Stats: 27 games played (2 starts), 17.5 mpg, 6.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.4 bpg, 0.3 spg
Highlight: The 24 point, 7 rebound, 2 assist game against the Rockets on April 12th was big but it came in a loss so his six combined threes on the March 21st and 22nd sweep of a back-to-back against the Hawks and Heat gets the nod.
The good: 37.9% from three. Babbitt was brought in to stretch the floor for the Pelicans and he did just that, knocking down almost 38 percent of his threes while taking almost four a game in limited minutes. He was a great addition to a team in need of shooting.
The bad: The 112 defensive rating wasn’t the worst on the roster but it isn’t good. Babbitt isn’t ever going to be a plus defender and playing as a small ball power forward makes life even tougher.
The Ugly: There really isn’t much to hate with Babbitt but I guess his 40.7% from inside the arc would be the ugly. That 40.7% on two point attempts this season which is a rough number for someone who saw most of his minutes at the power forward spot but Babbitt downplayed the issue by taking 61.7 percent of his shots from behind the arc.
With all the injuries to important pieces of the roster the Pelicans looked in a ton of places for roster help in 2014. The players they found varied in impact from guys from the D-League that gave them nothing in James Southerland and Melvin Ely to a guy from France who actually played pretty well in Alexis Ajinca.
Right in the middle of that grouping was Luke Babbitt who after some contract issues with his Russian club Nizhny Novgorod, joined the Pelicans for the last two months of the season in an attempt to find an NBA role beyond knocking down shots to earn fans free food.
Babbitt did exactly what New Orleans asked him to do by providing a floor spacing stretch four off the bench as he knocked down just under 38 percent of his three pointers on the season. The floor spacing that he brought opened up the driving alleys that Ryan Anderson was supposed to before his awful injury and it showed in some of the two-man lineup data with Babbitt and core members of the Pelicans.
In 133 minutes with Davis and Babbitt on the floor the Pelicans shot 50.9 percent from the floor, 41.4 percent from three and had a plus/minus of plus 6.9 points per 48 minutes. In 70 minutes with Gordon the results were similar as the Pelicans shot 50.8 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from three and outscored opponents by 9.6 points per 48 minutes. Finally, and maybe most importantly going forward, with Tyreke Evans and Babbit paired the Pelicans shot 49.2 percent from the floor, 43.8 percent from three and outscored opponents by 10.1 points per 48 minutes.
In fact Babbitt had such an impact on the offense that it was 12.9 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor according to 82games.com.
The biggest reasoning was spacing as the following two stills show:
The play resulted in a Brian Roberts three but the ability of Babbitt to stretch the floor played large part in it. With such a devastating force in Davis rolling down the lane and three floor stretchers on the floor the Raptors play Tyler Hansbrough low in the pick-and-roll. Roberts just comes off the screen and drills the three off the dribble.
This still is the perfect encapsulation of the impact of Babbitt’s shooting. Patrick Patterson is so worried about Babbitt that he hesitates a second too long, which allows Anthony Davis to roll past Patterson without being bumping to slam home a lob from Tyreke Evans.
Defensively Babbitt wasn’t very good, opposing power forwards scored 22.6 points per 48 minutes and posted a 17.8 PER in the same time according to 82games.com, but he didn’t torpedo an already bad Pelicans defense. In fact for the season the Pelicans were just 1.3 points worse per 100 possessions with Babbitt on the floor according to 82games.com, making his impact mostly a positive.
The defensive issues are a product of Babbitt being just 6 foot 9 and not overly athletic so he doesn’t really have a chance to defend bigger power forwards in the post or more athletic guys on the wings.
All-in-all the minutes that Babbitt gave the Pelicans were a huge value considering he was signed so late in the season from another country. It remains to be seen what kind of role he can play with Ryan Anderson returning but at the very least 2014 may have given him another chance in the NBA as more than just a guy who makes shots that earn fans free food like he did in Portland. No one can really be upset with that.