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2014-15 Player Reviews: Luke Babbitt becomes a deadly marksman

Luke went from a roster afterthought, to a starter and back to irrelevancy within the span of this 82 game season.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

In preseason, Luke Babbitt was in competition with John Salmons and Darius Miller for the starting shooting forward position for the New Orleans Pelicans. Unfortunately, all three of the players performed poorly enough that Monty Williams was forced instead to start Tyreke Evans at the 3.

However, opportunity would soon present itself again after Eric Gordon went down with a shoulder subluxation that resulted in a partially torn labrum. In the poll of the aforementioned article, fans preferred Babbitt to replace the loss of Gordon in the starting lineup, with 'Rivers' coming in second and 'other' third. Naturally, Monty first tried Miller for a game before turning to Rivers. These two experiments failed spectacularly and Babbitt found himself the starter just three games after Gordon went down against the Utah Jazz.

Babbitt would go on to start 19 games in a row for the Pelicans, but his minutes were limited to 17.3 a contest as Monty almost always closed the 2nd and 4th quarters with other players. Regardless, Babb's became a fan favorite because of his uncanny ability to make three pointers.

During his stretch as a starter, he made exactly 50% of his looks from beyond the arc (29 for 58). Meanwhile, he attempted a mere 11 shots from anywhere inside the arc and only made 2 of them. Whoever came up with the phrase of 'one trick pony' must have sensed a player like him was bound to come along!

When Gordon returned in early January, and despite losing Jrue Holiday, Monty replaced Babbitt with Dante Cunningham to improve the defense. From this point forward, Babbitt's future appearances were curtailed and he'd only surface when the team was slammed with multiple injuries. Most of these instances occurred when both Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson suffered through their injuries right before and after the All-Star break.

Despite the inconsistent playing time, Luke had several really strong showings. His best 2-game  stretch occurred against the Jazz and then the Pacers. He combined to score 30 points, grab 14 rebounds and knock down 5 of his 9 looks from three-point range. However, my favorite Babb's performance occurred several weeks later against the Toronto Raptors. In 23 minutes, he led the Pelicans with 18 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 treys.

This effort was exemplary of what the Pelicans role players like Luke achieved right after the All-Star break. With three-fifths of the regular starters sidelined, New Orleans went on their longest winning streak of the season. Nearly everyone had written the team off after the loss of so many starters and with the Pelicans trailing the Thunder in the standings, but the team showed great resiliency and were able to keep their postseason hopes alive.

As I alluded to earlier, Luke Babbitt is a specialist. He made 51.3% of his 3 point attempts (59-115). Unfortunately, he failed to qualify for the official leaderboard because he did not reach the minimum threshold of 82 made three-pointers. However, he did gain some positive notoriety with his dead-eye shooting ability.

There is really no need to break down the rest of his game, but this isn't to say his effort level wasn't appreciated. The problem is that he's either slower or less athletic than at least 90% of his counterparts. 2013-14's on/off the court numbers (a ridiculously good +7.2 Net Rating on the court and -8.4 NetRtg off the court) are nothing but a distant memory. This past season, those numbers went hard the other way: a -5.1 NetRtg on the court and a +2.3 NetRtg off.

His TRB%, AST% and TOV% all went significantly the wrong way. The only thing that saved statistics like PER and win shares per 48 was his incredible accuracy from the perimeter. On the season, his 63.9 TS% easily led the Pelicans. Will that be enough for Dell Demps to look to re-sign him this off-season?

I don't think so.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, he should only be retained if Ryan Anderson might be packing his bags in the near future. Most of this feeling stems from Monty's post-season conference where he mentioned a desire for for more functionality among the group.

"The more two-way players you have the better you'll be, and it's not just us, it's everyone around the league, and Dell (Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps) and I have talked about that, how do we get guys with high basketball acumen on both ends."

Although Fletcher Mackel relates this to Anderson and Omer Asik, I think it's a bigger shot at the reserves, players outside of the oft-mentioned Demps' core. Either way, I agree the team should look to improve this facet in any and all conceivable areas.

If we've seen the last of Babbitt, I'll certainly remember his prowess from 3-point range, but it's not going to take precedence over two other things.

First, look at all that glorious HAIR!

Second, did any other NBA player display a better Euro-step??