With the hire of Alvin Gentry, the Pelicans expected to address a number of key areas on offense. According to the preseason data, New Orleans did well in dialing up the pace (8th) and taking more shots from behind the three-point line (8th). However, outside of what might turn out to be an unsustainable improvement on the number of trips to the foul line, there was little else to write home about.
Injuries to Tyreke Evans and Norris Cole have undoubtedly hampered the squad to run efficiently. With Jrue Holiday tied to a minutes restriction for the time being, New Orleans is in dire straits to turn their quickened pace into better scoring opportunities.
In the 7 exhibition games, the Pelicans averaged a league worst 16.4 assists and a 48.5 assist percentage. Elite offenses often posses assist percentages above the 60% barrier. New Orleans was nowhere close to that, and with their existing available personnel, it's difficult to imagine ball movement dramatically picking up.
Dante Cunningham, Ryan Anderson, Luke Babbitt and Alonzo Gee, players who have all struggled in making the pass that counts, are going to play a lot of minutes early. Getting them to function as seamlessly as say rotation players for the Spurs, Hawks or Warriors is going to take time, something the Pelicans have run out of. An easier solution is to find a true floor general.
Nate Robinson has surpassed a 30 AST% (and barely at that) just twice in his ten seasons. He's not a pass first guard, but that's not his fault, that's not who he is. Unfortunately, that's what the Pelicans need right now, and hence, why Dell Demps is pursuing Ish Smith.
Breaking: Sources indicate #Pelicans are nearing agreement to sign Ish Smith and he's currently in New Orleans. Waiting for waviers to clear— Scott Kushner (@ScottDKushner) October 25, 2015
Smith is another veteran point guard in the league who has been a reserve for most of his career, bouncing from team to team. Yet, as to where he has always had issues putting the ball through the basket, he's fared much better than Robinson in the playmaking department.
Last season in Philadelphia, Ish Smith came a bit into his own with a 44.1 AST% for the lightening tempoed Sixers. So much so, Nerlens Noel gave Ish the Dish more props than Michael Carter-Williams.
In addition, Smith is ultra-quick, sitting in the same category as John Wall. Despite lacking a credible jumpshot, he can still get into the lane and breakdown a defense with a simple screen. The Pelicans have shooters, but someone needs to get them the ball a the right moments. Robinson is more content with just pulling up and shooting jumpers on the move.
Here is the problem, though. Philadelphia, the same organization that shipped a damaged Holiday to New Orleans, could put a waiver claim on Smith, and thus leap-frog the Pelicans for the services of the suddenly desirable point guard.
Although Smith is currently in New Orleans and apparently wants to become a Pelican, his fate will ultimately not be decided until 5 pm Monday evening. If the Pelicans want to keep their heads above water like Gentry predicted they'll need to, their offense could use an Ish-sized band aid. Will New Orleans get that chance or will Philadelphia get the last laugh yet again?