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New Orleans Pelicans potent shooting and Rajon Rondo highlight most pleasing early season developments

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Remember when the Pelicans supposedly struck out in free agency?

New Orleans Pelicans v Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Who or what has been the most pleasing development through the first 27 games?

Kevin: Darius Miller

Easily Darius Miller. Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps always seems to find that scrap heap player that outplays his expectations — if November is the norm, he saved his best for this season. He was the one of the bigger question marks or X-factors heading into camp, but he’s proven to be XXX-factor nasty. It’s like he can’t miss. All hail, Darius Reggie Miller.

Jamile: Veteran point guards

Jameer Nelson's steady play coupled with the relative ease with which Rondo has been incorporated into the offense have really been a delight early in the season. Jrue Holiday with a legit point guard is night and day from when he's running the show offensively.

It's pretty safe to say this team would probably be two or three games worse without their aged backcourt. Both Nelson and Rondo have a chaperone like calming influence on this team that I have really appreciated, especially late in games. In the past we've seen it take, literally, seasons for guys to get comfortable with this team, but ballers with the type of experience and I.Q. of Nelson and Rondo make the transition look easy.

Oh yeah, Darius Miller hasn't been bad either, lol.

Preston: Rajon Rondo

The easy answer would be the chemistry shared between AD and Boogie, but I'll argue Rajon Rondo. The biggest free agent acquisition this offseason was a divisive topic for Pels' fans and national critics alike. Did the Pelicans sign the guy from Boston? The guy from Dallas? How about Sacramento, or did they sign the guy who had a ho hum Chicago regular season only to play masterfully in the first two games of the 2017 playoffs?

So far, I think it's easiest to vote the latter. Rondo's numbers don't jump off the page at seven and eight per game, but his teammates numbers do! Ever since Rondo joined the Pelicans against the Hawks, the confidence and the shooting have improved in players like Darius Miller (50% from three), E'Twaun Moore (50.8% from three) and Jrue Holiday (better than before!). His communication and steadying hand on both sides of the floor have also contributed to a drop in turnovers, especially for Holiday.

While AD/Boogie are the faces of the franchise, much of what the 2017/18 Pelicans will be, is up to Rajon Rondo. How can you have any doubts following his 18-assist performance against the Philadelphia 76ers?!

Oleh: Pelicans team shooting

There’s been quite a few pleasing positives thus far, so my vote goes to the Pelicans shooting overall, as it was a hottest of topics among most naysayers prior to the start of the season.

Through 27 games, New Orleans has the fifth-best effective field goal percentage (54.9 eFG%) and true shooting percentage (58.0 TS%). Their three-point shooting comes in right at 36.9%, which is good for 10th in the NBA.

Prior to training camp, I figured if the three-point shooting could sit somewhere in the middle tier of the league the Pelicans offense would be more than passable. Possessing Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans had a distinct advantage in the combination of points from inside the paint and the free throw line.

Getting some perimeter shooting — just enough to space the floor — was always a requirement, but suddenly the Pelicans are well past that threshold. If you believe in trends, New Orleans outside shooting is going to give much more than the bare minimum. Through the first ten games on the schedule, the Pelicans were shooting an abysmal 32.2% from deep, good for 26th. Over the last 17 games, they’re bombing at a 39.8% clip, good for 3rd in the league — higher than the Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors.

Travis: Darius Miller!

Miller has been an important shot maker and floor spacer, pairing well with almost anybody out there. We weren’t totally sure he’d be a productive guy, especially after a cold start, but he might be a candidate for the 3-point shootout during the All-Star break if his torrid production continues. And yet, he’s been maybe the fourth most important UK player on the team!