Starting the 2019-2020 season in a rut, Alvin Gentry has started to get the best out of the New Orleans Pelicans roster, one that’s loaded with talent.
The New Orleans Pelicans skidded out of the gate this season, but maybe that’s an understatement, especially as the fanbase and front office both had pretty high expectations for the team heading into the year.
After starting 6-22 on the heels of a 13-game losing streak, the New Orleans Pelicans have looked like a team renewed since just before Christmas, now 8-3 since getting off the streak.
While many have pointed to the performance of this team’s young players, the rise of Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram being the most noteworthy, head coach Alvin Gentry has certainly done a lot to get this team back on track.
Early in the season, I think it was fair to wonder how long Alvin Gentry could really survive as this team’s head coach, especially with the direction the Pelicans were headed on the defensive end.
Yesterday, the New Orleans Pelicans picked up a 123-108 victory over the Chicago Bulls on a night where they looked really lost in the first half. However, making key substitutions like adding Nickeil Alexander-Walker into the rotation (who posted 11 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds) helped propel this Pelicans team to a convincing win.
As hinted by some of the Bulls after last night’s victory, Gentry is simply winning coaching battles on a nightly basis, frequently winning the battle of adjustments that separate the good coaches from the great ones.
Zach LaVine: “We got outplayed. They locked into what we were doing. They went into their halftime and adjusted their offense a little bit and picked us apart. Same storyline.”
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 9, 2020
Dunn: “Teams are making adjustments. And we gotta be able to adjust with them. Credit New Orleans. They made adjustments to our defense. At the same time, it’s our fault. The players on the court have to be able to see what they’re doing. We just couldn’t get a grasp of it.”
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 9, 2020
Last night was a great example of what’s been a trend of late for the New Orleans Pelicans at half time. Since the Pelicans broke their losing streak on Dec. 18, they’re second in the league in second-half scoring and offense, averaging 59.8 points with a 121.6 offensive rating after the break.
Further, Gentry’s adjustments for the second half put the Pelicans fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.19), first in offensive rebound percentage (37%), second in net rating (14.8), and third in turnover percentage (11.9%).
Alvin Gentry is getting his team ready to play in the second half and that’s impacting the team strongly in a category that matters the most, the win-loss column.
If the last few weeks have told the New Orleans Pelicans anything about their future, it’s that Alvin Gentry is a strong fit to coach this team for at least the next couple of seasons.
More often than not, when an organization hires new leadership in the front office, that group wants to pick most of the players and coaches on their own. After all, the last
Granted, the New Orleans Pelicans hired David Griffin as their primary basketball decision-maker and he was a part of a front office that hired Gentry to be the head coach of the Phoenix Suns.
Considering the two had a history coming into the arrangement, Gentry fit the roster style with the pace-and-space oriented/Steve Nash-era Suns and were often pictured together at scouting events in the offseason, it seems the relationship is still going strong.
There’s always something to be said about the opportunity cost of firing a coach. If he’s the type of person you’d want to bring in for an interview, especially when he coaches a style of play that fits an already talented core, sometimes it’s better just to try and make it work a little longer.
When Zion Williamson comes back into the picture, Alvin Gentry’s offense is probably going to look even a tad better. While the team is getting a lot of good action out of Brandon Ingram, Zion will allow this team to play with even more pace and space, the system that Gentry prefers to run.
Pelicans player development coach Teresa Weatherspoon told Zion Williamson to punch it on this drive.
Not bad. pic.twitter.com/pcMFX86aRb
— Oleh Kosel (@OlehKosel) January 8, 2020
Certainly, there will be a little bit of an adjustment period with Zion Williamson back in the lineup on the offensive end of the floor.
Playing at the league’s sixth-highest pace, the New Orleans Pelicans like to run in transition as much as anyone. However, sometimes when things speed up and the team isn’t tight, it can result in sloppy turnovers instead of easy looks at the rim in those situations.
Based on Cleaning the Glass data, the Pelicans are already making things work pretty well in transition. They rank sixth in points per transition play (126.7 per 100 possessions) and second in points on transition possessions from steals (147.5 per 100 possessions).
Simply not fun to chase in transition due to their number of players who can cause chaos with their wheels alone, the Zion is just going to make this team’s offense more deadly. At season’s end, it would be no surprise to see the Pelicans running sway ahead statistically in transition offense.
Perhaps our early season frustrations with Gentry weren’t exactly fair. The team came into training camp expecting to run a lot of offense through Zion, only for the top-pick to go down just about a week before the season started.
Facing an uphill battle out of the gate against what was the league’s hardest schedule through the first two-and-a-half months of the season, Gentry now gets a chance to take care of the 26th-hardest schedule the rest of the way.
Still learning and growing as a unit, we still have plenty to learn about both the floor and ceiling of this New Orleans Pelicans team, but for the time being, this team is doing a lot more good than bad. While Alvin Gentry’s tenure as head coach hasn’t been full of wins, he’s done a good job with this team so far this season.