Scouting Report: New Orleans Pelicans
The Hawks (31-35) will look to extend their current win streak to six games when they face the Pelicans (27-40) tonight at Philips Arena. The Pelicans have lost three of their last four games, most recently a loss on Wednesday night to the Raptors when they were without their star forward Anthony Davis who was suffering from an upper respiratory illness.
Davis has been tremendous all season playing at an All-Star level for the Pelicans averaging 21.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game. In just his second season, he has continued to improve his offensive game, particularly shooting the ball from the mid-range. Already a terrific ball-handler for his size, Davis’ improved shooting has forced defenders to play closer to him in the mid-range, making his off-the-dribble game when facing up from the high post even more devastating.
Defensively, Davis is the anchor at the rim for the Pelicans, and with his long wingspan and great leaping ability he is able to erase shot attempts at the rim better than anyone in the league — his 2.9 blocks per game leads the NBA. Davis is more than just a shot blocking specialist, and his athleticism and length makes him an effective one-on-one defender even when drawn out to the perimeter. The Hawks have done well this season when Pero Antic and Paul Millsap have shared the court together drawing shot blockers away from the paint to help open up driving lanes for the point guards and space for cuts from wing players. With Davis’ athleticism, the match-up between he and the Hawks’ stretch bigs will be one to watch.
The Pelicans’ backcourt combo of Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans has yet to really click as they initially envisioned it working this offseason — a big part of that difficulty has been due to the season-ending injury to Jrue Holiday. Gordon is averaging 15.1 points per game and has been excellent shooting from deep at 39.1%, while Evans is scoring 13.4 points per game on just 42.3% shooting and a dismal 21.3% from three-point range.
With Holiday out, the Pelicans have had to rotate Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts as their point guards, but they haven’t been able to recreate the impact — on either end — that Holiday had. Rivers has improved from last season but still struggles scoring efficiently, shooting just 39.3% from the field. Neither Rivers nor Roberts are the level of defender that Holiday was, so Jeff Teague should be able to find success penetrating the initial backcourt defense of the Pelicans to get in the lane to either score or facilitate.