Opening Statements: Wizards vs Pelicans, Game 15 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Pelicans, Game 15

Updated: November 29, 2014



Anthony Davis, his MVP hype, and a colony of Pelicans come to Washington on Saturday night after getting beat in basketball and beaks by the Hawks in Atlanta on Friday. Davis is the league’s leader in PER (33.4), ranks third in Win-Shares Per 48 Minutes (.301) and is doing unprecedented things. The Brow, Pamela McGee, is the future of the NBA. That said, Davis will likely have to wait past the 2014-15 season to get a Maurice Podoloff Trophy. I don’t see a player who doesn’t make the playoffs winning the MVP award.

But I don’t want to bury the Pelicans in the lottery again just yet. New Orleans is my second city, so a following interest in the Saints and Pelicans (should be called the Jazz) as secondary teams is a must. However, seeing how the West stacks up—NOLA is 7-7, 1.5 games from the 8th spot, and tied for the 10th-best winning percentage in the conference—it’s hard to envision them taking the next step with the current roster. The top eight teams are simply too good, Sacramento and Denver are in the way, and Oklahoma City will be chasing.

Eric Gordon, paid like a star ($14.9 million this season, $15.5 next season), but not performing like a one (for quite some time), is now out for an indefinite period of time with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Gordon is one of a handful of players this NBA season who have played more than 350 minutes but are fielding a PER of less than 9.0 (via He is a long way from the max contract promise he once had.

Atlanta’s 100-91 win over New Orleans on Friday evening was wire-to-wire (one lead change, five ties—all in the first quarter), with the Pelicans losing in a very similar fashion as the Wizards did to the Hawks last Tuesday. Jeff Teague, well on his way to being an All-Star in the East, chopped up New Orleans’ defense with dribble penetration and floaters that made Anthony Davis look like a mere mortal. Atlanta led 41-28 at halftime and 62-51 after three quarters. New Orleans made it interesting—as did the Wizards, by scoring 40 points in the fourth quarter but could not stop the Hawks, who scored 38. Eleven of Teague’s 26 points came in the final period.

Without Gordon, head coach Monty Williams has started Darius Miller and Austin Rivers in his place over each of the last two games, alongside usuals Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Davis, and Omer Asik. I would be very surprised if Nene plays for the Wizards tonight (he’s been dubbed “not likely“), meaning that the next man up and best defensive option against Davis would be Kris Humphries. Not exactly inspiring. It will be interesting to see how the Wizards handle Davis. It will be interesting to see if Bradley Beal (or Paul Pierce) is matched up against Evans (who is usually considered a 3) and his physical, slashing ways (46% of Evans’ FGAs come within three feet of the rim). It will be interesting to see if John Wall can keep up with Jrue Holiday (Wall has the edge in stats over 12 meetings, but Holiday’s teams are 7-5).

Davis has averaged 19.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in just 26.8 minutes over four prior games versus the Wizards, which is scary because this year he’s averaging almost 10 minutes more per game (36.3). David has the smarts to match his athleticism. He will post you up slow and patiently, and then make a hyper-quick move toward the paint or gently hit a cutting teammate in stride. The Wizards are a more complete squad than the Pelicans but are certainly susceptible to getting upended by an MVP-like performance.

Stopping by TAI today is Dr. Jason Calmes of Bourbon Street Shots (@BourbonStShots), Pelicans blog in the ESPN TrueHoop Network. Keep reading for Jason’s insights on everything inside the Pelican’s beak, and then head over to Bourbon Street Shots to listen to TAI’s John C. Townsend on the “On The Fly” podcast with Michael Pellissier.

Teams: Wizards vs Pelicans
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN+/NBATV
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WTEM-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards favored by 4.5 points.

Q #1: What the Pelicans do well is apparent: take a lot of shots, make a lot of shots, block a lot of shots, collect a decent amount of offensive rebounds, pass the rock as necessary, and limit turnovers (lowest per game average in the league).

The issues seem to be that they rarely draw fouls, don’t secure defensive boards, and neither take nor make a ton of 3-pointers.

In which of these negative areas could the Pelicans stand to improve the most and how does it happen?

Calmes: They really need to get to the line. This area is one in which they have actually taken a step back compared to last season. The team is built to attack, and they simply do not do so in a way that causes these particular errors from opposing teams. As a matter of fact, while Davis does get to the line very well (6.6 FTAs/G), the high-dollar guards do not get to the line as well as I feel they should. Holiday is a killer from the line, but doesn’t get there enough (2.6 FTAs/G). Tyreke gets a decent amount of free throws (3.7 FTAs/G), but given how he plays, he should have more. His percentages at the rim compared to the line indicate this would be plus, too.

Q #2: Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, and Eric Gordon—is there an end game here?

All three are under contract through 2015-16; Holiday and Evans each have one more season after that. Gordon, now out indefinitely with a torn labrum, is failing miserably to live up to his contract after not even wanting to be in New Orleans having misunderstood the rules of free agency when he signed an offer sheet with Phoenix in 2012. Why are we here again? 

Calmes: The Gordon situation is certainly not a good one. In my opinion, Gordon is to be endured, Evans is trade fodder, an Holiday is the player that has a place here long-term. Evans has worked his way into the starting lineup, and his minutes have increased a bit as a result. Still, he simply does not pass the ball enough to bigs to play a large number of minutes with Davis. His assists seems to me more of the kickout variety. Holiday is not shiny-awesome, but he does so many things well, and he seems a nice long-term piece to play with Davis.

Q #3: I loved the move to get Omer Asik to play alongside Anthony Davis in the summer. How have they worked together on the court so far?

(And are there concerns over the Pelicans being able to keep Asik after this season?)

Calmes: They do well. Asik improves the defense with his presence and with his play. He also allows Davis to play farther from the basket, which means he covers more ground and affects the game more. This could, in the end, be Asik’s biggest effect.

Long-term, Asik has shown that he simply wants to play. He’s a starter in New Orleans, and there’s no real need to upgrade. The Pelicans have his Bird Rights, and they should be able to sign him if they want to. I think he’ll sign a deal without much fanfare.

Q #4: What type of player (i.e., whom within reason) should the Pelicans next try to acquire to make Davis, and the team, better?

Calmes: The team needs a versatile wing player. They need someone who can play inside and out, and someone who can play with some aggression and fire. Preferably, this player would be bigger—so a small forward—but a dynamic shooting guard would also work. With their cap situation, it’ll be a trade that will bring the person in.

Q #5: What is a ‘Luke Babbitt’ and what is his spirit animal? Also, does his hair offer protection from concussions?

Calmes: Luke Babbitt seems to be a forward. He played a bit last night against the Hawks. Despite what his four minutes last night indicate, he’s a decent and eager shooter. Just like what his performance last night indicates, he’s not a great defender. His hair, however, seems to not so much provide protection from concussions, but is part of the mystic channel to Pistol Pete Maravich. The hair and socks give him the shooting prowess. Take those away, he disappears to Europe. Clearly, his spirit animal is a mole. Neither has a use for eyes, and they relay on stealth to feed. Both spend most of their time buried.

Highlights from Last Season.



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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.