Please say the following bullet points out loud:
- The 2016-17 Pelicans are not a good basketball team.
- This group will probably continue to break my heart by losing more games than they’ll win.
- And most assuredly, postseason hopes are nothing but a pipe dream.
Go ahead and repeat these words if Monday night’s loss, the 7-15 start to the season or anything in between, still overly stings every time you have thoughts about the New Orleans franchise.
I understand this amateurish exercise is a futile attempt to dampen the pain of the growing disappointment of the season, but somehow, someway, it’s time to accept the reality of the situation. Playoff hopes for the Pelicans in the Western Conference are slipping away fast.
The Pelicans have lost more than twice the number of games they’ve won, and we’re more than 1⁄4 of the way through the season. Admittedly, this may prove difficult to do because of the presence of Anthony Davis — easily one of the best players in the NBA — but it’s well past time to shift the focus away from pure wins and losses because no pot of gold sits at the end of New Orleans rainbow.
Based on the team’s current pace, the Pelicans are projected to wind up with a 26-56 record. That would be 4 games worse than last year’s unthinkable finish, and it would shockingly be the worst of Davis’ career. That’s right, Monty Williams ragtag bunch even managed to win 27 games during the resident superstar’s rookie season.
According to advanced ratings, this year’s version scarily compares best with the first post-Chris Paul team.
|W/L %||Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating||Net Rating|
|2016-17||.318%||100.2 (25)||102.5 (13)||-2.3 (19)|
|2015-16||.366%||103.2 (16)||107.3 (28)||-4.1 (26)|
|2014-15||.549%||105.4 (9)||104.7 (22)||+0.7 (15)|
|2013-14||.415%||104.7 (13)||107.3 (25)||-2.6 (21)|
|2012-13||.329%||102.7 (17)||107.6 (28)||-5.0 (25)|
|2011-12||.318%||98.3 (21)||102.3 (16)||-4.0 (24)|
At first glance, the comparison is uncanny and it’s not with just the winning percentage. Both offenses rank in the bottom third of the NBA and the defenses hover right around league average.
The reason the 2011-12 team failed to finish with a stronger winning percentage was because they sorely lacked appropriately skilled players. Eric Gordon appeared in just 9 games so Jarrett Jack was considered the team’s best offensive weapon. However, one could count on that Hornets team to scrap hard because Monty Williams was great at getting teams to overachieve.
The current group has Anthony Davis, but who else? There’s Jrue Holiday, but he’s managed to appear in just 9 games. The only other Pelicans with an above average PER besides the team’s two best players are Terrence Jones (15.2) and... no one else. It may surprise you to learn that the 2011-12 group had 7 players finish with PERs over the average mark of 15.0.
Sorry, but the narrative is true: Davis has largely been relegated to a one-man show.
The talent accumulated by Dell Demps has been questionable to say the least, but it hasn’t been the only drawback. The coaching continues to surprise, and not in a good way, as usually evidenced on a game-by-game basis. Whether it’s been their mistakes or failure of the roster to comprehend their wishes, the disconnect at times is real.
For practical purposes, we’ll ignore single instances like the time Davis was selected to guard no-man’s land when T.J. Warren went back door for an easy lay-in, or more recently, Gentry decided to have the Pelicans attempt a rather difficult out-of-bounds lob with 7 seconds remaining in a tie game.
Wouldn’t you agree that in Monday night’s game, Marc Gasol was the far and away #1 option that the Pelicans needed to try and limit on the Grizzlies’ roster? Yet, inexplicably, the slow moving 7-footer was able to launch 17 uncontested shots. On the flip side, the sleek, wiry Anthony Davis was limited to 11 such shots while forcing 16 contested attempts. Gasol? Just 8.
In a game last week, the Pelicans chose to let Blake Griffin and Luc Mbah a Moute shoot all day long from the perimeter. They combined to make 14 off 22 uncontested shot attempts. Granted, many of their looks were probably not designed to be that open, but why have the players often had such a difficult time executing the coaching staff’s wishes?
When you roll it all together and include stuff like missed gimmies from point-blank range, poor execution in transition or mind-numbing turnovers, you’re left staring at a team that is apt to lose a game any which number of ways. In my opinion, this has been reflected well in crunch-time situations.
On the year, the Memphis Grizzlies have won 11 of 14 contests in which the score of the game was within 5 points in the last 5 minutes of the game or in overtime; the Pelicans, a paltry 3 games out of 13.
In those 61 decisive minutes, New Orleans is shooting 31.6% from the field and 18.5% from three-point range — both 29th in the league. Although the Grizzlies aren’t leaps and bounds better (39.7% — 17th), their defense has proven their meal ticket. (An 83.4 defensive rating is tops in the league in clutch situations.) The Pelicans defense has been passable, but they need to be able to put the ball through the basket more consistently! Offense is Gentry's calling card, right?
Down the stretch of games, it’s about knocking down shots, executing and just making more plays than the opponent. Solomon Hill said as much in his post-game comments two short days ago and Gentry echoed the same thoughts for the umpteenth time on the year.
The Grizzlies have a net rating of -0.7 and the Pelicans, -2.3. Yet one team has a 15-8 record while the other sits at 7-15. Despite the presence of a superstar, are the Pelicans so flawed that they’re destined to come up short all season for one reason or another?