Everything about the 2015-16 season was a bust for the New Orleans Pelicans, and the start of the season was essentially one big spoiler alert. The Pelicans opened the 2015-16 campaign on national television at the home of the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors and would be without the services of Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Quincy Pondexter and Omer Asik. Most importantly, Luke Babbitt wasn't available. Even if he was, it wouldn't have made a difference. Not because the Pelicans were the inferior team, but because Babbitt was without his tremendous hair.
Babbitt cutting his hair was only slightly less tragic than all the injuries the Pelicans suffered this season. And like Samson, the cutting of his hair stripped Babbitt of his game.
Last season Babbitt shot 51 percent from three. That figure would have made him the league leader in three point shooting percentage had he hit at least 82 threes. Babbitt only made 59 so he failed to reach the statistical minimum to qualify, but nonetheless he was still one of the league's best sharpshooters.
This season was a different story for Babbitt. He saw his three point shooting percentage drop all the way down to 40 percent. It wasn't owed to Babbitt trying more threes than in 2015, on the contrary, Babbitt put up six fewer attempts. For whatever reason, he just wasn't as accurate as last year.
Interestingly, Babbitt totaled nearly the same number of minutes despite playing in 16 fewer contests. After appearing in 13 of the first 17 games of the schedule, he vanished from the rotation and didn't reemerge until the second week of March, after injuries had fully decimated the Pelicans. This fact is a little strange considering Alvin Gentry professed his love for Babbitt at the end of the season.
Regardless, 2016 was an interesting one for Babbitt in terms of where he was positioned. It's estimated that Babbitt spent 66 percent of his time playing the four, 28 at the three and the remaining two at center. Thus Babbitt, who is considered a small forward, spent the majority of the season playing out of position... Or was he? During the 2014 season, Babbitt spent a whopping 92 percent playing the power forward position and it led to a career highs in both on-court net rating (+6.5) and on/off net rating (+10.3). So, maybe Alvin Gentry or someone on the coaching staff noticed this figure and decided to test it out again, embracing the new position-less era of basketball we're living in. Unfortunately, that approach didn't yield similar results as New Orleans was 2.9 points worse with him on the court than off.
This season was a mixed bag for Luke Babbitt. On one hand, he scored a career high seven points a game, but his field goal percentage dropped due to the lower proficiency from the three point line. His rebounding and assists figures were the highest they've been since the 2014 season, but he tied with Ryan Anderson and Dante Cunningham for the second worst defensive rating on the team.
Babbitt played his best ball during the final month of the schedule. He had played in 17 straight games before missing game 82 in Minnesota, and in those games, he scored in double figures in 13 of them. His two best outings came in successive games, both wins at home over Denver and on the road against Brooklyn. Against the Nuggets, Babbitt posted a 22 (on 25 attempts KOBE!!!) and 10 game, and in the ensuing game against the Nets, Babbitt had 21 points on a much more efficient 8-15 (3-5 3PT FG) night.
Babbitt's future with New Orleans could be in jeopardy. While he's on the books for $1.2 million next season, only two hundred thousand is guaranteed. And considering he's a fringe NBA player that doesn't really do anything particularly well things may not be looking up for Babbitt. Whatever his future holds, hopefully he keeps his amazing hair.