Coming into training camp, the Pelicans had hopes Alexis Ajinca could build off his 2014-15 campaign. Under Monty Williams, he enjoyed the best statistical season of his career. Although he averaged only 14.1 minutes per game, Ajinca scored in double figures a total of 20 times and went for 15 or more points in a game seven times. When offense was preferred to defense, Ajinca made for a solid option.
Through 44 appearances this season, Ajinca has hit double figures just five times and his game-high on the season is a paltry 12 points. He has bounced in and out of the rotation more than anyone ever imagined possible. In a year where Omer Asik is playing close to 9 minutes less a contest, one might assume that the offensively minded Alvin Gentry would have filled that vacuum with the Frenchman's solid post-game.
It hasn't remotely worked out that way.
According to Basketball Reference's play-by-play data, Anthony Davis has soaked up the majority of his minutes at the center position this season. Small-ball has overtaken the entire league; consequently, reserve centers are less important than ever. Good thing Ajinca and Asik were signed to rich long-term deals, eh?
With Ryan Anderson and Davis spending 3.2 more minutes on the floor together under Gentry and the coach favoring Dante Cunningham at the four over Ajinca at the five, Alexis' opportunities have been curtailed more than ever. Regardless, with Scott Kushner reporting Asik is out for the foreseeable future, Ajinca could have a stable role over possibly the next six games or so.
Will that be enough to get Ajinca out of his season-long funk? That remains to be seen; however, seeing as how Gentry is committed to keeping Anderson and Jrue Holiday with the reserves, it is mandatory the Pelicans find some offensive help for the starting lineup. After exploding for 59 points, Anthony Davis will probably command double teams here on out, but the effect will be magnified because most of his running mates at tip-off require so little attention on the scoring side of the ball.
We can only hope the coaching staff will find a way to utilize Alexis Ajinca to mitigate some of the significant weaknesses of a starting lineup that ranks third to last in efficiency and next to last in points per game (59.4).
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