Back in early June, nine writers from The Bird Writes selected the player(s) that they expected to prosper the most with Alvin Gentry at the helm. To make the exercise more interesting, Anthony Davis was removed from consideration.
Readers also got in on the act through placing votes in an accompanying poll. Overwhelming, the majority believed that either Jrue Holiday or Eric Gordon were going to be launching most of the fireworks this upcoming season.
Upon closer examination, most of us will probably be wrong.
Today, we're going to focus on the trio's data from transition opportunities. Next week, we'll have a gander at uptempo games. Once finished, it will become apparent that Tyreke Evans should be accepted as the front runner for most likeliest back court player to succeed under the new look Pelicans.
In the midst of last season, I examined the Pelicans transition game from the guards standpoint. All three players were well below average at the time and they went on to finish the season along the same lines.
|Player||2014-15 Transition Percentile||Frequency||eFG%||PPP|
In comparison, have a look at how select guards from the fastest paced teams fared in the same categories. I purposefully avoided in selecting high flyers like Eric Bledsoe or Russell Westbrook as Evans and Gordon like to operate below the rim. Although Holiday has above average athleticism, he hasn't used it much when attacking the rim.
|Player||2014-15 Transition Percentile||Frequency||eFG%||PPP|
As this group of six demonstrate, one doesn't need to be able to jump out of the gym in transition opportunities. Rather, speed, shiftiness and execution are all suitable avenues for success.
With both Gordon and Evans losing significant weight this offseason, they should be able to increase their elusiveness. Meanwhile, Holiday has been seen doing a lot of strength training in order to increase the chances of being able to handle the rigors of an uptempo pace.
Regardless of their programs, the hope is they will all collectively turn around their dismal 2014-15 numbers. However, in looking at previous career success, both Gordon and Evans have experienced some but not Holiday.
Player 2014-15 Transition Percentile % Player Involved 2013-14 Transition Percentile % Player Involved 2012-13 Transition Percentile % Player Involved Tyreke Evans 20% 33.9% 54% 21.7% 58% (as King) 18.2% Eric Gordon 23% 7.7% 73% 18.3% 90% 14.8% Jrue Holiday 32% 10.7% 13% 5.7% 30% (as 76er) 17.9%
All three of our main ball handlers are below average in transition points per possession. For the first time in their careers, Evans and Gordon have fallen under their typical threshold of 'average' or higher. This is especially disturbing considering Evans appears to have taken on a larger burden in 2014-15.
Player 2014-15 Transition Poss/Game Turnover % FG% 2013-14 Transition Poss/Game Turnover % FG% Tyreke Evans 4.7 18.4% 52.0% 3.6 9.8% 56.3% Eric Gordon 1.9 10.4% 40.5% 3.4 9.8% 57.1% Jrue Holiday 1.9 19.4% 51.0% 2.0 20.9% 47.9%
Holiday has seemingly never been a fan of transition. Monty Williams can partially be blamed for this, yet in general, it's disconcerting that a player with his physical abilities and very good assist to turnover ratios has shown to have such a difficult time in the open floor. Not only have his conversion rates been poor, but his turnover rates have consistently been bad.
It will be no small feat if he's able to turn around a career long trend, but while at UCLA, he did display a solid ability to finish at the rim and an even higher PPP in transition. If any coach can coax out something, it will be Gentry.
Gordon is an interesting study. Many are aware he lost a step or two several years ago, yet according to the data, his drop in athleticism did not hurt his finishing ability until just this past season. For instance, Gordon had a 48.7 FG% on his drives in 2013-14, but that percentage dropped to 39.9% last season.
Monty's offense, his muscular build and a serious amount of disrespect by the referees limited Gordon's effectiveness to a catch and shoot player. Come next October, two of these areas will have changed. Thus, it shouldn't be out of the realm of possibility that he can rediscover some of his old form. How large of a step he takes forward, though, will partially be dependent on the number of his trips to the foul line (so that will be worth monitoring early in the season).
Evans has never had a problem masquerading as a bull at the local china shop. His game has always centered around bullying his way into the paint. Consequently, providing an aggressive player more opportunities in the open floor will be music to his ears.
Additionally, Evans has normally been a stronger producer in transition. Getting back to a friendlier weight should help these matters as well.
Evans was once a beast in the open floor, both in converting and playmaking, yet Monty's offensive gameplan often hindered his best facet. Despite the team's slow pace and at least one big often clogging the paint, he still looked to force the issue (notice the frequency of attempts among the three guards last season). But make no mistake, he wasn't going to beat the defense off the dribble more times than not when all five opponents knew he was alone in his endeavor.
Thankfully, that's not going to be the case anymore. As evidenced by the recent Summer League games, the Pelicans will have a sense of urgency of moving the ball up the floor after either a defensive rebound, turnover or likely even an opponent's made basket.
Tyreke Evans' game and personality will have him leading the charge, even if he's relegated to the sixth man role. But don't take my word for it, Gentry has already gone on record.
The style of play we’re going to have probably suits him better than any player on our team — getting up and down the court, being able to drive the basketball, finding guys for the easy basket. Those are gong to be things that raise his game to another level. He’ll be primarily a point guard but we’ll also play him at the two and at small forward.
Evans, when he's on the floor, will be looked to lead the uptempo charge. Based on the previous transition numbers among the triumvirate of guards, that looks to be the right call.