The New Orleans Pelicans’ weaknesses are Stan Van Gundy’s strengths.
If you look at this year’s statistics, it is easy to see where the New Orleans Pelicans need to improve. Luckily, they are areas where Stan Van Gundy has a history of success.
The Pelicans finished the 2019-20 season with the 21st ranked defensive rating in the NBA. They were fourth in scoring but it doesn’t matter when you can’t stop anyone.
This problem was even more pronounced in the bubble, where the New Orleans Pelicans got scorched by just about everyone, especially the Kings, who racked up multiple 40 point quarters against the Pels.
Another huge area of weakness was turnovers. The Pelicans coughed it up nearly 14 percent of the time, which was 29th in the NBA. This led to a lot of easy buckets in transition, compounding their defensive problems.
Enter Stan Van Gundy.
New Orleans Pelicans: Stan Van Gundy can fix the defense and turnovers.
If the Pelicans want to get better in defensive rating and turnover percentage, then they hired the right guy in Stan Van Gundy.
Van Gundy’s teams (Orlando, Miami and Detroit) all did well in these categories, which bodes well for the Pelicans.
In Miami, Van Gundy had his team in the top-ten in defensive rating all three years and was top-ten in turnover percentage in two of them.
Orlando never ranked lower than 13th in defensive percentage in Van Gundy’s five seasons, including two top-five finishes and leading the NBA once. They didn’t do as well in turnover percentage but were still in the top half of the league in three of the five seasons.
Part of the reason Orlando didn’t fare as well is that Dwight Howard was handling the ball a lot and turned it over nearly four times a game on average.
In Detroit, a team that was not loaded with talent, Van Gundy was top-ten in defensive percentage in two of the four years, taking Detroit from the bottom of the league to 13th in one season. Detroit was top-ten every season in turnover percentage, finishing as high as 2nd in 2016-17.
If the New Orleans Pelicans can improve in these two areas, they will have a good chance to make the playoffs next season.
Van Gundy was clearly brought in for his experience and to bring some accountability and credibility to the franchise and it starts with improving the defense and turnovers.