With news Eric Gordon would miss four to six weeks, Alvin Gentry was invariably forced to look down in the direction of the end of his bench. As the Pelicans 5th guard on the depth chart, Toney Douglas was the next man up, but just as he surprised in early November, his recent performance merits attention once again.
In 35 combined minutes against the Pistons and Bucks, he tallied 16 points, dished out 6 assists, ran off with 6 thefts and splashed home 4 threes. His +16 plus/minus is the fifth highest mark on the team during the last two games.
After the Pelicans found themselves down 5-2 Saturday night and the offense going nowhere fast (1 made shot in the first 6 attempts), his substitution for Norris Cole provided immediate dividends. He collected 3 steals and drilled 2 treys before leaving the game for his first breather. In the second half, he helped New Orleans blow the game wide open, turning an 8-point lead into a dominant 17-point win at the final buzzer.
When Douglas first entered the league, he dropped a line during Summer League play that would forever stick throughout his time in New York City, "Do what Toney Douglas do." This catchphrase, or DWTDD for short, became synonymous with describing the actions of the Knicks point guard of the future.
Yep, you read that right. Many felt he would eventually replace Chris Duhon and spearhead Mike D'Antoni's famed uptempo offense. That obviously never transpired, and Douglas has largely failed to match the production of his first two years in the league.
With Ish Smith's trade to Philadelphia, Douglas is probably the biggest current surprise in New Orleans. On the season, the journeyman is sporting the highest player efficiency rating (PER), true shooting percentage (TS%) and three-point field goal percentage (3FG%) of his career. His team-high STL% is mighty pretty as well, but it's more significant what the Pelicans have done in ensuing possessions following his pilfering. In the last 2 games alone, his 6 steals are directly responsible for 13 points off of turnovers -- that's not an insignificant sum.
It's no secret Alvin Gentry has had a difficult time in getting the Pelicans to play with consistent effort, let alone a faster pace. For a team ranked 20th in steals per defensive play, 24th in points off turnovers and 29th in second chance points, Douglas' swipes have been crucial in generating energy, and more importantly, resulting in easy points.
Before commenting further, I acknowledge Douglas is more likely than not to regress towards his career means. His stats this season are based on just 320 minutes as compared to the thousands that have laid witness to substandard play. However, it must be mentioned he fared rather well while with the Kings in 2013. Believe it or not, he was even labeled with a "Curry stopper" title.
In the admittedly small sample size of Toney Douglas sharing the court with Stephen Curry (three games, 39 minutes last year), Curry hit only one shot while marked directly by Douglas. It was a fadeaway 3-pointer. The normally masterful point guard spent the rest of that time wholly flustered on offense. Under constant duress, Curry dribbled off his foot, tumbled to the floor twice, had multiple passes deflected, and shanked six feeble attempts, including one that smacked the backboard’s side.
Douglas may flame out, but as he's already demonstrated several times in his career, he's worth riding when the going is good -- just as it is right now. If Norris Cole is having a typical off-game or he's not meshing well with Tyreke Evans (a 2-man lineup with a -13.9 net rating in 231 minutes), Gentry shouldn't hesitate giving Douglas more chances. It worked against the Milwaukee Bucks, and it may again.
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