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2015 NBA Free Agency: The Pelicans still have a hole at shooting forward

Quincy Pondexter did more than anyone dreamed possible during 2014-15, but it's probably not enough to be a legitimate starting SF for New Orleans next season.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Tyreke Evans started the year at shooting forward, Luke Babbitt had a cameo appearance, and then Dante Cunningham followed suit as the starter. To finish, Quincy Pondexter played the remaining 28 regular season games at the position.

By season's end, many were extremely happy with his performance and Zach did a wonderful job breaking down his year with the Pelicans. On the surface, his production was similar to that of a number of 3-and-D players around the league.

For our example, we'll compare him to one of the most highly regarded players with this skill set, Danny Green. Please remember that all the percentages below are for the entire 2014-15 campaign. This is especially important considering how much higher Q-Pon's shot accuracy was as a Pelican versus a Grizzly. All charts are courtesy of NBA Savant.

Quincy Pondexter Offense

Danny Green Offense

Quincy Pondexter Defense

Danny Green Defense

If there is one discernible difference in the chart's above, it's the defensive FG% at the rim. When examining individual matchups on NBA Savant, a pattern emerges that may help to explain the difference.

First, look at the shooting percentages of opposing point guards and shooting guards when they had Q-Pon chasing them around. (Listed below are the top 10 opponents in terms of field goal attempts by a PG or SG.)

Player Field Goal Percentage
Stephen Curry 42.1%
Jamal Crawford 21.1%
James Harden 33.3%
DeMar DeRozan 37.5%
Klay Thompson 50%
Kobe Bryant 35.7%
Andrew Wiggins 33.3%
Dwyane Wade 50.0%
Chris Paul 36.6%
J.J. Redick 33.3%

Now, have a look at how opposing shooting forwards fared against Q-Pon. (Listed below are the top 10 opponents in terms of field goal attempts by a SF.)

Player Field Goal Percentage
Danilo Gallinari 45.4%
Harrison Barnes 60.0%
Luol Deng 60.0%
Jeff Green 71.4%
Marcus Morris 14.3%
LeBron James 66.7%
Kawhi Leonard 33.3%
Jimmy Butler 66.7%
Rudy Gay 33.3%
Trevor Ariza 60.0%

**Although his offensive numbers don't show the same discrepancy, it isn't nearly as relevant because Pondexter is primarily a jump shooter of the catch and shoot variety from any position on the perimeter.

Quincy Pondexter seems to have an issue guarding players of equal or greater size. His opponents' combined field goal percentage at the rim further strengthens this argument. Considering the Pelicans may have Norris Cole, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Evans all on this team next year, most of Q-Pon's playing time down the road will have to come at the SF position.

As a reserve, I don't have a problem with this, but as a starter, I think I do. Have a glance at the remaining 4 playoff teams, and in particular, their starting small forwards: Harrison Barnes, Trevor Ariza, LeBron James and DeMarre Carroll. They are all larger than Quincy Pondexter.

For obvious reasons, New Orleans should not once again venture down the road of starting Evans or Babbit/Cunningham (if they return). If the Pelicans had reservations about proceeding with Monty Williams in the long-term, I hope they recognize there exists enough data to have similar concerns with Q-Pon as the team's starting SF.