The New Orleans Pelicans symbolized a medical ward early in the 2015-16 season. It began with several key players missing time, leading to a 1-11 record. Some returned, but the injuries continued to plague the greater percentage of the season.
In New Orleans' call for reinforcements in the second half of the season, the Pelicans danced with multiple 10-day contracts, handing them out to the likes of Orlando Johnson, Bryce Dejean-Jones, and Jordan Hamilton. None performed stronger than point guard Tim Frazier.
After New Orleans traded Ish Smith to Philadelphia, Tyreke Evans, who was supposed to garner most of the point guard minutes along with Jrue Holiday, suffered his third knee injury within a 12-month span, knocking him out for the rest of the season. Frazier came in, and with little time to learn all the offensive nuances, he shined, averaging 13.1 points, 7.5 assists, 1.4 steals and a .539 TS%.
Offensively, Frazier fills the role of a "pass-first" point guard. His ability to see the floor and balance his scoring ability with finding the open man and feeding players who need a shot attempt was apparent during his first minutes of action. His 9.2 assists per 36 minutes are a clear indicator of his playmaking. His assists-to-pass percentage of 11.7 percent ranked second among all Pelican players, just behind Holiday's 13.2 percent.
I was also impressed with his ability to drive and kick. He's fine at finishing at the rim (51 percent last season per NBA.com), but during drives that figure drops to 42 percent, comparable to Tyreke Evans. The good, however, is when Frazier drives, he's proven adept at passing out of it. Frazier finished with a pass percentage of 49 percent, ranking first among Pelican players.
On the other side of the ball, Frazier has shown issues. The eye test suggests that he can't defend most point guards in the league, he could get stuck on screens and could be a defensive liability long-term. I don't think he'll ever be a solid defender; thus, he is destined for more of a reserve in the league.
The biggest thing about Frazier is what to make of his stretch with the Pelicans. Despite a 40 FG% from beyond the arc, Frazier never exhibited such prowess in prior NBA stops. Over five seasons at Penn State, he never eclipsed 100 threes in a season and progressively got worse from beyond the arc.
In his first stint in the league, he shot just 29 percent from three on 17 attempts. During the 2015-16 campaign with the Portland Trail Blazers, Frazier shot just 17 threes, nailing three of them. On the Pelicans, this difference in proficiency is everything because if he can knock it down, he can play next to someone like Alonzo Gee. If not, he's a tougher fit.
In the same instance, I think Frazier's strengths could be more evident next season. Amid his fill-in role this spring, he didn't play alongside many proven shooters. Guys like James Ennis got a ton of opportunities to knock down some threes, but imagine if he is surrounded by Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, or Quincy Pondexter. I imagine his strengths would be maximized.
For the 2016-17 season, I think the Pelicans should bring back Frazier on a multiyear contract, providing Alvin Gentry with three point guards who can run his system and maintain the passing and ball movement at every level. I don't believe the Pelicans should immediately hand Frazier the backup job because we don't know what he'll provide. A big regression with his shot could be coming. However, I think a trio of Holiday, Evans and Frazier is a noble upgrade.