In this blog post I decided to take a look back at the 2016-2017 Pelicans in an attempt to identify team needs going forward.  The focus here will be mostly on the team stats, not individual stats.  All data from bkref.com.

Despite playing in a league where *most* of the teams make the playoffs, the Pelicans have failed to qualify for the post season 2 years in a row and 5 of the last 6.  Let’s dive into the stats and try to figure out where the biggest issues are.

Defense

Defense actually isn’t terrible.  Pelicans defense is tied for 7th best when it comes to opponent field goal percentage at .450.  They’re tied for 9th best at defending the 3 point shot in terms of percentage (.353), and 1 of only 11 teams holding opponents to under 50% in 2 point FG%.   What’s more, the Pelicans led the league (tied with 1 other team) in defensive rebounding at 35.1 per game.  Pelicans were also 4th best in blocks, mostly due to AD, but other players definitely chipped in.  I’m going out on a limb and saying defense isn’t the biggest issue.

Offense

In field goal percentage the Pelicans were tied for 19th best (.450).   They were 21st in 2 point % (.495) and 19th in 3 point % (.350).  So, basically bottom 3rd in shooting percentage.  Offensive rebounding is where they struggled, ranking 29th out of 30 teams with just 8.6 offensive rebounds per game.  When your shooting percentage is poor and you’re not getting enough 2nd chance opportunities…

On the bright side, the Pelicans play a fairly clean game on the offensive end.  They were tied for 26th in turnovers (giveaways), which is good.  Only 4 teams had fewer turnovers.  Ditto for personal fouls with only 4 teams committing fewer personal fouls.

Effective FG%

Effective FG% takes into account the fact a 3 point shot is worth more (if you make it) than a 2 point shot.  So, for example, if a player hits 50% of his 2 point shots 40% of his 3 points shots he’s still better off shooting 3 point shots because he gets 40% of 3 points (= 1.2 points) per shot compared to 50% of 2 points (= 1.0 points) per shot.

In terms of eFG%, the Pelicans were tied for 19th at .504.  Their opponents were at .509, and while that’s better than the Pelicans did, it’s actually still a pretty decent percentage to allow opponents to have, good enough for 12th best anyway.

The Pelicans’ turnover percentage was 4th best at 11.7%, but defensive turnover percentage was 19th at 12.4%.  So, they need to get better at getting takeaways, but the defensive eFG% is better than average.

Offensive rebounding percentage was 2nd worst (2nd only to the openly admittedly tanking Dallas Mavericks) at 18.5%.  But the defensive rebounding percentage was tied for 10th best at 76.8%.

When it comes to drawing fouls, as measured by the free throws per field goal attempted stat, the Pelicans were 25th.  They have to do a better job getting to the foul line.  Defensively, the Pelicans were 4th best at not fouling.  This is impressive for a team that gets so many blocks and that holds the opponents to fairly low shooting percentages.

Summary

To recap, I really think the defense is there.  It could be better, don’t get me wrong, but it’s, statistically speaking, a top 10 defense.  The big issue is on offense.  They need more shooters and they need to do a better job getting to the boards for those offensive 2nd chance opportunities.  They also need to do a better job drawing fouls.

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