Pelicans: Grading the progress of Willie Green’s “non-negotiable rules”

Willie Green head coach for the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Willie Green head coach for the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

When the New Orleans Pelicans hired Willie Green to be their head coach, it didn’t take him long to make his imprint.

Green summarized his vision for the team early in his first training camp in what he called “non-negotiable rules” which form the ethos of pretty much every successful team in history.

It’s been more than a year, so how is that vision progressing? Are the New Orleans Pelicans living up to his expectations? Here is a grade for each one.

New Orleans Pelicans: Coach Willie Green’s rules a year later

Rule #1-Compete at a high level: B+

I think a switch flipped when the New Orleans Pelicans returned home after starting the season playing eight of their first 11 games on the road. But prior to that the Pels had a few lackluster performances that led to coach Green calling them out.

We’ve seen max effort since, especially from the bench, which has really given the Pelicans a boost over the last three games.

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This team plays hard and responds to their coach, so while their effort level hasn’t been perfect, it’s been very good and has improved of late.

Rule #2-Defend at a high level: B+

The Pelicans are currently 13th in the NBA in points allowed, giving up slightly more points this season than last, but they have climbed all the way up to 8th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, a huge jump from last season, when they were 20th.

The defense is still a work in progress, though coach Green seems to have figured out some tweaks to the rotation that have helped of late, using rookie Dyson Daniels instead of Devonte’ Graham.

He also unleashed the trio of Herbert Jones, Jose Alvarado and Dyson Daniels against Memphis, a threesome we are going to see more of as the season progresses.

The New Orleans Pelicans are currently the only team in the NBA in the top-10 of both offensive and defensive efficiency, and the scary thing is that they can be better on both ends. I think this defense is going to keep getting better as the season rolls on, so Willie Green is getting the job done.

Rule #3-Share the ball: A

The New Orleans Pelicans have changed their offensive philosophy under coach Green, as they were an iso-heavy offense under Stan Van Gundy. They could still improve in this area, but considering the Pels are trying to inject Zion Williamson back into the lineup, what we’ve seen so far is very promising.

The Pelicans are 8th overall in assists per game and 5th in assist to turnover ratio, so they are not only sharing the ball, but taking care of it. They are 8th in the league in assists per possession, and often doing it without a traditional point guard on the floor.

This is an unselfish team that always looks to make the extra pass, but can still go to clear outs for their stars when they need a bucket. This philosophy keeps everyone involved and engaged on both ends, which is why it is so important to keep the ball moving, even when you have guys like Zion and BI.

The Pelicans play beautiful basketball at times and it’s nice to see a team without egos or cares about who gets the stats, as the only one that really matters is the win column.

Coach Willie Green’s vision for the New Orleans Pelicans is coming to fruition and the best part is that they haven’t even played their best basketball, which should scare the rest of the NBA.

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