With each loss this season, the Pelicans have suffered through either a horrendously long stretch of putrid basketball or they were consistently deficient in a certain area throughout a game. For instance, New Orleans loss last night to Memphis was plagued by the play in the paint. The Grizzlies dominated on the glass (+12 rebound advantage) and points in the paint (+10). They played to their strength, which has been known to the world for the last five years, and the Pelicans were not able to counter it.
Marc Gasol looked like a legitimate MVP candidate. As have C.J. McCollum, Al Horford and Danilo Gallinari at various stages thus far this season. Last week, even the oft punching bag, aka Austin Rivers, was able to score 17 points on 11 shots. The Pelicans defense persistently fails somewhere, and it normally isn't due to the fact that an NBA star made his presence known. (Although Stephen Curry was absolutely mesmerizing during the first week of the regular season.)
Tonight, Ty Lawson was the unlikely thorn. Entering the contest, he had a lowly 8.4 PER. Two weeks ago, he was banished to the bench for a string of awful performances. With elixir in hand, playing the Pelicans, he had 12 points and 6 assists. A 33.6 FG% shooter on the year made four of his six shot attempts. Three of those four made attempts came at the rim, an area he doesn't visit regularly in his career anymore.
An opponent or some point of the game always manages to turn into a house of horrors for New Orleans. In a 7 point loss, every single one of the Pelicans 23 turnovers felt like daggers. Their 32 personal fouls were roadblocks to dial up the pace.
Even in the Pelicans four wins, the defense has been severely questionable. Their 103.0 defensive rating has only been edged out by the Rockets in only winning outcomes this season. Twenty-six of the thirty NBA teams have DRtg under 100.0. More than half (16 teams) are under 95.0.
So in a roundabout way, I'm trying to tell you the Pelicans haven't been good even in their scarce number of wins. Folks, that's a telltale sign of a bad basketball team. Injuries have played a part, there is no doubt; however, the prolonged stretches of ineptitude cannot all be written off on a lack of key figures. One needs to look no further than last season's 18-64 Philadelphia Sixers. They were 12th in the league in defensive rating despite missing a countless number of games to injury and having 25 different players contribute to their overall stats. I know I don't need to remind everyone of the fact that NBA rosters are limited to 15 bodies.
Through nearly 1/4 of the season, the answers are conceivably scary to verbalize, or in my case, write. Even the usually perfect alien, Anthony Davis, could be criticized for something in the majority of the complete schedule. With continuity the plan of the Pelicans organization, the only major difference between this season and last is system. For some reason, a lot of what Alvin Gentry, Darren Erman and the rest of the new coaching staff have tried to teach are Greek to the players because the execution has been flabbergasting.
Now that you all good and depressed, let's finish this discourse on a high note: the Pelicans can turn things around. Their talent from years has not vanished into thin air -- shooters should still be able to shoot; defenders should be able to get stops. Since the gang is finally back together, they likely could use a few games together.
I've lost hope of the playoffs, but I remain optimistic the season can end in a positive light. Although it would be incredible, it doesn't require Ben Simmons become a Pelican in the near future.
Rather, the team finally gets it. Uptempo basketball has not been their friend, but they still have time to figure things out that would make a number of the key personnel keepers beyond this season, and a deep playoff run more than just a far-fetched dream. The numerous glimpses we've witnessed for quarters or more at a time can no longer be considered a fluke. There is something lurking underneath all the layers of filthy basketball that is begging to surface. Hopefully it will reveal itself soon because too many times underperformance has led to bad repercussions. That's the last thing anyone needs in New Orleans.