The New Orleans Pelicans are making a playoff push in the Western Conference. After winning their fourth game in a row versus the New York Knicks, the Pelicans are now 1.5 games out the eighth seed.
A big reason for the team’s success has been the sharp-shooting of Langston Galloway. Galloway, who signed with the Pelicans this past offseason, got off to a slow start this season. However, he has steadily improved throughout the campaign. Galloway is proving to be one of the league’s elite late-game perimeter shooters. With his no-conscience shooter’s mentality, you don’t have to tell Galloway twice to let it fly.
Basketball Insiders caught up with Galloway to discuss his transition to the Pelicans, the changes he has adapted this season to improve his performance, and how he got his new nickname in New Orleans.
Rauchbach: What is the biggest difference you have found transitioning from the Knicks to the Pelicans on the court this season? What’s the biggest change?
Galloway: “The biggest change on the court is the pace of our team. We are out there trying to score 100 points a game and play great defense. The main thing is the freedom to move and things that can work with pick-and-roll. It is definitely a lot better, and I am definitely enjoying it.”
Rauchbach: Are you finding different ways to score in Coach Alvin Gentry’s offense when compared to last year? How are you scoring differently this year?
Galloway: “I definitely worked on it real hard this summer. I worked on a lot of ball screens and just how to find different ways to get easier buckets. I think working with [trainer] Drew Hanlen this summer definitely helped out. With Coach Gentry, he really is a great offensive coach… he wants us to go out there and play free and play with a green light. Especially with myself, he gives me the green light to go out there. He gives us the confidence to go out there [and] keep doing your thing. Go out there and play great defense, but at the same time offensively be aggressive.”
Rauchbach: I was reading that you picked up the nickname Green Light Galloway this season with the Pelicans?
Galloway: “(laughs) Yeah, they gave me a nickname. One of the reporters down here gave me that nickname. It seems like it is sticking right now. I am trying to see what’s going to happen with it, but as of right now, I am just out there having fun. Whatever happens happens.”
Rauchbach: From what I understand, they nicknamed you that because you really have no conscience when you are shooting the ball. Where did that mentality come from?
Galloway: “I think my confidence has grown with all the work I have been putting in. Like I said, all the work I have been putting in with Drew Hanlen and with Pure Sweat, and also just the work I have been putting in the gym… A lot of late nights to get up a lot of shots and just the confidence I have in my shot. I know that once I cross half-court, I feel like I am in range to knock down the shot, so that’s definitely the confidence I have [from] my teammates, that they continue to fill me with. They always tell me, ‘Hey the next shot is going in.” And I am like, ‘Hey, I know it’s going in.’ I might miss 10 in a row, but that 11th one is going to go in.”
Rauchbach: You started the season off slowly, averaging 3.9 points through October, but have rebounded nicely over the past couple of months. In December, you averaged 11.6 points and had a career-high 26 points against the Grizzlies. What has allowed you to put up those numbers as of late?
Galloway: “I think I am just getting more comfortable. I think the first couple of games we definitely had some great opponents that we faced, but at the same time, I was just trying to get used to playing back home. Definitely a little nerve-wracking playing back at home, but just [had to] get comfortable again. But lately, I am getting more comfortable and enjoying having the family there and just loving the whole environment of playing down here in New Orleans.”
Rauchbach: Did you tweak your preparation throughout the October/November time frame in order to get you back on track, like getting more shots up, watching more film?
Galloway: “Yeah, I definitely stayed in the gym a lot longer. There were definitely a lot of long nights, and we would go back to the gym and keep working on it and just figure out what I could continue to do – just work on it. It’s never an easy process when you want to do something that you love and you want to be great at it. That’s why I just continued to stay at it and continued to keep working hard. It’s going to continue to show and continue to pay off during this season.”
Rauchbach: Your three-point percentage has improved by about five percent, and scoring has increased from 7.7 to 9.9 points per game from last season. Why do you feel the reason for that is?
Galloway: “I really can’t put my finger on it. I definitely had a lot of great looks last year, but things weren’t falling for me. It was just a tough time, but this year I am out there playing free and just enjoying myself. And like my Mom always tells me, ‘Just go out there and have fun.’ My wife is always telling me go out and have fun too. I’m just enjoying it and playing the game I love.”
Rauchbach: You’re one of the leaders in the league in fourth quarter three-point shooting efficiency (55.6 percent). What changes for you in the fourth quarter?
Galloway: “I just think that Coach just draws up a lot of great plays for me in the fourth quarter, and then my teammates know I want the ball… and the fourth quarter just happens to be at the specific time that we need [big shots]. I just stay confident whenever we need a big shot and stay locked in.”
Rauchbach: Do you think the return of Jrue Holiday (and Tyreke Evans) has helped you with the type of quality shots you are now getting?
Galloway: “Yeah, we got Jrue back and Tyreke back and just getting most of our team back, I think that it made everybody just see where they were going to get their shots from and made the offense flow a lot easier. We have a lot of great guys on this team. Everybody is unselfish and everybody wants to win. Everybody is just trying to help each other win, and that’s a big key right now.”
Rauchbach: What has your experience been sharing backcourt duties with Tim Frazier? Both of you guys have similar backgrounds in going undrafted and earning guaranteed contracts this season.
Galloway: “It has been great. Tim is another guy who has a similar story to me, but at the same time we both just want to be successful and want to make it. We know where we have been at it, and what it took to get here, and now we don’t want to go back to the D-League. We want to continue to improve and continue to show what we can do, so it’s definitely great. I think we are both just having fun out there and just trying to push each other to be great.”
Rauchbach: What are some of your focuses heading into January in regards to improving parts of your game? For instance, you are killing it on catch-and-shoot and dribble hand-off opportunities ,ranking in the upper part of league. But pick-and-roll and isolation opportunities seem to be slightly down for you when compared to last season. What adjustments are you thinking about making to improve in these areas?
Galloway: “I just gotta keep working at it. I think it’s a long season. Just slowly but surely, you work on it. I think the more and more I work on it, the more and more I get better with it, and with the time I put in, I’ll get the results I want.”
Rauchbach: Do you keep in touch with any of your old Knicks’ teammates?
Galloway: “Here and there, I definitely keep in touch with them. I talk to Kristaps [Porzingis] once or twice and then everybody else… it will be great to see them, and it’s definitely going to be a battle [when we play them]. Everybody is competitive, and it’s always great to play against your old team. They know my tendencies, and they are definitely going to take me away from that. They are a great team. They are doing really good this year. They have a lot of new guys on the team, so it’s definitely going to be a great test for us.”
Rauchbach: What do you think of Kristaps’ improvement this season when compared to last?
Galloway: “He has been doing great. You could see it last year coming. He puts the work in. He is a great player. The more and more he continues to learn and the stronger he gets, you can see he is getting better game by game.”
Rauchbach: You guys are two games out of the playoffs. What do you think the key is individually and collectively for your team to grind your way into a playoff spot in the West?
Galloway: “I think we just have to stay consistent and keep having fun. That is what we have been doing these past few games, and it has been getting a lot better with the team camaraderie. I think we are focused on the task at hand, and that might mean one night we have to get a lot of stops and we gotta get up and down, and the next night it might mean we have to lock in and score the ball. We have a lot of guys on the court that can play, and everybody knows the game. It’s definitely huge for us going forward, and we know we are two games out of the playoffs. We don’t want to settle for just getting in the playoffs. We want to keep moving up and up in the standings.”
Rauchbach: What are your individual and collective goals for the rest of the season?
Galloway: “My team and individual goals are just to make the playoffs. That’s all I care about. My first two seasons, we weren’t able to make the playoffs. And now in the third year, it’s just like hey, [it’s time]. The further and further you get into your career, you want to make the playoffs and experience that and definitely just want to help this team in anyway that I can to make the playoffs.”
The Pelicans are currently 14-22, trailing the eighth seed in the Western Conference by two games. They have the seventh-ranked defense in the NBA, allowing just 103.6 points per 100 possessions.
Will The Pacers’ Change In Style Pay Off?
With deals and changes abound, the Indiana Pacers’ wild rebuild marks them as a franchise on the rise.
After coming off four consecutive first-round exits under head coach Nate McMillan, the Indiana Pacers decided it was time to make a change. Instead of dismantling or retooling a core that had been acquired mostly by opportunistic deals, general manager Kevin Pritchard went in a different direction and, early into the season, it seems like it has paid off.
Under Nate Bjorkgren, the Indiana Pacers have dramatically transformed their style of play. Many of the mid-range jumpers they took last season have turned into shots at the rim or three-pointers instead. There are a lot more dribble hand-offs, staggered screens and an overall sense of purpose in every action on offense. The offense has operated like a well-oiled machine, largely with Domantas Sabonis acting as the main engine.
This has led to Sabonis’ play and potential being unlocked. Ultimately, Sabonis is well on his way to another All-Star appearance, averaging career highs in points (21.7 PPG), rebounds (12.8 RPG) and assists (5.8 APG). While his usage is similar to last season’s, the way he’s being utilized is very different. With McMillan, Sabonis was mostly used as a post-up big who also scored a lot as a roll-man. Bjorkgren is giving him those same touches but he has also a lot more free reign to operate and make decisions.
Sabonis is now attacking teams in semi-transition after defensive rebounds. Basically, all the offensive actions are run through him, which have accentuated his passing ability. His range has also improved, and he’s turned his 20-foot jumpers into three-point attempts. Moreover, it’s a huge part of the reason why the Pacers rank 11th in offensive rating (111.3). Sabonis is a walking mismatch who can play almost any role in an offense and Bjorkgren has let him roam free.
Better, Malcolm Brogdon is also playing at an All-Star level. He’s averaging 22.2 points per game along with 7.5 assists per game, both career highs. Brogdon’s shooting 43.3 percent from three and is another player who’s benefitted from Bjorkgren’s offense. Brogdon’s ability to shoot threes while dribbling off screens and the ability to attack out of dribble hand-offs has allowed for the Pacers’ offense to be far less predictable than in the past.
Myles Turner is probably in the lead for Defensive Player of the Year so far. He’s averaging an insane 4.2 blocks per game, practically shutting down the paint for opposing offenses. Turner has been relegated to a mostly spot-up role in the offense, but those mid-range jumpers from last season have become three-pointers to this point. While he has struggled to hit three’s so far, his shot quality is considerably better. However, his value comes on the defensive end, where he is anchoring the 9th best team in defensive rating at 107.8. Opponents are shooting just 54.4 percent in the restricted area when Turner is in. Although his recent hand fracture will surely complicate proceedings there and the Pacers will miss him sorely.
The Indiana bench has also provided some good minutes. Doug McDermott is effective not only with his jumper but with his underrated cutting ability. Justin Holiday has been solid and is shooting 43.1 percent from three. His brother, Aaron Holiday, has had his ups and downs but built himself into a solid rotation player. Naturally, TJ McConnell has been his usual pesky-self.
There’s still plenty of room for upside as the Pacers have dealt with injuries to some key guys. TJ Warren, last season’s bubble breakout star, is out indefinitely after having foot surgery. Jeremy Lamb tore his ACL last season, is close to returning but hasn’t played a single minute this season. The Pacers’ newest addition, Caris LeVert, will be out indefinitely after a small mass was found on his kidney. All three are proven guys who can really help Indiana take the next step.
Sadly, it gets more difficult with Turner’s injury too.
Interestingly enough, many of the players have seemingly gone out of their way to not only express their appreciation for Bjorkgren’s coaching – while also knowing the difference compared to years past. Brogdon, Sabonis and McDermott have all seemingly made it clear that this style of play is preferable to last year under McMillan.
“In seasons past, the offense didn’t call for me to do those certain things,” Turner said “But coach has a lot of confidence in me… I’ve just had the chance to show it this season.”
Questions about the Turner-Sabonis pairing now seem to have gone away. It’s no secret that Turner oft mentioned in trade rumors the entire offseason in large part due to his perceived fit with Sabonis. Bjorkgren has found a way to maximize both player’s skillsets while also keeping them happy with their roles. Bigger, Pacers’ lineups with Sabonis and Turner have a 2.5 net rating.
