The Pelicans’ playoff run was unique in the modern NBA

Jonas Valanciunas #17 of the New Orleans Pelicans high fives Brandon Ingram (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Jonas Valanciunas #17 of the New Orleans Pelicans high fives Brandon Ingram (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans had an improbable run to the playoffs last season.

They lost Zion Williamson in the preseason, immediately putting a damper on their chances, and then started with a horrific 2-14 record that had them looking more like a tanking lottery team than one that was going to go on to eventually make the playoffs.

But that’s exactly what happened, as the Pelicans turned things on and eventually battled their way in, even though they still had a losing record overall.

Overcoming their monumentally bad start was just part of what made this playoff run special, as it was unique in the modern NBA.

The New Orleans Pelicans: Winning with old school basketball

The modern NBA is really built around 3-point shooting, with most of the best teams shooting and hitting a high percentage from beyond the arc.

The Pelicans were the exception, as they were near the bottom of the NBA in just about every 3-point category, and were in fact the only team that made the playoffs that ended the season in the bottom 10 in 3-point percentage.

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Not only did the Pelicans not make a high percentage, but they didn’t shoot many to begin with, as they were 27th in the NBA in 3-point attempts.

There were other good teams (Phoenix and Chicago) that didn’t chuck a ton of 3-pointers but the big difference is that those teams made the ones they did take, while the Pelicans shot just 33 percent as a team, 27th in the NBA alongside cellar dwellers like Detroit, Orlando and Oklahoma City.

The Pelicans have yet to do anything this offseason to address the issue, as they have only added Dyson Daniels, who is not considered much of a shooting prospect.

New Orleans will once again rely heavily on the mid-range and paint game, with Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson flanked by guys like Jonas Valanciunas and Herb Jones.

The Pelicans are leaning into to their strengths and will probably buck the 3-point shooting trends of the modern NBA again next season, although a full season of CJ McCollum and some tweaks to Jonas Valanciunas’ game could lead to more attempts overall.

But the Pels will probably look more like an old-school team and that is fine, as they have the personnel to be elite in the mid-range and at the rim, so until they add a couple more sharpshooters to the roster, the Pelicans will be attempting to make another playoff run without the benefit of a ton of 3-pointers.

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