A crazy statistic about New Orleans Pelicans Larry Nance Jr.

Larry Nance Jr., New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images)
Larry Nance Jr., New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images) /

With everyone now in full-on free agency mode, it can be hard to remember the players that your team already has under contract. This is the case with New Orleans Pelicans center Larry Nance Jr., who is currently in the middle of a 2-year, 21.6 million dollar deal (per Spotrac). He won’t be a free agent until the summer of 2025 – when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

In recent days, the Pelicans have made it known that they are looking to move their current starting center Jonas Valanciunas in order to add some more rim protection to their roster. Typically, most rim protection comes from centers. And being that Nance is a center, the fact that the Pelicans are looking to add more rim protection to their roster might make some people believe that he’s not doing a good job as a defender.

This is true to some degree. Nance is not a great rim protector. This past season, his block percentage (a solid indicator of a player’s rim protection prowess) was only in the 43rd percentile among bigs (per Cleaning the Glass).

However, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a good defensive season. In fact, according to BBall Index’s D-LEBRON metric, it was quite the opposite.

According to BBall Index’s database, no big man saw a bigger jump in their D-LEBRON (their version of a one-number defensive metric) from 2021-22 to 2022-23 than Nance.

The reason for that is that, despite not being a great rim protector, he’s able to provide value in other areas. For starters, he’s got great hands for his size. Last season, he finished in the 92nd percentile in steal rate among bigs. And outside of his nine games with the Pelicans after the trade deadline in 2022, he’s been in the 85th percentile in this category every year since 2016.

On top of that, he’s also one of the better switch bigs in the league. According to NBA matchup data, five of the top ten players he defended the most field goals against in 2022-23 were non-bigs (Luka Doncic, Saddiq Bey, Anthony Edwards, Ja Morant, and Jordan Poole). That is an indicator that the Pelicans were comfortable switching him onto to smaller matchups.

While the Pelicans do need to fortify their rim protection by adding a more vertical starting center, they also need to remember that their backup is a uniquely gifted defender in his own right.

Next. 10 Players the Pelicans gave up on way too soon. dark