Of the five NBA teams that have not registered a win entering Week 2 of the regular season, by nearly every statistical measurement, New Orleans has been the most competitive. For example, its net rating is better than three one-win clubs (via NBA.com). For the Pelicans to turn competent performances into victories, however, there are a few areas where they must improve, with the most significant perhaps being their discrepancy in free throws compared to opponents. Through three games, New Orleans has attempted 51 foul shots, but its foes have made 94 trips to the charity stripe. With the opposition also shooting an excellent 83 percent at the line, the Pelicans have been outscored by 37 points in that category alone. That’s a critical deficit for a team that’s lost its three games by an average of 6.0 points (including an eight-point overtime defeat in Toronto).
The parade to the foul line by the Raptors, Mavericks and Rockets is a major reason why New Orleans ranks No. 28 in defensive efficiency, allowing 114.8 points per 100 possessions.
Asked how much the Pelicans’ early-season struggles defensively are due to having so many new roster members, guard Josh Hart said at Monday’s shootaround, “That might be part of it, but at the end of the day, defense is effort. We have to make sure we’re there early, we know our spots and make sure we’re communicating. If we do that, it will minimize our fouls and minimize our opponents’ free throws.”
JJ Redick noted that reducing turnovers and being better in crunch time will lead to more wins for the Pelicans, who are averaging 120.3 points per game, but giving up 126.3.
“Valuing every possession a little more; I’ve been a little sloppy with the ball and we’ve had some turnover issues,” Redick said. “(Also) defensive transition, second-chance points, those types of things. The coaches have been (emphasizing those things). As players, we need to do it. The second part is just finishing games. That comes with experience. It’s tough to close teams out, and we’ve played good basketball teams so far.”
It’s exceptionally early in the 82-game schedule, but as measured by NBA.com, Dallas is No. 5 in offensive efficiency, while Houston is 10th. Toronto ranks No. 14.
Other notes from Monday’s shootaround:
Golden State ranks last in defensive efficiency at 124.3 points allowed per 100 possessions, meaning two of the bottom three defensive teams are meeting Monday in the Smoothie King Center. …
New Orleans launched 50 three-pointers at Houston on Saturday and is averaging a staggering 45.3 attempts per game. But as Hart pointed out, “They were open shots. I’ll take 100 threes if they are open and good shots.” Hart only had one trey attempt he rethought vs. the Rockets, a stepback he fired over Houston center Clint Capela. …
The Pelicans’ disadvantage in turnovers is not nearly as drastic as it is in free throws, having committed 50 turnovers and forcing 47. However, many of the mistakes have come in the fourth quarter at crucial junctures. “We’ve got to stop kicking ourselves turnover-wise,” Hart said. …
Redick on the nature of how some NBA players sometimes start seasons slowly but get into gear as the games progress: “It’s the beginning of the season. There is a rhythm – some guys hit the ground running, other guys take a few weeks. It’s early and we have work to do as a group. Each guy can do a little better. There are some guys that are playing great, like Josh and Brandon (Ingram). Lonzo’s (Ball) had some great moments. We just have to keep grinding as a group.”