New Orleans Pelicans: The stat that is killing the Pels’ offense

The New Orleans Pelicans could benefit from a second shutdown. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
The New Orleans Pelicans could benefit from a second shutdown. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans‘ offense has been feast-or-famine this season, as they occasionally look like the best offense in the NBA and other times look like one of the worst.

Most fans have pointed to 3-point shooting, as the Pelicans have dropped to 27th overall, hitting a woeful 34.3 percent as a team, down from 37 percent last season.

And since they are actually shooting far fewer of them, it makes that number even worse.

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But the problems go deeper than just poor shooting. The Pelicans’ offense has been stagnant at times and they’ve gotten next to nothing from their bench, which has to be considered the worst in the NBA.

Stan Van Gundy’s offense is one that is supposed to be based on fluid ball movement from the inside out, which we have not seen much of this season.

In fact, there is one statistic that is at the heart of all of the Pelicans’ offensive problems.

New Orleans Pelicans: Where do the Pelicans rank in assists?

Most of the Pels’ offensive woes can come down to a lack of ball movement. The New Orleans Pelicans were 3rd in the NBA in assists last season, averaging nearly 27 assists per game as a team.

This season the Pels have plummeted to 22nd overall in the league, averaging just over 23 assists per game.

Assists are not the only measurement of ball movement of course, but they are a pretty good one.

When the Pels share the ball, as they did against the Milwaukee Bucks, their offense generates much better shots that lead to more assists and fewer turnovers. The Pels racked up 32 assists against the Bucks to only nine turnovers.

This was because their passing was crisp and decisive and they didn’t hold or dribble the life out of the ball.

Less passing means more shots out of isolation or off the dribble, which are almost always lower percentage shots.

Part of the reason the Pelicans’ 3-point percentage is down is that they aren’t getting as many good looks.

The ball is moving less, which is leading to tougher shots and just about everyone is to blame.

New Orleans Pelicans: Where does Lonzo Ball rank in assists?

Lonzo Ball leads the New Orleans Pelicans in assists with 4.8 per game, which is 22nd in the NBA among point guards.

Passing is supposed to be Lonzo’s primary skill but so far we have not seen it utilized much in Stan Van Gundy’s offense.

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But Lonzo is not the only one, none of the guards are creating quality shots for their teammates that are leading to assists.

Eric Bledsoe is getting 3.7 per game, down from his career mark of 4.8, while Nickeil-Alexander-Walker is logging just 2.1 assists per game.

To put that into perspective, Steven Adams, the Pels’ center, averages 2.5 assists per game and Zion Williamson adds 2.3 from the power forward spot.

Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson have handled the ball a lot more this season which is part of the reason for the decline in Lonzo’s assists but the other reason is that they just aren’t moving the ball consistently.

When the New Orleans Pelicans make the extra pass in the half-court, or collapse the defense with dribble penetration and kick it out, their offense can be a thing of beauty.

But this season there’s been a lot more standing around on the perimeter watching other guys dribble.

Stan Van Gundy has to find a way to get more playmaking and passing out of his guards.

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