New Orleans Pelicans: Defensive liability needs to be addressed

(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images) /

Defense is the biggest liability for the New Orleans Pelicans. If they want to win consistently, they need to address the elephant in the room.

The New Orleans Pelicans crossed into 2018 hoping to change their fortunes in the second half of the season. So far, they have left this week with a 1-1 record heading to their Monday night matchup against the Detroit Pistons.

It really doesn’t matter how the Pelicans practice hard if they show the same consistency of mixed results when it really matters. To many people in the NBA world, it’s hard to take this team seriously when they don’t take themselves seriously.

One week they look like world beaters, crushing their opponents before the fourth quarter starts. And then the next game, they are completely disengaged from the start and allow their opponents to walk all over them from the get-go. It’s extremely frustrating to see a team this talented squander opportunities to win games consistently.

Blame can be thrown to both the coaching staff and the players, but mostly to the talent that steps on the hardwood. This team seems to be clicking on the offensive end of the floor (ranked fourth in the NBA) and making the right plays for easy baskets. But it’s the other end of the floor that has allowed them to suffer just as many losses as wins this season.


Being ranked 25th in defensive rating and 28th in the league in opponent points per game is horrendous to say the least, especially for a team battling for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Those rankings are an indication to everyone who follows the sport that this team isn’t making emphasis on improving on defense.

Look at who is ranked with them at the bottom five of this category in order:

  • 26. Brooklyn Nets
  • 27. Orlando Magic
  • 29. Los Angeles Lakers
  • 30. Phoenix Suns

This is clearly an embarrassing list to be associated with, especially being ranked that low on the defensive end. A lot of NBA analysts and experts have pointed out how there always have been a determined focus for the Pelicans to make stops down the stretch in crucial games.

It’s honestly strange that a team that boasts one of the best shot-blockers in the league in Anthony Davis and another (to some degree) in DeMarcus Cousins can’t rally its teammates to be engaged on the defensive end. But the issue sometimes is that even the leaders of this team have a habit of taking plays off on defense.


Many teams over the years like the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors have been known to focus strictly on the offense just to win games. Having the New Orleans Pelicans follow that route is a horrible idea, not just for the regular season but also the playoffs as well.

One avenue the Pelicans can entertain would be to force opposing offenses off the perimeter and into the paint. It would allow guys like Cousins and Davis to alter those shots with their block attempts, because it seems like most games, most teams have a field day making 3-point shots against the Pelicans, who give up the fourth-most made 3s per game.

Next: 2017-18 Week 12 NBA Power Rankings

If this team can make a habit of forcing the opposition into forced or contested field goal attempts in the paint or baseline, their defense can improve dramatically. The serious question that needs to be asked though is, will they be committed to playing defense in the long run?