During the 2015 Summer League, the NBA experimented with the use of new defensive metrics. All of them had to do with hustle which included gaining possession of loose balls, taking charges, deflections and contesting two and three-point shots. At the end of the day, all of these numbers were also combined into a mathematical formula to spit out one composite number, hustle points.
For all individual and team hustle stats, you can go HERE to view them. Arsalan Kazemi was the overall hustle points leader and the Golden State Warriors finished ahead of all other teams. Victor Rudd tied with two other players to lead the Summer League in contested 3-point field goal attempts and the Pelicans finished third among teams in the same category.
The main reason why this topic evolved into an article on The Bird Writes, though, is to alert everyone that these new statistics deserve your attention. They translated to wins!
So, regardless of how a team shot the ball, rebounded or fared in any other traditional stat, these new defensive stats seemed to serve as a good stand alone predictor of success. Anything that adds to the win column, deserves the strongest of considerations.
To get an idea of how last season's Pelicans would have done in hustle stats, there exist several indicators. First, charges, the most valuable hustle stat, were tracked by Hoops Manifesto. They took the time to go through each game log and record the number of charges that each individual player incurred in every regular season NBA game.
According to their data, the Pelicans took anywhere from 9 to 15 charges. (It's not clear whether Austin Rivers, Norris Cole, Nate Wolters and Quincy Pondexter took their charges for New Orleans or another team in 2014-15.) For comparison's sake, the best defensive team in the league, the Warriors, took 60 charges.
Next, the Pelicans did not appear to be very good at contesting shots. NBA Stats list opponents shot a 45.6 FG% against New Orleans, but a 45.1 FG% against the NBA as a whole. Conversely, opponents shot 42.6% against the Golden State, yet these same opponents shot 44.7% against the league as a whole.
7 Warriors (4 starters) individually held opponents to under 42% from the floor; the Pelicans only had Anthony Davis achieve that feat. Jrue Holiday (43%) and Norris Cole (42%) were more than acceptable, but the rest of the main rotation players all had defending field goal percentages over 45%. As to where teams hated to be guarded by Warriors, they loved seeing Pelicans.
Lastly, considering the Pelicans defense forced the second lowest amount of turnovers in the league and had the 6th lowest steal percentage per defensive play, it's unlikely they rated very well in either deflections or recovered loose balls. (For the record, the Warriors ranked 6th and 5th respectively.) Monty Williams did not believe in an aggressive defense and preferred the team keep all their assignments in front of them, much like how Terry Stotts has managed the Portland Trail Blazers the last several seasons.
Although the earliest the league plans on adding the hustle tracking stats is 2016-17, the Pelicans need to get after it as soon as day one of training camp this coming fall. Uptempo basketball is a far simpler task if teams can increase the number of easier possessions by forcing both turnovers and the number of contested shots.