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2017 NBA Free Agency: Promises of additional three-point shooting remain unfulfilled

Nearly a month into free agency and the New Orleans Pelicans have yet to shore up the perimeter shooting on the roster.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jrue Holiday has been re-signed, Rajon Rondo’s vast experiences are expected to positively infuse the locker room, and Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins have spent countless of summer hours on a basketball court together, yet none of this has addressed the elephant in the room — the New Orleans Pelicans are no closer to overcoming their perimeter shooting woes.

This is a surprising development considering we were informed one of the biggest tasks was to improve the team’s shooting during the offseason. Notable voices ranging from head coach Alvin Gentry to the Pelicans play-by-play announcer, Joel Meyers, stated the priority for New Orleans was unequivocally to collect more marksmen on the outside.

On Adrian Wojnarowski’s podcast show this morning, Pelicans Coach Alvin Gentry noted that one major area New Orleans needs to improve is outside shooting, which will force opponents to cover all of the floor, instead of being able to devote more attention to Davis and Cousins. The Pelicans finished 19th in the NBA in three-point percentage (35.0) last season. They were middle-of-the-pack in three-point makes per game (9.4, tied for 14th) and attempts (26.8, 13th).

Yet, here we are knocking on the door of August and in addition to retaining Holiday, the Pelicans have added Rondo, Darius Miller and Frank Jackson. None of them have proven an ability to consistently scare opposing defenses from the perimeter in the league.

To add to the turmoil, Quinn Cook, whose best attribute of lethal long range bombing seemed a good fit, and Dante Cunningham, the Pelicans best three-point artist last season, are not on the roster. According to 2016-17 statistics, Jordan Crawford is the most proficient bomber (38.9%) left standing. Following him is Cousins (37.5%), the team’s starting center.

{Insert your favorite pensive face GIF.}

After waiving the non-guaranteed contracts of Axel Toupane and Cook, New Orleans has space for two additional bodies, but the free agency pickings have slimmed significantly. Arron Afflalo is the latest potential signing to get away, landing in Orlando for what appears to be his veteran minimum. Worse, the Pelicans sit just $2.4 million from the luxury tax, a line most do not expect New Orleans front office to step over.

Look, I’m happy Holiday is back and admit the Rondo and Miller signings are intriguing, but where are those known floor-stretching plugs?

Soon after Cousins arrived, it became painfully obvious the Pelicans lacked the necessary firepower to keep opponents honest. The problems didn’t stem from getting quality looks but rather knocking down those open shots. Case in point, examine the figures following the 2017 All-Star break — the numbers in the parentheses indicate rankings among the rest of the league.

FG Frequency FG% 3FG Frequency 3P%
4-6 Feet (Open) 28.7% (14) 42.7% (23) 13.3% (15) 34.6% (18)
6+ Feet (Wide Open) 20.3% (10) 40.1% (24) 14.4% (8) 34.4% (22)

I have faith in Rondo’s presence increasing the number of open and wide open attempts, but unless he’s trained in the ways of a Jedi, he’s not going to help raise below average shooting percentages. As Meyers said at season’s end, the Pelicans need upgrades.

“They don’t have as much cap space as a lot of teams, and they need shooting. So you’ve got to go out and find shooters and then have to find guys who are going to have breakthrough years even if they’ve been in the league for a few years. You’re not going to get upper level. You want to keep Jrue and add to that.”

Almost a month into free agency, we’re still awaiting that Nick Young-sized booster shot. Miller or a revitalized Quincy Pondexter sound good on paper, but hope is a dangerous strategy, Anthony Davis.

"We have the tools right now to be successful. ... Right now, I think we look good on paper. So we've just got to figure it out."

Of course there’s still around two months until the start of training camp, but the scrap heap is beginning to look awfully bare. The additions of say Ian Clark and Cunningham would turn my frown upside down, but just how feasible is something like this considering the front office has yet to clear room on the salary cap sheet by trading away the dead weight of Omer Asik or maybe Alexis Ajinca?

Sadly, I’m beginning to think we should expect Gentry’s words from early May to ring true.

“We’re going to have to upgrade there, and the players we have are going to have to show vast improvement this summer.”

A lot of hope may indeed wind up being the plan.