Luke Babbitt committed a terrible mistake last summer. It wasn't the two year contract he signed with the New Orleans Pelicans. No. Far worse. Rather than fall victim to his own Delilah Babbitt elected to cut is own hair. Images first surfaced in September from voluntary team workouts that Babbitt's flowing locks were no more. I was, to say it mildly, extremely concerned.
Babbitt led the Pelicans last season making 51.3% of his 3-point attempts. If it were me, the idea of trimming my hair would be akin to Sampson walking into a barber shop on purpose. We must now ask if Babbitt has his own Delilah running loose. Who is her next target? Will AD's unibrow be the next victim?
Sadly, it was not just a funny joke. There was real power in that hair. A month later as the preseason kicked off Babbitt doubled down, going from some hair to a near buzzcut as seen here against the Atlanta Hawks on October 9th.
Babbitt would fall victim to a hamstring injury during the preseason, one of many Pelicans to find themselves battling minor strains, sprains, and bruises. The hair stayed short, and Babbitt's performance on the floor suffered. Logging heavy minutes during the month of November Babbitt posted a less than stellar 8.8 PER. November 27th against the Los Angeles Clippers Babbitt logged 14 minutes. It would be the last time he reached double digit minutes until February 8th. The hair was still far too short.
Babbitt + Hair = Buckets
Alvin Gentry must have known. Somewhere in the Pelicans organization a plan, a commitment to long, luxurious locks was devised. Babbitt would log just 36 total minutes and 25 DNP-CD's until February 8th. In the meantime Babbitt would focus on avoiding the barber's chair at all costs. As the All-Star Break approached finally the hair was long enough. Luke Babbitt was ready to be unleashed.
Luke Babbitt exists!— David Fisher (@DavidFisherTBW) February 9, 2016
Babbitt. Hair. Buckets.— David Fisher (@DavidFisherTBW) February 9, 2016
The hair was back and Babbitt was back to filling up the bucket. It was not a one time thing. Gone was the lost puppy dog with his hair cut short to stay cool for the summer. Babbitt was burying those threes, pump faking fools out of their shoes, and generally back to the player fans hoped the Pelicans re-signed in July. Babbitt posted an impressive 17.3 PER in the month of February and kept things rolling into March and April. Dividing his season along February 7th demonstrates the power of that hair.
|Buzz Cut Babbitt||301||37.0%||31.4%||72.7%||6.3||1.2||9.3|
|Professor Long Hair Babbitt||544||44.0%||48.3%||79.5%||6.3||2.8||16.5|
via NBA Stats
Look at this hair! Here's what Babbitt looked like on March 22nd, on his way to dropping 23 points on 10-19 shooting from the floor.
Luke Babbitt's contract is only guaranteed for $200k until July 12th this summer, when the total value ($1,227,286) locks in according to Basketball Insiders. There is a possibility that unguaranteed portion plays a role in a larger trade this summer, or that the Pelicans waive him because they have a better use for the cap space. However, it is more likely Babbitt sticks on the roster as a poor man's replacement for Ryan Anderson should Ryno depart in free agency.
If the hair stays long, Babbitt can fill the Anderson role adequately at such a low cost. Babbitt does not get his shot off nearly as quickly, allowing his defenders to sag another step into the key mucking up the spacing. But, given space Babbitt is going to knock down those looks. Babbitt posted an obscene 73.1% eFG% on catch and shoot opportunities this season after his hair grew out; not far off the absolutely ridiculous 77.4% eFG% he had during the 2014-15 season.
A player with his knowledge of the system and skill set on a minimum contract is difficult to replace. The best argument for cutting Babbitt lose is the impending roster crunch. New Orleans, thanks to years of short sighted management, lacks arrows of player development in their quiver. A large quiver, as Sam Hinkie described on page 10 of his resignation letter (I recommend beginning on page 8 when he starts talking basketball), allows for more errors and chances to be taken. The Pelicans have no significant international rights and no D-League team. With just 15 roster spots to work with it may be difficult to rationalize retaining Babbitt, who turns 27 in June.
Should we see Luke Babbitt in a Pelicans uniform next year? Only if he agrees to keep the hair.