On Friday, we will have the pleasure of witnessing both a fully developed and a burgeoning unicorn face off in The Big Easy. The Grizzlies head to New Orleans to face off against the Pelicans and their high powered offense led by Anthony Davis aka The Brow.
To help us get an insider’s perspective on the matchup, I reached out to the good folks at @PelicanDebrief to help answer this week’s burning questions.
What role players have stepped up this season?
Julius Randle has been amazing this season. Averaging almost 19 points and 9 rebounds a game, Randle has been the pop the Pelicans haven’t had off the bench in years. With Mirotic out the past couple of games with an illness, Randle has stepped in and averaged better than 30 a game. There has even been talk of Randle remaining in the starting lineup even when Mirotic returns. Aside from that a guy like E’Twaun Moore is having a career year averaging the most points of his career at over 14 and while I don’t necessarily consider Jrue Holiday a role player, he is averaging the most points and assists in his career and has been an absolute terror on defense. Definitely among the best 2 way players in the league.
Is there any stopping Anthony Davis? Does he have any weaknesses?
Anthony Davis is a once in a generation player. I mean watching him on a nightly basis is just a privilege. The guy can score, rebound, defend, and is a sneaky good passer. The only person that can stop AD is AD. He is having another career year averaging the most points, rebounds, assists, and steals of his career. You know he sat down with ESPN before the season started and declared he is the best player in the NBA. Whether or not you believe that is up to your own interpretation, but the numbers this year are just off the charts. The only perceived “weakness” one may attest to is at times he shot selection is not the best. He settles for 3s or longer jumpers when he can easily post or take the bigger guy off the dribble because of his guard-like handling ability. But most bigs are shooting 3s these days so it’s more in-line with the current climate in the NBA.
The Pelicans have the 4th best offensive rating in the NBA. Outside of AD, what are some of the main contributing factors to that?
It’s really the Pelicans unselfishness. They are ranked 3rd in the NBA in assists with almost 27 a game. And this has been without their starting point guard Elfrid Payton who has missed 20 games with an ankle injury to start and now a fractured pinkie finger. The five games Payton and Holiday played together on the court, they were both top 5 in assists per game; so the free-flowing offense is the main contributing factor. The Pelicans are top 5 in pace this year after leading the league last year so they really like to get up and down the court. Couple that with the crazy athleticism that AD has and the fact the Pelicans don’t have a true big, then they love to push the pace in a small ball lineup to try to create as many mismatches as possible. The key to slowing them down is getting the guards back on D as quickly as possible. The Pelicans are not a great 3 pointing shooting team coming in at 17th in the league, so their half court offense at times is limited. Their best offense is to just flat out get up and down the court
What will be the keys to the game in the matchup against Memphis
The key to the matchup Friday is the Pelicans getting off to a good start. They have been a good home team coming in at 10-3 on the season, but their last couple of losses at home can be attributed to them getting out of the gate so slowly. Monday against the Clippers they were down 18 not even a couple minutes into the second quarter. The game last Friday against the Heat they were down 30 midway through the second quarter. Now they were able to get back in both games, but faltered down the stretch because they expend so much energy trying to dig themselves out of an early hole that they have little to no energy remaining to finish the game. Getting off to a fast start will be key. Trying to control Mike Conley will also be a problem and how the Pelicans look to guard Marc Gasol. AD doesn’t always like to pound against the bigger guys for 48 minutes so seeing if a Diallo for the Pelicans get some minutes in guarding Gasol will be interesting to see.