The timing couldn’t have been worse to shoot a season-low 14.3% from 3-point range last Sunday.
The New Orleans Pelicans made three 3s against the Minnesota Timberwolves in their final regular season game. That tied a season low for makes from distance. That was accompanied by 21 3-point attempts, which also placed among the bottom five over the 82-game schedule.
“Not enough,” Willie Green said about the team’s lack of 3-point attempts in Minnesota. “Just not enough. We’ve got to get more quality looks than that.”
The Pelicans are not unlike other teams. The 3-point shot is highly determinative of wins and losses across the league. The Pelicans posted a 23-9 record when they made more 3s than opponents; conversely, they went 14-29 when they finished with less makes from there.
It must be noted that the margin for error has obviously been smaller since Zion Williamson strained his right hamstring on Jan. 2. Moving forward without a highly efficient 26 points per game required the Pelicans to be better in all areas, including their offensive execution. They struggled with that concept for far longer than expected.
Prior to Williamson’s hamstring injury, the offense was humming along at the eighth-best mark in the league (114.7 ORTG). Between Jan. 3 and Mar. 11, the offensive rating checked in fifth worst (111.1 ORTG). Only the Rockets, Hornets, Pistons and Spurs toiled more. It appeared that the Pelicans would never regroup without their young phenom, but they did finally manage the accomplish that feat.
The Pelicans displayed their most efficient offense down the stretch. Brandon Ingram sat front and center of a revival that was responsible for a 117.9 offensive rating from Mar. 17 onwards. If excluding the regular season finale against the Wolves, the offensive rating jumps over a full point to 119.2 — a figure that exceeds the Sacramento Kings record-setting body of work over the course of the season (118.6 ORTG).
Ingram’s stat line during the final 13 games offers a partial explanation: 28.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 8.1 assists, to go along with a 51.1 field goal percentage, a 38.1 3-point percentage and a 90.5 free throw percentage. The number that should jump off the page most though are his 8.1 assists, and delving deeper, those dimes are far more valuable than can be gleamed on the surface.
From Mar. 17 to the season’s conclusion, no player assisted on more 3-point makes than Ingram. His per-game mark of 4.77 3-point assists trailed only Spencer Dinwiddie’s 4.82.
Domantas Sabonis, Luka Doncic, and Dinwiddie finished 1-2-3 in total 3-point assists on the 2022-23 season overall.
Ingram hovered next to the game’s elites in that category over the final weeks, proving him extremely capable of leading a great offense. His performance also represented a significant departure from career norms.
|3-point Assists per Game||Assist Points per Game|
|10/19/22 – 3/16/23||2.13||11.81|
|3/17/23 – 4/9/23||4.77||21.23|
When evaluating Most Valuable Player Awards, voters often take into account points created in some manner, as four of the previous five MVP recipients led the league in points created per 36 minutes. Despite not counting screen assists, Ingram’s point and assist point totals over the last 13 games would have placed him among the league leaders in points created on the season.
Drawing comparisons to MVP’s is a worthy discussion alone, but today’s focus is on the Pelicans’ 3-point shooting, which finished 15th in conversion rates (36.1 3PT%) and languished 29th in attempts (30.1 3PA).
Willie Green has often preached to his team to shoot more 3s. That message went unheard at times and the team’s execution in that department fell flat in Minnesota. That can’t occur in the play-in tournament since it’s become a potent weapon for the Pelicans, especially when Ingram is dictating like a play-making savant.
Despite the hideous 3-for-21 shooting performance against the Timberwolves, no team was more proficient from deep than the Pelicans since Mar. 17. The biggest driver of the high 3-point shooting percentage was Brandon Ingram. He absolutely fueled makes from distance.
|3PT% via Ingram Passes||3PT% via All Other Attempts|
|Trey Murphy||64.9% (24-37)||32.0% (24-75)|
|CJ McCollum||58.1% (18-31)||35.8% (19-53)|
|Herb Jones||75.0% (9-12)||40.0% (6-15)|
|Josh Richardson||58.3% (7-12)||37.9% (11-29)|
|Jonas Valanciunas||20.0% (1-5)||50.0% (4-8)|
|Dyson Daniels||75.0% (3-4)||18.2% (2-11)|
|Naji Marshall||0% (0-2)||26.7% (4-15)|
|Larry Nance Jr.||0% (0-1)||0% (0-2)|
The Pelicans shot an incredible 59.6% (62-104) from 3-point range off Ingram’s passes over the final 13 games of the season. Conversely, they shot 35.4% (90-254) in all other deep-ball instances.
If the Pelicans wish to get past the Thunder today and then the Timberwolves on Friday to advance to the 2023 NBA playoffs, they would be wise to not only seek out a higher volume of 3-balls, Brandon Ingram needs to be at the center of that attack, utilizing his burgeoning facilitating skills at every opportunity.
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