New Orleans Pelicans: Who should be the team closer?

After defeating the Portland Trail Blazers, the New Orleans Pelicans are still treading over mediocre waters. One thing they need to establish after this win is figuring out who should close out games.

The New Orleans Pelicans got their 21st win of the season, defeating the Portland Trail Blazers 119-113. With this team sitting with a 21-20 record for the year, they still have a long way to go to improve in the standings.

Having a near .500 record might be somewhat a success for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs the last two seasons, but boasting two top-10 All-Stars on your squad is supposed to elevate your team. The fact that this team is a borderline playoff pretender is troubling.

There are many deficiencies that have plagued the New Orleans Pelicans this season. Mostly it’s been on the defensive side of the ball and in crunch time. Being ranked 23rd in defensive rating and 28th in opponent points per game would kill any team’s chances in winning games consistently.

But what has hurt the Pelicans worst of all is in clutch situations. This team is currently ranked 13th in the league in clutch wins, which is really good. The issue is that they are ranked 19th in plus/minus in those clutch wins. That right there is an issue that needs to be addressed.

The closer

The first problem that plagues the New Orleans Pelicans is that at this juncture, they haven’t established who should close in crunch time. It’s somewhat hilarious to even fathom that sentiment especially at this point in the season, but we have to ask that.

The reason why is when crunching up the numbers of the best clutch players in the league who have played at least 20 games in the season, E’Twaun Moore pops out, ranked 18th in that category. The second-closest Pelican in that ranking is DeMarcus Cousins at 36th.

That stat right there is somewhat disturbing for any Pelicans fans to hear. Kudos to E’Twaun Moore, who has been that reliable down the stretch.

But at the same time, guys like DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis should be the ones making that claim to be the premier closers for their team. They both average around six points per game in the fourth quarter and net the best plus/minus numbers for the rest of their team. The issue is that they haven’t been consistent enough to close out games so far this season.

Looking back

Rajon Rondo was critical scoring two timely baskets in the Pistons game last Monday to get the Pelicans a much-needed win. Even though DeMarcus Cousins scored 15 points during that stretch in the fourth quarter, he did miss three ill-advised 3-point shots that kept Detroit in the game. Rondo had the savvy leadership to attack the defense and head straight to the basket to secure the victory.

Looking at their latest win against the Trail Blazers, Anthony Davis was instrumental in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 points. He was exclusively working around the paint, doing his damage near the rim, which the defense had no answer for. The thing is, we need to see that more often from Davis and the same could be said for Cousins as well.

Both men need to rely on their strengths in crunch time, which is doing their damage in the paint and getting to the foul line. There is absolutely no need for them to be hovering around the 3-point line.

The reason why is because it’ll force the defense to grab the rebound and initiate the fast break. It’s been those type of plays which have hurt the Pelicans, and something they can avoid if they can have their All-Stars get the job done in the clutch.