As I write this with a belly still full from Christmas dinner, it’s easy to be excited about this past weekend. The Pels looked great on their swing through Florida, comfortably beating a struggling Magic team and taking apart the Heat in the second half to go 2-2 on their road trip. Which also just about sums up what this team has been this year.
The Pels have been consistently inconsistent. Go up 13 in the first quarter of the opener against the Warriors, only to be up by just 3 going to half. The next time they played the Warriors, the Pels were up by 20 at the half before they blew that lead within a few minutes of the third quarter. Shoot 54.5% from three against Houston, without Davis, but lose the touch in the 4th and lose by 7. I mean, what is this:
There’s a few W’s in a row and a few L’s in a row and then a nice W-L-W-L over the past 10. Who is this team really? What do you see when you look at them?
I think the biggest test case is what people say about Boogie. What you think of Boogie’s play this year probable relates well to what you think of the Pels this year. There were a lot of people who were excited to see Point Boogie (I was one of them). You look at what Coach Finch did with Jokic in Denver last year and think that because Boogie is an overall better player, he should be a better version of Jokic. Instead, we have gotten turnover after turnover, which has been a huge part of the Pels losses even when they do play well. But let’s take a step back and analyze what we should have expected from Boogie.
.88, .82, .83, .86 – what are these? These are Boogie’s assist to turnover ratio for the 4 seasons prior to last season. During his time in Sacramento last year, Boogie stepped up as a passer and posted an assist/turnover ratio of 1.29 in his 55 games. Then he came to New Orleans and posted a 1.06 ratio in his 17 games as a Pel. Both of those numbers (and combined to the 1.23 for the season) would be career highs. To create an expectation for Boogie based on his career as a passer was always dubious. He’s averaged over 3 turnovers per game every season, save his second year in the league. And he was never relied upon to be as much of a creative force and dictate an offense as he has this year in New Orleans.
To put Boogie’s numbers in perspective, Jokic had an assist/turnover ratio of 2.10 last year, which was 6th in the league for forwards with over 20 mins per game and a usage rate of over 20%. Ahead of him on that list were Butler, Durant, LeBron, Blake Griffin and weirdly enough Pelicans killer Will Barton. Or in simpler terms, Jokic was an elite passing big last year. Boogie was 22nd.
It’s easy to be frustrated by this team, especially Boogie’s turnovers, because there has been so much good. This year the Pels offense has been pretty stellar even with Boogie’s turnovers. They are putting up the fifth most per game and are 4th in the league in 3-point percentage. With all the talk at the end of last season about giving the team an off-season to figure out how to play together, it’s easy to point to the success on the offensive end. The defense is still a work in progress but that was always going to be a struggle after Hill got hurt before the season started. And when you’re playing a non-playoff minded Rondo for big minutes every game (I’m a believer that Rondo knows how to play good defense but only shows it in the playoffs).
The Pels have already played Golden State three times and finish 2017 against Brooklyn, Dallas, and the Knicks, which is a needed break after that terror of a Western Conference stretch that book-ended Thanksgiving. There’s a chance they can end up at 20-16 going into 2018, which would be the first time they were 4 games over .500 since the playoff season from a few year’s ago. The first game they got there was when Davis hit that shot against OKC (I just needed to put that shot in here – it’s awesome).
The Pels are up four in the loss column on the Jazz, who have to play Golden State and Cleveland before the Pels go to Utah to start 2018. There’s a chance that the Pels are up 5 or 6 games on the Jazz going into that game in Utah to start 2018.
So where does that leave us with Boogie? For as much as he has struggled to keep the ball, the Pels and Boogie are well positioned to make it into the playoffs. Their next three opponents are in the bottom seven of all teams in steals, and I expect Boogie to still have 3-4 turnovers per game. That’s who he is. The real question is whether Boogie can cut his turnovers down by 1 per game and propel the Pels beyond just the 8-seed.