Anthony Davis leads the New Orleans Pelicans into Memphis tonight to take on the Grizzlies. It’s the second night of a back-to-back for both teams, although Memphis did rest both Michael Conley and Marc Gasol last night in Minnesota. (The Grizz were blown out by the upstart Timberwolves.) The Pelicans have lost four consecutive games to start the season for the second straight year; last year they lost six straight before finally coming down with a victory.
Despite that, this team is actually better than last year’s version through four games. Offensive rating is up (96.6 this year compared to 94.6 last year), defensive rating is down (105.2 vs. 111.0), and their net rating is substantially improved (-8.5 vs. -16.4). Assists are up and turnovers are down. The only big decline is in offensive rebounding, which has dipped from 19.6% to 16.3%. No additional players have been injured (yet) and there is some hope that both Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans could play by the end of the month.
There are other bright spots to focus your eyes on tonight. Here are just a couple.
E’Twaun Moore looks really good - Moore is the only rotation player with a positive net rating when he’s on the court, clocking in at +3.2. Not surprisingly, the Pelicans defense is the best when he’s on the court and he’s helping to open up the offense as well with his long range shooting. So far this year his counting stats are rather pedestrian; 12.3 points per game while shooting 35.7% behind the arc and collecting just one rebound per game.
Go beyond his rebounding numbers however, and you see he’s still doing his job. The Pelicans are grabbing 79.2% of defensive rebounds when Moore is on the floor; that dips to 77.6% when he sits. New Orleans rebounds better, shoots better, and defends better when Moore is on the court. Here’s to hoping that Alvin Gentry finds more minutes for E’Twaun Moore tonight.
Tim Frazier is exceeding expectations - Brett covered this earlier this morning but wow is Tim Frazier absolutely on fire. My favorite Frazier move so far is his ability to go off his wrong foot and with his inside hand driving to the basket. It’s a little thing that shorter players must do to throw off the timing of leaping defenders and get the ball onto the glass as quickly as possible. Frazier is converting nearly 70% of his shots within the restricted area as a result.
The passing has also been superb. Averaging 9.3 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio over four is incredible territory for any guard, let alone one expected to be a reserve. Frazier is under contract for this season and next at a bargain rate.
Anthony Davis is transcendent - I cannot believe what we are witnessing with this man. Not only is he averaging 37.0 points, 13.3 rebounds, to go with three blocks and steals a game he’s also leading the league in contested shots per game. There are still defensive lapses to be honest, but all things considered we should take a moment to appreciate the greatest that four lucky lottery balls assigned to New Orleans back in 2012. We didn’t “earn” this as fans. The NBA gave it to us. The bounce of four ping pong balls sent Anthony Davis this way. Even if his stay has an expiration date there are far worse ways to spend a season as a fan of an NBA team than rooting for Anthony Davis.