There may not be any New Orleans Pelicans jerseys surrounding the 3-Point Contest racks during All-Star Weekend.
But, don’t let the lack of shooting star power fool you.
The NBA’s most accurate team from beyond the arc resides in the Smoothie King Center. While it may not be as awe-inspiring as the Golden State Warriors or as voluminous as the Houston Rockets, the Pelicans make up for it by finding the most open looks.
New Orleans entered Friday night converting 38.8 percent of its 335 3-point attempts this season, displaying enough marksmanship to buoy the rest of its offense into the conversation among the NBA’s best.
It’s a number staggering enough to even catch their coach off guard.
“It was a surprise to me. Someone just told me about it,” Alvin Gentry said before Friday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks. “I knew we had shot them well, because I think we’ve taken a lot of really good, open 3s. So, it doesn’t surprise me a lot, but when you think of Houston and Golden State and teams like that, and you’re No. 1, it’s a bit of a surprise.
“But, what we’ve done lately, is we have had such open looks that, of course, we’re shooting at a great rate.”
And while Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins have contributed to the scorching shooting, the Pelicans’ perimeter assault is paced by E’Twaun Moore and Darius Miller.
While neither is a household name, even in most pockets of Louisiana, they’re each sitting near the top of the league’s 3-point charts. Moore ranks third, converting 64-of-135 attempts (47.4 percent) entering Friday, while Miller sits just two spots behind, making 65 of his 143 3-pointers (45.5 percent).
While it’s partially a product their standout performance, when they’re asked about the origin of success it comes back to teammates and philosophy. Cousins and Davis command attention of defenses, forcing opponents to pick their poison, and they often choose to leave the perimeter open in favor of double-teaming the All-Star big men.
That choice generates a scrambling defense, which New Orleans has learned to pick apart with ball movement and extra passes. Up and down the roster, Pelicans players speak of passing up good passes for great passes and the numbers reflect it.
New Orleans ranks second in assists per game and assist ratio, dishing out 26.8 per game; 19.5 percent of all possessions have included an assist. Those are the numbers Gentry has pointed to as signal of unselfishness and a team learning to maximize their possessions by leaning on each other.
“They really give us great opportunities,” Miller said. “I keep saying we have a lot of guys who command a lot of attention, but they move the ball really well too, and it puts us in great position to have great looks. We just have to continue to knock it down.
“They have to double the guys in the post. They have to double AD and Cuz. And then we’ve all done a great job of moving the ball and finding one another. We can continue to do it and keep this going.”
Adding a world-class, pass-first point guard to the abundance of post attention has also boosted the Pelicans’ chemistry. Rajon Rondo dished a franchise-record 25 assists in Wednesday’s win over the Brooklyn Nets, showing off a new level of lethality to the Pelcians attack.
It’s one opposing coaches are trying to tangle with, as New Orleans tries to carry its high-octane identity into 2018.
“It’s a big problem,” Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle said Friday. “It’s almost impossible to guard Davis or Cousins straight up, and then if you double-team them, they’ve got snipers out there. They’re leading the league in 3-point percentage. They’ve created a really big problem here. They’re playing extremely well. I really admire the job that Alvin’s done, getting this group together and firing at all cylinders.”