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The New Orleans Pelicans offense hits another gear in pick and rolls

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Can't see enough of this particular Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson pick and roll set!

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Well where the hell has this team been all season?

The ball is whizzing around. Big leads are being mounted. The players actually seem happy to be playing with one another. It is a beautiful thing to watch the New Orleans Pelicans firing on all cylinders as they have in the last three games.


Today I am going to take you through a play that seemingly looks simple (it's a pick and roll, BIG DEAL), but really should be the basis of the Pelicans offense every half court possession that Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis share the floor together. Nearly every lineup that involves an Anderson and Davis front court pairing is stifling opponents, per NBA.com, and it is safe to assume that this action has helped elevate those numbers.

The Play

Brief aside: the offense gets into the set quicker when Jrue Holiday is the one taking the ball up past half court (this isn't exactly surprising).

The basis of this play is to give the ball handler options. On a regular pick and roll, the ball handler will be in the middle of the floor, with a screener to his side and ideally three shooters split into the corners/wing (if not three shooters, then a someone in the opposite corner, on the wing and then a big man roaming the baseline).

However in this version of the pick and roll, Anderson and Davis are both lined up in the middle of the floor with the ball handler, forcing opposing defenders to make a split second choice to essentially pick their poison. Holiday gets a two step head start because AD lays down a great screen on Jerryd Bayless, allowing him to put immediate pressure on John Henson.

Henson -- a gumby like fixture who isn't lead-footed -- cannot keep up with the driving Holiday and he is left with an open lane for the easy score.

Had Henson been able to corral Holiday before he turns the corner, Holiday would have read how the other help defenders were reacting and attacked accordingly. Giannis Antetokounmpo chose to impede Davis' kamikaze attempt for a lob at the rim, thus leaving Anderson (who may or may not have had actual fire stemming from his nostrils last night) wide open at the top of the arc.

If Antetokounmpo gives Davis free reign towards this rim, well, this would happen:

Notice how Ed Davis trails Anderson hard because of the threat of a three.

Back to the first image above, even if both of those options were taken away -- let's say that Khris Middleton rotates over to stop Davis and Giannis (don't you make me type that last name again) hustled back onto Anderson -- Holiday would have been able to hit Toney Douglas in the opposite corner with a nifty zip pass.

Poor Johnny O'Bryant screws up this possession for the Bucks by not sliding over on the Holiday drive sooner. Had he done so, the result is an Alonzo Gee three point hoist instead of an easy lay in. Newsflash: Gee will not send shivers down your spine from distance.

According to NBA Stats, the ball handler in the Pelicans pick and rolls this season is posting the 8th-best mark in points per possession, and the pick and roll man, is number one. Just have a look at how successful Anthony Davis was against the Detroit Pistons the other night.

When PnR Goes Bad

For context, look at the difference in result when the floor spacing is nonexistent thanks to the presence of Norris Cole (though he actually did hit some shots last night) and our old Turkish buddy, Omer Asik:

Tyreke Evans goes into his patented "pound that rock" mode and takes a contested long two as the shot clock dwindles down. Of course, this is not exactly comparing apples to oranges; the PnR mentioned earlier was an early shot clock opportunity and this one is as the shot clock is dwindling down. But dammit, I do not care.

The lane is completely clogged. There is no alley way for Evans to attack. Asik serves no purpose or threat from where he is positioned which is evidenced in the way Greg Monroe is disregarding his presence. Middleton is equally unafraid of Cole, as he goes as far as the free throw line to hinder any chance of a Davis lob over the top. Even Jabari Parker has inched his way into the paint since Gee is shooting a mean 30 percent from three.

Evans' best option here is Cole. (That's not really a great option.)

In comparison, this is Holiday's view as he comes around the Davis pick from the earlier scenario:

Giannis has to be right up on Anderson because of his holy jumpers, giving Holiday room to squeak past Henson and penetrate the lane. That my friends, is what NBA stat geeks like to refer to as "gravity," which is a valuable asset to any half court offense along with dribble penetration.

As a reward for getting through the bitter details of PnR x's and o's I leave you with this:

Sometimes you just have to sit back and let AD do AD things.