The New Orleans Pelicans can be even more dangerous on offense in 2021 by mixing their ball-handlers
Winning in the modern NBA is all about finding schematic innovations. Look at the two most recent champions in the league, the Golden State Warriors went on a spectacular run thanks to their innovative 3 point attack while last year’s Toronto Raptors won thanks to Nick Nurse’s blend of zone defenses. The New Orleans Pelicans have a chance to be innovative too.
As I’m watching the NBA playoffs, I’m seeing a trend of ball-handlers dominating games by controlling their entire team’s offense. A few specific examples of this trend that stand out to me are Jimmy Butler, Jamal Murray, and James Harden. To a degree, players like Kemba Walker, Kyle Lowry, and Kawhi Leonard are dominating in the same fashion.
Recently, I wrote that if the New Orleans Pelicans ever wanted to be a true title contender, Lonzo Ball would have to leap to that level. I want to alter that position a bit.
How the New Orleans Pelicans can dominate with their ball-handlers in 2021
I was spending a lot of time assessing whether or not Lonzo Ball could become a force at the level of the players I mentioned above, but I didn’t take into account the New Orleans Pelicans roster. See, I’ve spent a lot of this offseason evaluating the Pelicans current roster and I felt that they were too deep at the guard positions. My thought to this point is that the team needed to balance their roster to contend.
Now, I believe that the New Orleans Pelicans’ depth at their guard positions can benefit the team in 2021 under the right coach and right offensive system. Just like the growing trend of ball-handlers dominating the playoffs, there’s also a trend in the NBA of teams using multiple ball-handlers in ways they never have before.
Some of the coaches who were at the forefront of this coaching trend include some names that we’ve detailed for the New Orleans Pelicans. Kenny Atkinson who recently coached the Brooklyn Nets led the team to the playoffs by using D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Caris LeVert in a multiple ball-handler offense. Atkinson’s offense blended his guards with each running either isolation or pick-and-roll sets.
Billy Donovan who just hit the market also made waves in the NBA this past season with his three-guard line up of Chris Paul, Shai Gilegous-Alexander, and Dennis Schroder. That’s before even mentioning Gregg Popovich’s two assistant coaches getting interviews who played major roles in the team switching to a multiple ball-handler approach in the NBA bubble.
This is an offense that I think can benefit the New Orleans Pelicans’ current roster with one of these coaches. The reason I’m so high on this approach is that when looking at the Pelicans’ ball-handlers they all bring something different to the table.
Lonzo Ball is a stellar playmaker who can hit any of his teammates for open looks when the ball is in his hands. Jrue Holiday is great at driving to the rim off screens and drawing contact. Then, there’s Brandon Ingram who is showing the potential to be a deadly isolation scorer.
That’s not one but three dynamic ball-handlers! We haven’t even mentioned Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Frank Jackson, or Didi Louzada who are all poised to play bigger roles for the Pelicans in 2021.
In my view, a multiple ball-handler attack in 2021 will put pressure on all the opposing teams the New Orleans Pelicans face. First off many defensive units will be putting a lot of effort into stopping the physical force that is Zion Williamson. Adding multiple playmakers on top of Williamson will make the Pelicans even tougher to gameplan against on a nightly basis.
What the New Orleans Pelicans become on offense next season depends on who’s holding the clipboard for the team in 2021. If I’m in David Griffin’s ear, I urge him to consider Atkinson or Donovan for the offensive fit on the roster.