You’d think by now Alvin Gentry would have a pretty good sense of his team.
With 10 games remaining in the season, you would expect the Pelicans coach to know a lot about his personnel, about which players best suit his system, about who might need to be moved for New Orleans to improve after this dismal 2015-16 outing.
In an ideal world, Gentry would have a handle on his roster.
This season has been anything but ideal.
“(Normally) with 10 games left, I could pretty much say to you, ‘I think these guys are the guys that really fit in, and I’m a little bit concerned about this guy, this guy, this guy,’ ” Gentry said. “But we haven’t had that situation, so we’ll just have to move forward and try to figure it out as we go along.”
The Pelicans, who host the New York Knicks at 7 p.m. Monday in the Smoothie King Center, have lost 260 player games to injury. Five players — forwards Anthony Davis and Quincy Pondexter, and guards Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon and Bryce Dejean-Jones — are out for the rest of the season; Pondexter hasn’t played at all.
Gentry said last week that he doesn’t have “any doubt” he’ll return for a second season despite his disappointing first year. The Pelicans are 26-46 and out of playoff contention a season after a 45-37 finish landed them the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
He expects the Pelicans to be much improved next year even if they don’t make sweeping changes, given the likelihood that they’ll be healthier than they’ve been this season.
That doesn’t mean the Pelicans will stand pat.
It figures to be a busy offseason for the franchise, which has to make decisions about re-signing free agents Gordon and Ryan Anderson. The Pelicans also will have a lottery pick in June’s NBA draft and could have more than $20 million in salary-cap space to spend in free agency.
Ideally, the organization would go into the offseason with a better sense of how its roster fits together and how it fits in Gentry’s system.
But Davis, Evans, Gordon and Holiday played just 19 games together all season, and the Pelicans went 10-9 in those games. Projected over a full season, that winning percentage would have the Pelicans competing for the sixth spot in the Western Conference.
Gentry plans to tweak his system to fit his personnel, he said, but he would like to have a better sense of how the personnel fits before the team goes seeking new pieces in the offseason.
What Gentry knows is that he needs players who “are used to moving the basketball.” He wants an offense built on ball and player movement, and he prefers to stay away from isolation on offense, where the ball goes to a player on one side of the court and you “move everybody to the other side of the floor.”
So, which players fit the profile, and which might not?
“It’s so hard to say, because we didn’t have those guys and we weren’t able to put them out there,” Gentry said. “So I don’t know exactly the fit or not the fit or anything like that.”
That makes evaluating this season a challenge. And it will make the offseason more difficult for whoever’s making the personnel decisions.
“It’s tough right now, because they were injured,” general manager Dell Demps said this past week. “I think the team has showed signs of success when healthy but, at the end of the season, we’re going to all sit down and we’ll come back (and evaluate).”