Earlier in the season, many were ridiculing the Pelicans roster as being some sort of incomplete heaping pile of garbage. That it started and ended with Anthony Davis and everything in between was flawed in one way or another.
Well, to burst some bubbles, the Pelicans are 8-6 in games Davis has had to leave due to injury or ones he never even entered. The most impressive part is currently underway, during the Pelicans season high 5-game winning streak.
The Pelicans are 5-0 since Anthony Davis went down with an injury. pic.twitter.com/l02UF3I1lw— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 2, 2015
While the above tweet is factually correct, it doesn't give the active squad enough justice -- Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson have been just as irrelevant to the streak as Davis. That's arguably 3 of the Pelicans best 4 players not contributing!
Thus, let's have a look under the hood of this improbable run.
|Team eFG%||Team 3FG%||FTA Rate||Assist Ratio||Offensive Rating|
|Last 5 games||54.0% (1)||37.7% (4)||.319 (5)||19.2 (1)||108.3 (1)|
|Season||49.6 (16)||35.5% (10)||.273 (16)||16.9 (12)||105.7 (7)|
The easy explanation appears to be that NBA Jam is currently residing in New Orleans. The more thorough answer is balance. Six players have averaged over 10 points a game and two more just missed the cutoff line (Dante Cunningham - 9.8, Luke Babbitt - 8.8). Eight players averaging around 10 points or more a game is unheard of, unless you're last year's San Antonio Spurs.
All of the Pelican forwards and centers have been efficient from the floor, shooting 50% or better: Pondexter, Cunningham, Withey, Asik, Ajinca and Babbitt. During the five game stretch, they have accounted for nearly half of all the shot attempts.
Although all the guards have failed to crack the this field goal percentage barrier, they have contributed in other areas, especially Tyreke Evans. He has been a maestro, having handed out 47 assists, the fifth highest mark in the NBA in the last 5 games. His offensive rating over this span has been an astounding 116.3, about 8 points higher than his season average. For comparison's sake, MVP favorite Stephen Curry has a 113.4 offensive rating in 2014-15.
Not to be out done, Eric Gordon has made 18 three's, the second most in the NBA in the last 5 games. Norris Cole has averaged an AST/TOV ratio of close to 2.5:1. His scoring contributions against the Raptors and Nets were paramount.
Good Defensive Effort
|Opp eFG%||Opp 3FG%||Opp FTA Rate||Opp. Assist||Defensive Rating|
|Last 5 games||46.9% (8)||29.6% (7)||.246 (8)||15.6 (1)||100.5 (16)|
|Season||50.0% (21)||34.2% (10)||.257 (9)||20.5 (6)||105.3 (26)|
Nearly as impressive, the Pelicans defense has gone stout. Although the Pelicans are not forcing turnovers (their opponent TOV of 12.3 is last in the NBA), the numbers approve of everything else.
- Opponents are averaging 3 less shot attempts within 5 feet, and more importantly, they have been converting at a 56% clip (10th best mark in the last 5 games).
- During this win streak, the Pelicans are forcing more shots from 5-9 (4th) and 10-14 (6th) feet than they have for the entire season.
According to NBA Savant, opponents have shot less than 40% against Evans, Cole and Pondexter. Under 50% against Cunningham and Ajinca.
Although Omer Asik has a 50.0% mark against him, he's had to contest most of the shots around the rim. More than likely, two of those opponent misses forced by him directly led to Pelican wins. First, he blocked Kyle Lowry's attempt at the rim with 10 seconds remaining in a 1-point game. Then, against the Miami Heat, he did this to the newest NBA sensation, Hassan Whiteside:
To boot, Asik has had 46 defensive rebounds, the fourth highest mark in the NBA the last five games. Last night against the pesky Denver Nuggets, he had 14 of them in just 25 minutes of action. When he was on the floor, the Nuggets failed to grab a single offensive rebound. When he sat, they racked up 15 of them.
During Friday's national telecast against the Heat, ESPN barely made mention of New Orleans in pre-game and during halftime. When Anthony Davis sits, it's to be expected the lights won't be as bright; however, it's disheartening the national media has failed to give more attention to a Pelicans team that has gone 12-6 in their last 18 games, or 5-0 in their last five without Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson. We haven't faced world beaters, but the Pelicans quality personnel up and down the roster deserve accolade for a job well done.