The Pelicans' Twin Towers Project: On Defense
Evan Dyal takes an in-depth look at the New Orlean Pelicans in this six part series
New Orleans is 16th in defense, and the turnovers have led to them giving up a lot of fastbreak points, which has been the biggest problem. How have the big guys done on this end? Cousins has been good, his effort comes and goes, but when he is engaged, he is a force. Overall he ranks in the 67% percentile, well above average. He has done a good job defending pick and rolls.
What is impressive is he has been equally good defending bigs as he has against ball handlers in pick and rolls. He can hold his own on switches most of the time. Where he has struggled is defending spot up players. It is not his thing to be that far away from the basket on a consistent basis. Here is the Pelicans dilemma, they want Davis close to the basket for his shot blocking, but Cousins is also better there.
This is more about Cousins; it doesn't matter as much for Davis he has brilliant all over the floor this year. He ranks in the 90th percentile overall. His length, instincts, and quickness are all elite. Davis like Cousins can defend both the roll man and the ball handler in pick and rolls, except he is even better. He ranks 80th against the ball handler and is in the 92nd percentile against the roll man. Overall Davis has been elite, and Cousins has been above average. Precisely what the Pelicans hoped for. If Cousins can step up his effort more consistently; than the Pelicans can take a jump. New Orleans has had its struggles on defense but don't blame the twin towers, especially Davis.
One other reason why Cousins should spend some more time in the paint is New Orleans is 17th in opponent’s points in the paint per game. The good news is they are 14th in defensive rebounding, but they should be even better. Rondo returning should help, because he is such a good rebounder for a guard, and one of their few wings or guards that can rebound. They may need Rondo to turn the clock back defensively on the perimeter. Right now the Pelicans are 19th in defending the three. Part of this is Jrue Holiday having to guard bigger wings; Jameer Nelson is not great on this end and Tony Allen being hurt.
Allen is back now and may need more minutes. Naturally, his lack of shooting hurts, but his defense is a difference maker. On offense maybe he can cut enough to be a factor. The Pelicans need to cut down opponents threes. Giving up points in the paint and threes is a recipe for disaster. New Orleans needs to take away one. A positive is the Pelicans are 12th in opponent’s free throws per game. You add it all up, and you have an average defense. If the Pelicans can cut down the turnovers and get better on transition defense than they can be an above average defense they have the personnel for it.
*Stats accurate as of 11/28/17