The New Orleans Pelicans have hired Alvin Gentry as their new head coach.
Gentry is currently the assistant head coach of the Golden State Warriors and is largely considered the architect of their offence, which finished second in the NBA in offensive rating this season.
The Pelicans’ coaching job was considered one of the most attractive in the NBA for one reason: Anthony Davis.
The 22-year-old carried the team to the playoffs this season, averaging 24 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks per game. In three seasons he’s improved his biggest weakness and become a great jump shooter, and he’s one of three players ever to average 24-10-2 with a PER over 30 in a season.
Gentry was aware of how special of a player Davis is, and he wanted to let Pelicans management know that he can get Davis more involved. According to Monty Poole of CSN Bay Area, Gentry brought charts and graphs showing how to make Davis more of a focal point on offence next season:
Primarily responsible for the Warriors offence — 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.
ESPN’s Marc Stein notes that Gentry was looked upon by Warriors staff and players to draw up a shot when needed, and that the Pelicans were intrigued by Gentry to add more pace to their offence.
Even while averaging 24 points on nearly 18 shots per game, Davis could still be used more on offence. According to NBA.com/Stats, Davis only averaged about 59 “touches” per game — less than forwards like Thaddeus Young, Joakim Noah, Derrick Favours, and David West, all considerably less talented scorers than Davis.
Gentry’s head coaching record isn’t terribly impressive. According to Basketball-Reference, Gentry is 335-370 as a head coach in 12 different stints. However, he’s always been a gifted offensive coach, helping the Phoenix Suns to the No. 1 offence in 2009-10 and two top-10 offenses in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
While Davis is an immensely talented offensive player, Gentry could conceivably get him easier looks than this:
Part of this falls on roster construction, which Gentry will hopefully have a say in. It’s easy to turn a team with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson into an offensive juggernaut. Turning the Pelicans, who currently lack the spacing and shooters to properly surround Davis, into an elite offensive team is a bit tougher.
The Pelicans surprisingly still ranked eighth in offensive rating this season. With better complementary players to surround Davis and Gentry’s more creative offensive schemes, they could become one of the deadliest offensive teams in the NBA next season.
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