Will Alvin Gentry finally get the New Orleans Pelicans to the playoffs this season?
During the 2014-15 season, the New Orleans Pelicans made the playoffs for the first time since trading Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Alvin Gentry was the offensive guru sitting on the Golden State Warriors bench when they swept the Pelicans in the first round. Naturally, the Pelicans management gravitated towards the former Suns head coach for the opportunity to coach their star player, Anthony Davis.
He did get a lot of the credit in transforming the Golden State Warriors into an offensive juggernaut.
So many observers believed that the Pelicans weren’t maximizing the talent of their star player and the rest of the team. So Monty Williams was let go and Alvin Gentry took over the helm. The Pelicans regressed after that move, for two straight seasons.
In his final Pelicans season, Monty Williams’ team posted a 45-37 record. Gentry was hired to get pass that eighth-seeded record. In the 2015-16 season, the Pelicans went 30-52. Last year, they had a 34-48 record. They never even had a shot to make it to the playoffs.
So what happened that made the Pelicans regress that much?
Alvin Gentry’s first season as the Pelicans head coach was marred by significant injuries to the team. Guys like Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans and Quincy Pondexter were out for huge chunks of the season.
Last year, none of their role players were lost to any significant time to injuries, which was more of luck than anything else.
Alvin Gentry can’t really do much on injuries, but playing minutes he definitely can. Coach Gentry should definitely take a page out of the playbook of Gregg Popovich.
He should play his team more on the road than on their home floor. Having the players play under 30 minutes per game should be ideal, if your long-term goal is making the playoffs.
Both Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins don’t need to play more in long stretches of the game, just key ones. That’s where substitution patterns are key.
Gentry must keep either Anthony Davis or DeMarcus Cousins on the floor at all times. It’ll be key to securing wins and not have a massive drop-off in the bench production. It’s a strategy that many experienced playoff teams use to maintain their lead.
Players like Cheick Diallo, E’Twaun Moore and Ian Clark will see their shot attempts increase, especially from double-team scenarios that Davis or Cousins command.
It’s crucial to have three bench players on the floor with at least two starters at all times, especially with the combination of either Holiday/Davis or Rondo/Cousins. Those guard/center combos have had significant chemistry in the past, which will be crucial during the long season.
That kind of lineup will ante up the scoring production for the Pelicans without any significant setbacks.
Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday will be in the starting lineup when the season starts. Having two point guards playing together on heavy minutes shouldn’t be the long-term direction for the Pelicans, especially on the defensive end. Opposing wing players will switch on them and exploit the mismatch.
Both DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis will need to play off the ball. Isolation plays will not cut it for this season, especially if you want to be in the playoffs by April.
Having Jrue or Rajon be a release valve in the offensive schemes will be critical. Setting up double drag screens for both Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo while they initiate the offense, or even setting up multiple pin-downs for shooters to get wide open shots, are key.
It’ll be interesting to see what Alvin Gentry cooks up this year. Will he utilize that talent he has at his disposal and reach the playoffs? Or will the season be filled with disappointment and regret?