nd) 14.4
Warriors 40.8% (2nd) 15.7
Clippers 37.0% (18th) 17.9
Raptors 40.1% (6th) 17.1

Flabbergasting, right? Whether they were proficient or not, playoff teams that didn't have strong post-up personnel all took a significant amount more three pointers than New Orleans. Ever glance at last season's team eFG% list? Proficient and effective teams overwhelmingly make the post season more times than not. There is a reason why so many stat aficionados bemoan mid-range shots over a shot from beyond the arc in nearly all instances.

Why Catch and Shoot?

A recent article on Nylon Calculus laid out the rationale rather well.

It’s no secret that jumpshots off the catch generally yield better results than those off the dribble. A shot off the catch is typically somewhat open, and comes due to prior movement which has the defense scattering. Conversely, a shot off the dribble is more likely to be contested, and – for most players – the motion of ‘pulling up’ isn’t as fluid as catching and shooting.

Last season, according to the NBA’s SportVU Player Tracking Statistics, teams shot almost five more attempts per game off the catch than they did off the dribble, which is understandable – catch-and-shoot attempts generated a league-wide average effective field-goal percentage of 51.6%, far superior to that of pull-up attempts, 40.4%.

The Pelicans had an eFG percentage of 52.3% in catch and shoot instances versus a 40.7% in pull ups. From three, essentially the same disparity existed, 40.4% v. 29.5%. Catch and shoot it is!

It's Not a Lost Cause, Take Two

Five regular rotation players all shot over 40% but outside of Ryan Anderson, they didn't take advantage of their prowess: Austin Rivers (46.4%), Eric Gordon (44.9%), Anthony Morrow (44.7%) and Jrue Holiday (43.5%). For all NBA players averaging over 18 minutes a game, the Pelicans had the 7th, 16th, 17th and 29th most efficient catch-and-shoot-from-three players combine to hoist a mere 6.7 attempts a game.

All but Morrow will return, but fret not, Dell Demps has replaced him with Jimmer Fredette and John Salmons. The ex-King was deadly, posting a cool 50.0% in catch and shoot 3's. Salmons wasn't far behind, posting a 43.3% clip.

Lastly, don't forget about Luke Babbitt (36.8%) and Darius Miller (33.8%). It is reasonable to assume that one or both could improve and further assist the rest of the bomb squad.

Concluding Thoughts

NBA teams enjoy greater success when they figure out methods to maximize the value of each possession. Last season, the Pelicans didn't do that as they failed to take advantage of stretching defenses and utilizing a very proficient weapon sitting in their holster. As evidenced by the numbers above, their offense should have included many more catch and shoot 3 point opportunities.

This preseason, the Pelicans are currently averaging 23.3 three field goal attempts a game. They are second in proficiency, shooting them at 39.3% clip. However, it is a tad worrisome they've only averaged 16 and 15 attempts the last two games. Can we attribute this to small sample size or is it a sign Monty Williams has the team focusing on what they'll carry over into the regular season?

Let's pray for the former. As we've witnessed, it's vital the team improves upon the number of looks from three point territory. The numbers scream this would best be accomplished by taking advantage of the numerous good to excellent catch and shoot players that Dell Demps has provided. Will Monty be able to get the Pelicans to follow through?