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With Ingram, McCollum out again, Herb Jones positioned to lead Pelicans against Rockets

Herb has repeatedly risen to the occasion when stars around him have missed time

Houston Rockets v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

If the New Orleans Pelicans want to break their 4-game slide, Herb Jones running more of the team’s offense, while continuing to look aggressively for his shot, could precipitate success in tonight’s matchup against the Houston Rockets.

The rookie out of Alabama has accomplished more than anyone thought possible when the Pelicans made him the 35th selection of the 2021 NBA draft. His defense, which ranks in the top 10th percentile of the league, has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season. There’s a great chance that Jones will make an All-Rookie Team. Don’t dismiss his odds of being named to one of the NBA All-Defensive Teams either.

For all Jones’ defensive attributes though, there also lies some potent offensive capabilities. He has led the Pelicans in scoring three times this season, and assists, once. Three of those four instances occurred when Brandon Ingram was forced to watch from the sidelines due to injury.

Jones scored a career-high 26 points in the Dec. 26 victory over the Cavaliers, had a team-high 19 points in the Jan. 28 loss to the Nuggets, and then a few days ago, posted a career-high eight assists in the defeat to the Hornets — there were several really pretty dimes that must be highlighted.

In this first video clip, Jones flips the ball beautifully and at precisely the right time to the trailing Valanciunas once Montrezl Harrell switches onto him.

Later in the game, Jones threw a strike to Trey Murphy III, without ever hinting to anyone that he was thinking about making the pass. This assist led to one of Trey’s career-high seven made 3-pointers on the night.

“It’s another layer to Herb’s game,” Willie Green said after yesterday’s practice. “He’s added more and more as the season has progressed. We really liked the fact that he got downhill, making tough plays for his teammates, and it’s something that we believe Herb can really be good at in the future no matter who’s on the floor.”

Although the oddsmakers currently list the Pelicans as 7-point favorites, Jones putting together a fine all-around line would go a long way in making a victory reality.

What’s interesting to note is that Jones’ averages reflect the greater amount of responsibility he’s seemingly taken on when Ingram isn’t on the court.

Herb Jones Per 100 Possessions Minutes Points Rebounds Assists FGA 3PA
With Brandon Ingram 1155 14.2 6.1 3.1 10.6 2.5
Without Brandon Ingram 667 16.2 6.8 4.5 13.8 3.9

According to the New Orleans head coach, Herb’s passing abilities bode well for the Pelicans once Ingram and CJ McCollum return to the lineup.

“It’s just a progression of where we see Herb of being able to be successful with us. Not only can he defend, not only he’s a great cutter and is working on his shot, but now adding a layer to his game where he can initiate our offense frees up Brandon. It frees up CJ a bit. And then he’s just more dangerous being able to do those things.”

We’ll hopefully see Herb fling passes to a wide open Ingram or McCollum very soon, but that won’t happen tonight with both stars unavailable. However, the Pelicans will need for several players to step up offensively. If past precedent is any indication, count on Herb to be one of those guys.

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Who: New Orleans Pelicans (27-40) vs Houston Rockets (17-50)

When: March 13, 2022, 6:00 p.m.

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, NBA League Pass

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.