clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Pelicans backcourt flip hopefully starring Tyreke Evans in the near future

New, comments

The guard rotation could soon be fixed in one fell swoop.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The teams go to their respective locker rooms for halftime, and the crowd files out for nachos and beer. The tireless Pelicans staff runs onto the floor and sets down a tarp at half-court. A microphone. An easel. A canister of, what is that, paint? The omnipotent stadium voice bellows:

Pelican fans, please welcome performance painter Garibaldi!

Anyone that has attended a Star Wars game night knows the Pelicans have a deep bag of dubstep oriented riffs from the famous movie series.

Garibaldi walks up, and the music starts. He starts his splattering’s, randomly throwing paint at a black canvas for 7 minutes. He begins to finger paint.

New Orleans, thank you so much!

It looks like nothing. Garibaldi picks up his nonsense painting, turns it on it’s side, and places it back on the easel. Lo and behold, it’s a masterpiece: Yoda. You can see each deep wrinkle, his clothing, his signature stance. And nobody saw it coming.

It’s what allowed me to leave the Pelicans last game against the Clippers with hope that just maybe Alvin Gentry is about to turn the painting. Perhaps that turn will involve Tyreke Evans.

By discussing what Evans’ role will be in the Pelicans offense, we are forced to look at the entirety of the log jammed, mess of a rotation our backcourt is currently in. In that case, it’s easier to put everything on the table, and look at the rotation from a holistic view.

There are 96 minutes for the point guard and shooting guard to split during a game. Right now, the four main rotational players are Jrue Holiday, Tim Frazier, E’twaun Moore, and Langston Galloway. I’m not counting Buddy Hield because he clearly must have done something unspeakable to Gentry — since he isn’t getting any minutes. I’m not counting Anthony Brown because he has been playing the three.

Here is what the minute breakdown looks like for those four players since Holiday’s return:

  • Holiday MPG: 27.30
  • Frazier MPG: 32.7
  • Moore MPG: 21.94
  • Galloway MPG: 21.24

There are a few extremely curious aspects to these numbers. Lets start with the first and foremost issue in a segment I like to call…

How Could Tim Frazier Possibly Have That Many Minutes On A Professional Basketball Team?

Hello folks! Welcome to another episode of, say it with me, How. Could. Tim-Frazier-Possibly-Have-That-Many-Minutes-On-A-Professional-Basketball-Team! Today we’re going to look at how Frazier is averaging so many minutes on the Pelicans basketball team.

For starters, there is very good reason he is in the lineup at tip-off. Frazier has assisted Anthony Davis 71 times this year, which is the second most prolific connection in the NBA this year (behind Chris Paul and Blake Griffin). That’s an impressive number, perhaps warranting his role.

Beyond that, Frazier is the only pure point guard on the team. Frazier’s goal is to rack up assists — he is 7th in the league in assists per game. He can’t consistently shoot, he’s undersized, and he’s usually a defensive liability, but damn can he facilitate an offense. He shines on the fast-break and he’s been through the NBA ringer, which has earned him the respect of coaching staff.

This means you have to start him next to shooting guard who can shoot and defend. In steps Holiday, a player who can shoot, defend, and has size. He’s the second best player on the New Orleans Pelicans, and he should start because of it. To Gentry’s credit, the two players work well together when Frazier plays the point: just check out these numbers from Basketball Reference.

You can’t argue with those numbers: 3-pt percentage is up 25%, assists are up and turnovers are down. The team’s point differential is +15 points when the two of them are on the floor together.

There are times when this pairing doesn’t work, though. Namely, when Holiday is playing point guard. This was the case when the Pelicans came out in the second half versus the Clippers. Clearly, the Pelicans wanted to get Holiday more involved in the offense, so they had him control the ball. This made no sense with Frazier also in, since Frazier is undersized, isn’t a spot up shooter, and can’t stretch the defense. It let the defense collapse on Holiday and Davis, and clogged up the lane so much that the Pelicans had two straight shot clock violations.

Even when Frazier plays point guard, though, there are issues with the rotation. With the current group seeing minutes, playing Holiday and Frazier together leaves the Pelicans completely screwed in the second unit. The combination of Galloway and Moore playing together has been horrendous. Just check out these numbers when they’re on the floor together from Basketball Reference.

With the two playing at the same time, per 100 possessions, New Orleans averages 18 less points than opponenst, almost 4 more turnovers, and 3.6 less assists. The reason for this is both of these players are combo guards, who when they aren’t open, look to create their own jump shots. I mean, they have played over 85 minutes together, and neither have drawn a shooting foul.

Not once.

When the Pelicans brought in Galloway, he was thought of as a point guard because that’s mostly where he’s played in his career, and that’s what his size dictates. THIS IS WRONG. Galloway only has 32 assists this year, in comparison to Frazier’s 151. For Galloway, that’s good for 2.8 assists per 36 minutes.

Those are shooting guard numbers.

Galloway’s real use in the system is his 3-pt shooting, where 93% of his field goals are assisted on. If New Orleans doesn’t have a passer setting him up, Galloway is almost always a net-negative on the floor. In addition, playing Galloway with Frazier would leave the Pelicans undersized in a terrible way, which is why the only way for Gentry to really get Galloway on the floor right now is to pair him with Holiday.

Moore, who is less regarded as a point guard and thought of more as a pure number 2, also has a hard time creating offense for other people on the floor. Playing him and Galloway together is trying to fit a square block into a circular opening: stop trying to do it, it’s a game for babies.

This is frustrating to watch. It makes you want to yell at Gentry. It makes you think I could run the rotations better than that, and how is this his profession?!

These are the exact words I was thinking to myself as Garibaldi dipped his hands in paint and slapped the black canvas repeatedly. Only, I was totally wrong.

In steps Tyreke Evans. Here’s what Evans brings to the table: He can drive, he can assist, he can run the offense. He is Tim Frazier but bigger. Just as Galloway is a 2-guard in a 1-guard’s body, Evans is a point guard in a small forward’s body. He can’t shoot, he’s not fantastic at guarding people his own size, and he brings the ball up the court.

Genrty said that Evans would fill the role that Stephenson left behind. This is almost a meaningless sentence, since we never got to see Stephenson’s role with Jrue Holiday in the lineup, but we can assume that means Tyreke will be coming off the bench even after his minute restrictions lessen. That lets the Pelicans continue to have the statistical bonus that Frazier and Holiday have provided, while also not being completely lost in the second unit.

If Anthony Davis is the canvas, then Jrue Holiday has been the paint, and Evans is the potential Garibaldi flip. If you stick Evans with Moore and Galloway, suddenly you have someone expert at driving into the paint and kicking the ball out to the two best 3-point shooters on the Pelicans. In, granted, very limited time, we saw Stephenson dominate in this role.

Evans would no doubt be better at this than Stephenson. It’s possible that the reason New Orleans rotation is so wonky right now, is so the other players can be set in their roles for when Evans comes back. Imagine that, a second unit that could continue the attack instead of trying to defend it.

Now, there’s only one question left: Where the hell (and when) does Buddy fit into that equation?

{Editor’s Note: Please welcome Frank to The Bird Writes team!!!}