Similar to the wide discrepancies of play witnessed from the New Orleans Pelicans in wins and losses, early season statistics also show troubling variances — and a lot of that is directly due to the unavailability of five players on the roster: Rajon Rondo, Solomon Hill, Alexis Ajinca, Omer Asik and Frank Jackson.
Behind the stellar play of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, the Pelicans starting lineup ranks as one of the most potent groups in the NBA. Through Tuesday’s action, the New Orleans starting five is second in points scored (84.9), first in rebounds (37.0), ninth in assists (16.3), second in free throw attempts (20.4) and sixth in three-point attempts (20.7).
Conversely, the total output from Pelicans reserves sits on the other side of the spectrum. A group primarily consisting of Jameer Nelson, Ian Clark, Darius Miller, Cheick Diallo and Tony Allen is dead last in points (23.6), free throw attempts (2.6) and rebounds (9.1). Yes, they’re collectively averaging the least amount of minutes in the league, but note the comparisons in production by all the teams whose benches average less than a minute more of action than New Orleans.
The Pelicans bench should also include E’Twaun Moore and Dante Cunningham, and the team would have Jrue Holiday at his preferred shooting guard position on a full time basis. If allowed, these moves would likely reduce the large production advantages enjoyed by opponents at both wing positions.
According to Hoopstats, the Pelicans rank 26th at shooting guard and 28th at small forward. For those interested, the numbers are derived from efficiency recap differences that compare points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks while also factoring in field goals, free throws and turnovers.
This news probably doesn’t come as too big of a surprise considering the incredibly slow offensive starts seen from Cunningham and Miller; however, Moore (28), Nelson (46) and Clark (47) haven’t been as consistent as one might expect either per Hoopstats. (Numbers in parentheses are rankings at their respected positions).
That’s a problem considering these five are averaging a lot of minutes, with Moore (32.0 MPG), Cunningham (28.6 MPG) and Nelson (26.8 MPG) spending a lot more time on the floor than the bench.
So, yes, the New Orleans Pelicans will continue to have a small margin for error — and hence heavily rely on Boogie, AD and Jrue — until players start returning from injury, or those who are currently struggling, start to come out of their funks. Just keep that in mind the next time a stud has an off night because there’s literally been no one to get his back thus far.