What went right — and wrong — in the first half
What went right: After dealing with major restrictions on his minutes and being held out of back-to-back games earlier in the season, Jrue Holiday has flourished in a reserve role. In 25 games since moving to the bench, he’s averaging 16.7 points and 5.9 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio near 3-to-1.
What went wrong: Tyreke Evans needed knee surgery in October and again this month, meaning he’s lost for the season after playing just 25 games. Eric Gordon, currently out with a fractured right ring finger, is shooting 37.5 percent from 3-point range, down from 44.8 percent last season.
What went right: Though his numbers are slightly down, All-Star Anthony Davis continues to be one of the NBA’s most productive players, averaging 23.4 points and 10.0 rebounds. Davis has expanded his offensive arsenal with the addition of a respectable 3-point shot.
What went wrong: The Pelicans have struggled to put an NBA-caliber front line around Davis. Quincy Pondexter is sitting out the season after knee surgery, and neither Alonzo Gee nor Dante Cunningham has proved to be a consistently productive replacement. Center Omer Asik has dropped off in virtually every statistical category.
What went right: Moving Holiday into a backup role to play alongside Ryan Anderson has given the Pelicans a potent scoring combo off the bench. They’re averaging a combined 33 points per game as reserves. Holiday and Anderson rank first and second in the NBA in points per game off the bench among players with at least 25 games as reserves.
What went wrong: Outside of Holiday and Anderson, the bench has been an issue. No other current reserve averages more than 6.0 points off the bench, and key bench pieces like Alexis Ajinca and Toney Douglas have been wildly inconsistent.
What went right: After a miserable start and playing with a decimated roster, the Pelicans have shown signs of life defensively under Alvin Gentry and associate head coach Darren Erman. New Orleans ranked last in the NBA in defensive rating through Dec. 20, when its record was 8-19. The Pelicans are 12-14 since, ranking 15th in defensive rating.
What went wrong: Gentry was hired to install a pace-and-space offense, but the Pelicans rank 14th in pace at 98.2 possessions per game. And at times it has appeared Gentry’s pregame messages — about effort and the opponent’s strengths — fell on deaf ears.
On the trading block? Breaking down which Pelicans could be on the move
Most likely to go
F Ryan Anderson: Every contender can use shooting, length and court-spacing in the playoffs, and Anderson provides plenty of it off the bench. Plus, his expiring contract means he’ll likely leave the Pelicans this offseason anyway, so the franchise is motivated to salvage whatever’s left.
G Eric Gordon: He’s less of a pliable fit than Anderson, but Gordon finished among the league’s best 3-point shooters last season and also is on an expiring contract. He’s coming off finger surgery but should be available for the final six weeks of the season.
C Alexis Ajinca: The backup has been buried on the depth chart most of the season and, as a 7-foot-2 scorer with a cap-friendly, long-term contract, he could be packaged with another player to sweeten a potential trade.
F Anthony Davis: The Pelicans won’t move their lone All-Star under any circumstance and are building the entire roster around him and his five-year contract extension.
G Jrue Holiday: The point guard is still coming off the bench but has proved to be far and away the team’s best weapon in the backcourt. And he has a favorable contract.
Stay or go?
G Norris Cole: His expiring contract makes him a potential candidate to be moved, but his value on the open market was minuscule this offseason, making him an unlikely target.
C Omer Asik: The center’s lucrative new contract signed this offseason and uneven performance make him one of the least desirable trade targets in the NBA, but the Pelicans may try to see if they can package him in a trade.
G/F Tyreke Evans: The knee surgery that sidelined him for the rest of the season makes his departure unlikely. But when healthy, he could still be a top scoring option for the right trade partner.
Great to be 8: Breaking down the bottom of the Western Conference playoff race
Record: 26-26, 8th in the Western Conference
Remaining games: 30 (14 home, 16 road)
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .527
Outlook: The Jazz went on an 8-2 surge before the All-Star break and, with big men Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors healthy, they look more likely to climb into the middle of the Western Conference field than to fall back to the pack.
Record: 27-28, 9th in the Western Conference
Remaining games: 27 (12 home, 15 road)
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .523
Outlook: The Rockets have been one of the league’s biggest disappointments. They’ll likely look to be active at the trade deadline, but even their mismatched pieces seem too talented to drop the team out of playoff contention.
Record: 22-31, 10th in the Western Conference
Remaining games: 29 (15 home, 14 road)
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .499
Outlook: For a while, the Kings looked like contenders. But they’re 2-8 in the past 10 games and flirted with firing coach George Karl last week. A combustible roster built around DeMarcus Cousins could make the Kings candidates to fade.
Record: 22-32, 11th in the Western Conference
Remaining games: 28 (15 home, 13 road)
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .478
Outlook: Denver reportedly is looking to deal, but even if it stands pat, a friendly schedule and an improving roster give the Nuggets a shot at a playoff spot — particularly if a team already in the mix, like Dallas, continues to stumble.
New Orleans Pelicans
Record: 20-33, 12th in the Western Conference
Remaining games: 29 (15 home, 14 road)
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .487
Outlook: The Pelicans have yet to string together more than three wins in a row, and the roster is ravaged by injuries. Barring a move to upgrade the talent, a playoff push looks like an uphill climb, even vs. a soft schedule.
The Pelicans’ first half, by the numbers
Percentage of Anthony Davis’ shots taken from 16 feet and beyond. A third of Davis’ attempts came from just in front of or behind the 3-point line, creating the farthest average distance from the basket in his career and sinking his field goal percentage to a career-low 49.9.
Consecutive losses New Orleans has piled up when scoring fewer than 100 points. Their 0-25 record when failing to reach triple digits has been the most consistent part of the Pelicans’ inconsistent season.
The Pelicans’ defensive efficiency rating — they surrender that many points per 100 possessions — which ranks 26th in the NBA. They trail just three teams in the category — the Suns, Lakers and Nets — and those teams’ combined record is 39-124.
New Orleans’ rank in pace. Despite entering the season with a mandate of significantly increasing the tempo under new coach Alvin Gentry, the Pelicans are no more than a middling team in terms of possessions per game, generating 98.2 per 48 minutes.
The likelihood the Pelicans reach the playoffs, according to ESPN. Their odds are derived by simulating the season 10,000 times, and they reveal New Orleans is nearly 10 times more likely to draft in the top three (12.5 percent) than it is to reach the postseason.
Career winning records for Gentry in 12 previous seasons as a head coach, although half were partial seasons because of interim jobs or midseason termination. He’ll need to finish the second half 22-7 to tally a winning record with New Orleans.