The Pelicans are amidst a 3 game losing streak, returning home from the road collecting heart wrenching losses against the Suns, Lakers, and Jazz. While the Lakers blew the Pelicans out from start to finish, the Suns and Jazz games could have gone the Pelicans way, with a tight loss in Phoenix and a 16 point lead blown in Salt Lake City.
What has been going on with the Pels that led to these results? The reactions from the fanbase has been strong and all over the map. In some cases, internet forums are calling for Monty’s head already, while some fans believe we’re just off to a slow start, missing Ryan Anderson and just getting used to playing together. Here are 3 things I think the Pelicans need to improve upon in a dog-eat-dog western conference before the season ends up like last year.
1. With a defensive-minded coach, we need to perform for two halves, instead of only the first:
A recurring problem this season so far has been the Pelicans blowing leads and crumbling under pressure in crunch time. We have been particularly weak in the 3rd and have blown double digit leads multiple times this season in the second half. This can be traced back to Monty’s poor rotational schemes. Our opponents’ guards are put in situations offensively in which they have no trouble reaching the basket. Teams are hitting 61.7% of shots within 5 feet of the basket, good for 6th worst in the league. The Pelican’s need to set up a defense that can shut down opposing guards in the second half.
2. We need to be on the positive end of the 3-point +/-:
The Pelicans have plenty of 3-point threats, even without Ryan Anderson thus far. But even with Roberts, Holiday, Gordon, and Evans, nobody is averaging over 2 3-pointers a game this season. We average just over 5 distance shots a game, good for 5th worst in the league, and give up just over 8 per game. This must change if we are going to have any chance going forward, seeing as this should be one of the main strengths of the team. The Pelicans must start making more 3-pointers than they allow.
3. Take better shots in the paint:
The Pels are the worst team in the league at short field goal percentage (within 5 feet) at 52.2%. Shots within that distance should simply not be going in almost half the time, but that’s what New Orleans has managed to pull off thus far in the season. We have attempted the 8th most shots from that range with 272, so we are attacking the basket, but we are taking too many wild shots and desperate tries from short. If the Pelicans can improve on making the easy ones, they will maintain leads for longer, and hopefully manage to stay in the game until the end.
I don’t think that the answer to our problems at this point is firing Monty, but if by 25 games into the season, we don’t show clear signs of learning from our mistakes, playing with better rotationson a matchup basis, and improvement in our shot selection, it may be time for him to go. He will certainly be under the microscope, as Benson, Demps, and company are certainly under a “win now”mindset for this season and going forward.worst in the league.