Courtesy of Gus Escanelle

Fly Pelicans

01:00 November 24, 2014
By: 2Fik

"As both players age, it's seemingly inevitable that Davis will catch James."

"At least a couple of times every game, he melts your brain in a way that only sports can."

"Davis has more than lived up to his lofty preseason expectations…He's the new king of fantasy hoops."

The first of these quotes is from stat guru Kevin Pelton; the second is from an NBA League Pass subscriber who writes for Grantland; the final is from the committee of one who does Power Rankings for ESPN. The point is, most national press coverage of the Pelicans consists of writers salivating over Anthony Davis. He is an unquestioned star in our league already, at the tender age of 21. We've seen the progression, stared at the stat lines and rubbed our eyes wondering if it was our vision. It is great to see him say things like this after making a game-winning shot against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs: "[just] me being me, when I caught the ball, I was in attack mode…I just tried to make a good play. I just tried to be aggressive."
But the team as a whole has improved around their young superstar. The teams stats show this: PPG (105.6 to 99.7), RPG (44.1 to 41.7), APG (24.4 to 21.3), and Opp. PPG (98.4 to 102.4). It is telling that the team is in the top ten in the first three categories, and about league average in the last one.

To start the season, there were questions about whether the team would have enough spacing to run an efficient offense. But those questions have been answered. Holiday's return has brought much needed precision to an offense that executed poorly too often last year. Evans continues to attack the rim "without prejudice," and Ryan Anderson opens up the offense with his range. The team is assisting at a high rate (5th in the league at the time of this writing). And Davis continues to impress, being able to drive and finish from the high post, make mid-range jumpers, and be good for a highlight reel play or two a night.
The team still goes through periods where the offense gets too stagnant, especially when Holiday and Evans go to the bench. Davis also spends too many minutes on the floor without touching the ball at times. Of course the team shows what they can do in brilliant flashes, such as the 139-point shellacking of the Minnesota Timberwolves, when all cylinders were going for the whole game. While that is not likely/reasonable/possible to expect for the season, it shows the firepower the team has when they execute on both sides of the ball.

Coach Monty Williams finally got what might have been the missing piece this year on defense in Omer Asik. He is the anchor Williams needed to cement his pick and roll defense and shore up the rebounding. Williams still has his power forwards hedging out on pick and rolls, which requires multiple rotations that the Pelicans have yet to master. But the rotations should get better with time, and the team hopes to improve to a top-10 defense by the end of the year, a mark that most championship contenders eye.
The Pelicans didn't make a proclamation of expecting to make the playoffs this season, knowing that they are in a murderer's row of the Western Conference. It is hard to pinpoint which team falls off from the top 8 of last season. But the Pelicans did say that improvement was the goal, which we are seeing. If the Pelicans can continue to improve, they should push for a playoff spot.

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