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Pelicans move up in power rankings as they eliminate long twos from the menu

2-1 on the week has New Orleans on the rise.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans have improved substantially on offense thanks in part to taking smarter shots. "Dumb zone" attempts are down while the Pels are taking 34% of their shots in the restricted area and 36% are behind the arc. Crashing the offensive glass helps, as does the additions of DeMarcus Cousins and Jameer Nelson on the floor and Chris Finch on the bench.

Pelicans Shooting Distribution

Season Restricted Area Paint Mid-Range 3PT
Season Restricted Area Paint Mid-Range 3PT
2017-18 34% 19% 11% 36%
2016-17 31% 15% 23% 31%
2015-16 33% 13% 26% 28%
2014-15 39% 13% 25% 23%

A big part of the improvement can be traced to players shooting well above their career averages — looking at you E'Twaun Moore and Ian Clark, and with such a small sample size there is plenty of reason to be skeptical about the torrid shooting continuing. However, where the Pelicans are shooting from, I believe, is something more instructive and sustainable.

This is not a measure of how well the Pelicans are doing things on offense but instead a measure of what things they are attempting to do. They've outrebounded opponents in five of six games, turnovers are declining, and they’re taking smarter shots. These are things more easily sustained than simply hot shooting.

It’s possible, though, to still play devil’s advocate. Since the Pelicans are shooting so well, they continue to take these smart shots. We’ve already seen them abandon the game plan to chuck “bad” threes and settle into isolation basketball, what if the shot profile is next on the chopping block in the face of adversity? New Orleans is now creating a shot distribution more akin to the Houston Rockets, with the obvious caveat the methodology is nothing similar.

Will it stick?

I hope so.

Now, onto the power rankings!

Last Week: 20 - This Week: 18

DeMarcus Cousins had a huge week, averaging 36.3 points, 16.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists, dropping 41 in his return to Sacramento on Thursday and recording a triple-double against the Cavs on Saturday. He ranks second in the league in scoring while registering career highs (by pretty wide margins) in effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage. But as expected, Jrue Holiday has been the Pelicans' bellwether, having shot 61 percent in their three wins (in which they've scored 115 points per 100 possessions) and 29 percent in their three losses (99).


Last Week: 18 - This Week: 17

A huge week for a team that desperately needs a playoff berth in April. After a loss in Portland, the Pellies got a DeMarcus Cousins vengeance win at Sacramento, then bludgeoned Cleveland at home. Boogie assembled player-of-the-week-worthy numbers, averaging 36.3 points, 16 rebounds and 6.3 assists with a 65.7 true shooting percentage.

Sports Illustrated

Last Week: 14 - This Week:

Pelicans before signing Josh Smith: Alright.

Pelicans after signing Josh Smith: