Who is the New Orleans Pelicans’ best defensive playmaker?

Dyson Daniels & Larry Nance Jr., New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Dyson Daniels & Larry Nance Jr., New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

With no NBA basketball being played until Thursday, we figured we would use the time off to take a look at Cerebro Sports’ 5-Metric Suite to see which New Orleans Pelicans’ players perform the best in certain statistical categories.

For this installment, we look at defensive playmaking ability through the lens of Cerebro’s Defensive Statistical (DSI) metric. According to the website, DSI is “an events-creation metric that captures and combines possession-winning actions (steals, offensive, rebounds) with defensive efficiency (blocks, fouls) to act as a proxy for defensive athleticism and feel.”

Now, keep in mind, this is not a one-number catch-all defensive metric like Defensive Estimated Plus-Minus or Defensive RAPTOR. This metric specifically focuses on a player’s defensive playmaking prowess.

With this said, defensive playmaking is an immensely important facet of defense. Think about it this way. You could have the best man defender in the world. He could mirror every one of his matchup’s movements and completely smother them with his presence. He could make the offensive player’s life hell for 23 seconds on the shot clock.

Even with all his noble efforts, there’s still a chance that in the final second, the offensive player could bury a back-breaking jumper in his face at the very last second.

Great defensive playmakers eliminate this possibility. Whether it be through steals, charges, deflections, etc., they create an event that negates the offensive player’s opportunity to attempt a shot. No matter how knowledgeable of a fan you are, everyone knows that you can’t score any points if you never attempt a shot.

Now that we understand the importance of a statistic like DSI, let’s see which Pelicans (minimum 20 games played) are the best at this practice.

And as we have throughout the series, here is the percentile those scores put these players in compared to the rest of the NBA (minimum 20 games played).

The backbone of the Pelicans’ seventh-ranked defense is their ability to create the events that DSI is looking to capture. This year, they are eighth in the NBA in opponent turnover percentage. So it makes sense that 9 of their 13 players who have played more than 20 NBA games this year are above the league average (50th percentile or higher) in this statistic.

Chief among the cavalcade of defensive playmakers is Herbert Jones, who sits in the 96th percentile in this metric – further adding credence to the notion that he is one of the best perimeter defenders in the association.

A pleasant surprise here is Zion Williamson’s standing in DSI. Since he entered the league, he’s been criticized for his defensive shortcomings (namely, his lack of lateral quickness and rim protection). But judging by his DSI score, it looks like he’s not a complete negative on that end after all.

If you enjoyed this statistical overview, be sure to keep checking the website this week for a look at how the team stacks up in Cerebro’s other archetype metrics.

Next. Who is the Pelicans' best floor general?. dark