The hype for this season was through the roof. Anthony Davis with another year under his belt would be even more improved. Our team would finally be healthy. We were ready to make a real run. But then our players starting dropping like flies before the season started, and we only had 8 players suiting up for the first game. We knew our first few weeks would be rough. Injured players, a new coach, and an extremely tough first half schedule were going to make us work. But I don’t think anyone thought it would be this bad.
Our first glaring problem is defense. The injuries to our team have really hurt us here, specifically Omer Asik and Tyreke Evans. Having these two guys out leaves a huge hole in the paint defensively and absolutely no defense on our bench. Our defensive system is looking alright with lots of switches and help defense, but we just don’t have the defensive talent to execute it properly. Ish Smith, Eric Gordon, and a half-baked Jrue Holiday is obviously worse than Tyreke Evans, Quincy Pondexter, and a full strength Jrue, but we’ll have to deal with the former for a while.
At times our defense has looked alright. Near the end of the Portland game and parts of the second Golden State game our defense was playing pretty well. But we have collapsed at some point in every game so far. All of Game 1 was an embarrassment (24 in the first, 40 overall from Steph), all but a small part of the fourth quarter of Game 2 against Portland was an embarrassment (22 in the first, 37 from McCollum), and the third quarter of Game 3 against the Warriors was an embarrassment (28 in the third, 53 overall for Curry). The only bright side to our defense is that outside of these three huge performances, the rest of the players on the other teams have been average at best against us. In the first game only three guys outside of Steph scored 10 points for the Warriors, and one of them (Draymond Green) only shot 25%. We were able to hold Damian Lillard to 38% shooting in the Portland game. Our defense should definitely improve this year, but not until we’re healthy.
Now here’s a good thing. Our offense has looked so much better than last season. We’re pushing the ball after defensive rebounds. Anthony Davis is handling the ball down the court. We seem to be generating more open shots. The ball isn’t sticking nearly as much. Lots of screens. Lots of movement. It’s a real sight to see after the stagnant offense we’ve had for the past few seasons. We only scored 120 points twice last season. One of those games went into overtime against the Warriors and the other was against the Timberwolves. We’ve already done it in the third game of the season against last year’s best defensive team. Sure, our offense isn’t perfect. It’s far from it actually. But if you watched the Pelicans last season you’ll be able to see the improvements, even with a depleted roster.
Our season has had a rough start, but as our players adapt more to Gentry’s system, and as we get players back from injuries we’ll continue to improve. AD won’t shoot 4 for 20 every night. But he won’t go for 26-15-4 every night either, so our team just needs to find a way to win when he doesn’t (and even when he does right now). Everybody should be a little disappointed by this team right now, but the hype shouldn’t subside. This still deserves to be the most hyped up New Orleans basketball season we’ve seen yet.