Throughout the early portion of this season, the New Orleans Pelicans have struggled to get consistent, positive production out of several of their perimeter players.
Though stars DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis have thrived, the lack of viable threats on the outside have been fatal at times to the offensive attack. This starts with the third member of New Orleans claimed Big-Three, Jrue Holiday.
Holiday is averaging a respectable 14.9 points per game, along with a team high six assists per game. However, there are times late where Holiday strays from his offensive capabilities in order to distribute. When asked about Holiday’s submissive nature down the stretch, Head Coach Alvin Gentry made it clear he wants the entire roster to change in that respect.
“I want to see everybody aggressive,” said Gentry. “I think that’s what you have to do. If you’re going to execute down the stretch, you’ve got to have everyone be aggressive. If the opportunity to score is there, you have to take it and if not then you’ve got to move it along to the next guy. That’s the way we have to play the whole game, not just down the stretch.”
Even so, the struggles fall far past Holiday. In particular, Dante Cunningham, another starter, has failed to contribute enough positives.
Cunningham is currently playing over 28 minutes per game, yet yielding just 4.8 ppg, 0.6 apg and 4.6 rpg. Other than moving down into a three-guard lineup, the two other reserve options available to interchange with Cunningham do not bode well either. Tony Allen has proved to be a valuable spark off the Pelicans’ bench, but is absent of the stamina to play extended minutes.
“Eighteen minutes is a lot for him to play,” Gentry said regarding Allen’s minutes against the Minnesota Timberwolves. “He thought he played 30.”
Darius Miller was nearly a consensus starter prior to retaining Cunningham. Unfortunately for New Orleans, Miller has been seemingly unplayable thus far. He is averaging 1.9 ppg, 0.3 apg and 0.5 rpg. Worse, Miller’s made just 2 of 15 from the three-point range thus far — that was his bread and butter during his recent stint in Europe.
Although the troubles are evident, the Pelicans remain positive as they understand these players will undoubtedly be the key to success moving forward. If you look past each individual players’ performance, there is unifying factor that New Orleans has desperately missed – Rajon Rondo.
The imbalance in positioning and rotation struggles have resulted as byproduct of Rondo’s groin injury. Luckily for New Orleans, a return date has been mentioned. Gentry offered Nov. 17 as a possible return date for Rondo, but the point guard wants to take the process day-by-day. After Wednesday’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Tony Allen pointed to Rondo specifically as the missing piece in getting the Pelicans where they want to be.
“Obviously we’re short an all-star point guard, champion point guard in Rondo,” Allen said. “If he’s there, I know he’s pretty much controlling the offense. Guys can be set in their positions. He’s pretty much our quarterback. We’ve just got to be a make-shift group until he gets back.”
This make-shift group has shown flaws, but can regain some confidence during the upcoming four-game road trip. This stretch isn’t particularly fearsome, featuring games against the Dallas Mavericks, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors.
The New Orleans Pelicans simply need to make due until Rajon Rondo returns to active status.