New Orleans Pelicans: 5 Early Season Takeaways

Through the New Orleans Pelicans first 24 games, it’s been a rough start overall. But there’s no need for them to panic, yet.

Dec 8, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

In Alvin Gentry’s second season as New Orleans Pelicans head coach, they are currently 7-17. Last season, the Pelicans went 30-52, finishing 12th in the Western Conference. Defensively, they weren’t very good, surrendering 106.5 points per game, ranked 26th in the NBA. They lost forward Ryan Anderson and guard Eric Gordon to free agency and were left with signing guard Lance Stephenson.

Stephenson hurt his groin early in the season and was subsequently waived on Nov. 7. The team then signed guard Archie Goodwin to a multi-year contract before waiving him 13 days later.

It has been a tumultuous first quarter to the season for the Pelicans to say the least. They have lost five games in a row, including an ugly 99-88 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Big man Anthony Davis sat out their recent game against the Los Angeles Clippers. It is the second game Davis missed this season.

However, all is not lost as the season is still young. There are still some positives takeaways for New Orleans. They rank second in the NBA as a team in blocks and third in defensive rebounds. The problem has been on offense. They rank 22nd overall in points per game scoring just 101.7 points per game. They rank 18th overall in opponents points per game, allowing 105.1 points per contest. That’s a problem when it comes to winning games in the NBA.

Here are five early season takeaways the New Orleans Pelicans can use to improve.

Oct 29, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

5. Firing Alvin Gentry won’t solve this team’s upper management problem

Many folks are asking for the firing of head coach Alvin Gentry, but the bigger issue has been the team’s issue to surround Anthony Davis with solid players. Granted, the team has lost four games in a row but it’s not all on coaching.

The team has signed and waived Lance Stephenson, Archie Goodwin, Alonzo Gee and Anthony Brown since the start of the season. Gee was waived for the final roster spot for Stephenson. Stephenson made it through six games before suffering a groin injury that required surgery.

New Orleans has since signed guard Reggie Williams. Williams has played for Golden State, Charlotte, Oklahoma City and San Antonio in his career. He’s something of a journeyman but he is the sixth callup from the NBA Development League and second by the Pelicans. He averaged 17.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists for the Oklahoma City Blue in 33.3 minutes per game.

Here’s to hoping his addition can add some offensive firepower where it is much needed.

Nov 27, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

4. Injuries are hurting the Pelicans’ rotation

Injuries have been the biggest issue for the New Orleans Pelicans. Granted, they are part of the game, but guard Tyreke Evans is a desperately-needed player who continues to recover from multiple knee surgeries.

Evans averages 16.7 points, 5.3 assists, and 4.9 rebounds per game — much-needed production on a team that is being outscored by their opponents on average.

Guard Tim Frazier has stepped up a lot for the Pelicans in the meantime. The undrafted guard out of Penn State is averaging 10.8 points, 7.4 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game through 24 games. He has started 23 of those games.

Newly drafted shooting guard Buddy Hield is averaging 9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game in his last three games. He has scored in double figures in two of his last four games as well.

Along with Evans, small forward Quincy Pondexter is also out indefinitely with a knee injury and point guard Jrue Holiday has missed the last three games with turf toe. Shooting guard E’Twaun Moore has also missed the last three games with turf toe. It has been a string of bad luck for the New Orleans Pelicans in the early going.

Nov 29, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

3. The return of Jrue Holiday was a breath of fresh air

When point guard Jrue Holiday returned, the Pelicans went 4-2. Holiday averaged 16.3 points, 6.5 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game through the first six games. The Pelicans won four games in a row bring him off the bench.

He returned to the starting lineup before suffering the injury in the team’s 101-92 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Dec. 4. Since then, he’s been out the past three games. He’s averaging 15.4 points and 6.1 assists per game in just nine games this season.

Holiday missed the Pelicans’ first 12 games of the season while tending to his wife Lauren’s health. His presence was missed on a team that lost its first eight games. Holiday scored 21 points and seven assists off the bench in his season debut. As they’re on another four-game losing streak, his return could not come soon enough. Let’s hope Holiday gets healthy soon.

Nov 25, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

2. Despite their record, defense is the Pelicans’ strong suit

Although the New Orleans Pelicans are 7-17, they are still a very good defensive team led by big man Anthony Davis. Defensively, the Pelicans rank ninth in opponent field goal percentage and seventh in opponent three-point field goal percentage.

Their opponents shoot on average 44.1 percent against them from the floor and 34.1 percent from three-point land. They’re 21st in opponents points per game, allowing 106.3 points per game.

The problem arises in the rebounding department. Opponents kill them on the glass, with the Pelicans allowing 48.4 rebounds per game, worst in the league. On average, roughly 10.2 of the rebounds come on the offensive end — not a good sign with Anthony Davis on the floor. Davis averages 2.8 of the team’s 6.3 blocks per game, which ranks second in the NBA, but it’s still not enough.

They’ll need to get Davis some interior help as he can’t do it all for New Orleans Pelicans.

Dec 8, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

1. Anthony Davis will lead this team to the playoffs (if they can get him some interior help)

Anthony Davis has still put up MVP-like numbers for the New Orleans Pelicans this season despite the 7-17 record. Davis is averaging 31.5 points 11.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.8 blocks per game for New Orleans this season. Despite sitting in their last game because of rest, Davis has seven double-doubles in his last eight games.

The willingness of the New Orleans Pelicans to sit Davis due to rest speaks volumes for the big man, who is averaging 38.1 minutes per game. Outside of Davis, the Pelicans are getting limited production out of big men Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca.

Asik is averaging 3.5 points and 6.2 rebounds in 18 minutes per game. Ajinca is averaging 4.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in 13 minutes per game. He has appeared in 12 games so far this season.

It may be time for upper management to explore some trade options. Maybe looking into a possible trade for Denver Nuggets‘ big man Kenneth Faried would help. Faried has started in just 14 of the Nuggets’ 24 games this season. He is averaging a career-low 23 minutes per game and was a DNP in their 92-85 loss to the Washington Wizards despite being healthy.

If they can get Davis a solid interior presence to work with, particularly on the defensive end, this team could still make the playoffs.

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