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How Alvin Gentry Can Help Anthony Davis, Pelicans Reach Their Full Potential

this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; The New Orleans Pelicans built positive momentum during the 2014-15 season by snapping the franchise's three-year postseason drought, but change was necessary for the team to leap into a more esteemed group of Western Conference contenders on the shoulders of ...

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Old 05-31-2015, 06:30 PM   #1
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How Alvin Gentry Can Help Anthony Davis, Pelicans Reach Their Full Potential

The New Orleans Pelicans built positive momentum during the 2014-15 season by snapping the franchise's three-year postseason drought, but change was necessary for the team to leap into a more esteemed group of Western Conference contenders on the shoulders of Anthony Davis.

Saturday afternoon, the Pelicans formally announced the hiring of head coach Alvin Gentry, who is currently rounding out his tenure as Steve Kerr's lead assistant with the Golden State Warriors:

"Alvin is a well-respected coach that brings many years of experience, a wealth of knowledge, creativity and leadership," Pelicans general manager Dell Demps stated in a press release. "Alvin and I have a shared vision and we look forward to working together in achieving sustained success for Pelican fans and the New Orleans community."

A 335-370 coaching record not withstanding, New Orleans' appointment of Gentry to the top spot on its bench should be heralded.

First and foremost, Gentry is an experienced mind who has helped piece together some of the league's most dynamic offenses.

During his three full seasons with the Phoenix Suns (2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12), Gentry's offense consistently ranked among the top nine in efficiency. And when the Suns finished the 2009-10 campaign with 54 wins and a trip to the Western Conference Finals, they tallied with the league's top offense—producing 115.3 points per 100 possessions.

Now Gentry brings that pedigree to New Orleans, where the Pelicans were already humming on offense.

In the process of capturing the West's eighth and final playoff spot, New Orleans finished the regular season ranked ninth in offensive efficiency. The only Western Conference clubs with higher marks were the Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers.

Evidently, there's still room for improvement on a macro level.

But on a micro level—specifically as it pertains to the 22-year-old Davis—Gentry has an opportunity to develop the Pelicans into a machine that systematically dismantles opponents by running things through the Brow.

CSNBayArea.com's Monte Pool wrote:
Primarily responsible for the Warriors offense — top-rated for most of the season — Gentry believes the Pelicans have underutilized Davis’ offensive skills. Not only did he express this during his initial interview with Loomis and Demps, but Gentry also came into that session equipped with charts and graphs to illustrate his point.

Gentry's got a point.

While the Pelicans used the two-time All-Star on a team-high 27.8 percent of plays, that number only ranked 13th overall—behind the likes of Monta Ellis, DeMar DeRozan, Chris Bosh and Blake Griffin. Davis was also the first qualified player in league history to record a player efficiency rating over 30 while posting a usage rate under 30.

Boiled down, Davis was so dominant that he created his own club by posting one of the highest PERs in league history despite PER rewarding volume shooting and excess usage.

As the Toronto Star's Bruce Arthur tweeted, Davis and Gentry have the potential to make some magic together:

Davis is already one of the game's most prolific pick-and-roll players, having racked up a league-high 365 possessions as a roll man this past season, according to Synergy Sports (via NBA.com). Among players with at least 200 possessions as a roller, Davis was far and away the most efficient. He scored in the 84th percentile, while the next-closest player (Brook Lopez) finished in the 72nd percentile.

Considering Davis shot a career-low 35.4 percent of his shots within three feet and just 16.9 percent of his attempts came between three and 10 feet, Gentry's free-flowing scheme can equip his franchise player with the looks necessary to score even more efficiently.

So that's terrifying.

Gentry's arrival also stands to benefit point guard Jrue Holiday and swingman Tyreke Evans, who will get to push the pace. After ranking 27th in pace (91.4 possessions per 48 minutes) under Monty Williams last season, Pelicans.com's Jim Eichenhofer explained why Gentry's track record should be good news for a young team that rarely ran last year:

As Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver wrote:
Now, with Gentry on deck, the logic behind the coaching change is clear as day: one of the league's slowest teams in recent years plans to significantly pick up the tempo. That's a frightening proposition for opponents, who now must contemplate Anthony Davis like they've never seen him before, in a fast and loose system that should utilize his obscene athleticism and above-the-rim finishing ability.

The more challenging component of Gentry's return to the head coaching ranks will be his ability to craft New Orleans' defense into at least a league-average unit.

"He's not known as a defensive coach, but the last two teams where he was an assistant—Golden State and the L.A. Clippers—were very good on that end," ProBasketballTalk.com's Kurt Helin noted. "The Pelicans have the personnel to be better, but it will be interesting to see what schemes Gentry puts in place."

After ranking 10th and 15th, respectively, in defensive rating during Williams' first two years with the franchise, the Pelicans plummeted toward the bottom of the league's efficiency charts on that end.

Although New Orleans defended the three-point line brilliantly, it was eviscerated by opponents below the free-throw line. According to TeamRankings.com, only the Minnesota Timberwolves surrendered more paint points per game last season.

Tactically speaking, the Pelicans need to shore things up in the pick-and-roll. According to Synergy, the Pelicans allowed the third-most points per possession (0.84) to pick-and-roll ball-handlers and the fifth-most (1.03 points per possession) to roll men.

While there's still plenty for Gentry to tweak upon arrival, his polished resume and the team's personnel suggest New Orleans will have a chance to be one of the league's most improved teams a year after winning 45 games and qualifying for the playoffs.

With Davis' stock soaring, a supporting cast who can provide appropriate relief and an incoming scheme that should maximize the team's speed and versatility across the board, New Orleans has put itself in position to eventually take the West by storm.

All statistics are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com unless noted otherwise.

Alec Nathan covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AlecBNathan.

Read more New Orleans Pelicans news on BleacherReport.com

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