The improved play of the Indiana stars is something that can be attributed to Bjorkgren’s shift in their style of play. It’s what Pritchard was hoping for when he made the coaching change. The Pacers made a calculated gamble when they fired a proven coach with this roster in Nate McMillan and now the Pacers are 8-5 with room to grow. If Sabonis and Brogdon can continue this level of play as guys come back healthy, the Pacers will be a team no one wants to face come playoff time.
Myles Turner Making A Difference With Defense
The Indiana Pacers have always been a good defensive team, but Myles Turner is on a mission this season to take them to an elite level. Chad Smith takes a closer look at the impact Turner has had as the anchor of Indiana’s defense.
This week has been a roller coaster ride for the Indiana Pacers, who are returning home after splitting a four-game West Coast trip. It was supposed to be five games but their matchup with the Phoenix Suns was postponed due to contract tracing within the Suns organization. On their day off between games, Indiana traded away All-Star guard Victor Oladipo as part of a four-team blockbuster that sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets.
What they got in return seemed too good to be true, until it was. Acquiring a young and talented player like Caris LeVert, whom they originally drafted and subsequently traded to Brooklyn, took many people by surprise. With Oladipo not planning to return next season, it was a brilliant move by Indiana, especially when you consider LeVert’s upside and his team-friendly contract. On top of that, the Pacers also received a 2024 second-round pick (via Cleveland), a 2023 second-round pick (via Houston) and $2.6 million from the Nets.
Unfortunately, the Pacers’ medical staff discovered what the team described as “a small mass” on LeVert’s left kidney while undergoing a routine physical. The good news for LeVert is that this was found and he can begin whatever treatment is necessary for him to return to playing basketball at some point. For now, though, the Pacers will employ the “next man up” philosophy. The team has already lost TJ Warren indefinitely and have been without Jeremy Lamb all season. Now Myles Turner may soon join them on the sidelines.
Myles missed his first game of the season on Sunday due to an injury on his right hand. He met with team doctors on Monday and early reports are that he has a slight fracture in his right hand and will be re-evaluated in the coming days.
In that game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the absence of Turner was glaring. Even without Serge Ibaka and Lou Williams, the Clippers shot 55 percent from the floor and 49 percent from behind the arc. Nearly half of their 129 points came in the paint as they destroyed the Pacers by 33 points, in a game that wasn’t even that close. Indiana had just two blocks in the game and even those came in garbage time.
When Nate Bjorkgren was named the Pacers’ new head coach back in October, many around the league wondered what that meant for Turner. Would the experiment next to Domantas Sabonis come to an end? Were his days as a Pacer now numbered? A rumored sign-and-trade deal with the Boston Celtics for Gordon Hayward never came to fruition, but that ended up working out well for both Myles and the Pacers organization.
When the Pacers selected Turner with the 11th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the opinions on him were split. While many saw the raw, unlocked potential that he possessed, others were skeptical of his lack of lateral movement and, of all things, the way that he ran up and down the court.
Draft evaluators were concerned that his awkward running style would lead to long-term effects on his knees. In a breakdown by Draft Express, they noted that “His awkward running style might not change anytime soon. He noticeably lumbers getting up and down the floor, and only made five field goals all season in transition situations.” That was in reference to his Freshman season at Texas, where Turner averaged 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks per game while shooting 46 percent from the field.
Fast forward to 2021, where Turner is having arguably the best season of his career. While he is scoring at the same level, he has improved several other facets of his game. He is shooting the ball with more confidence, attacking the basket more off the dribble and even hitting the offensive glass. While his three-point shooting is down largely due to more attempts, his work in the paint has him shooting a career-high 63 percent from inside the arc.
Obviously, the blocks are what really pops out, as he leads the league at 4.2 per game. That is staggering when you consider the next best is Rudy Gobert at 2.7 per game, while Chris Boucher is the only other player averaging at least two per game. By comparison, when Turner led the league in blocks during the 2018-19 season his average was 2.7 per game. Entering Sunday’s slate of games, Turner was actually averaging more blocks per game than six teams.
Myles Turner: Swat team captain 🚫 pic.twitter.com/As9SFTUP3g
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 17, 2021
Following a game earlier this season, Turner elaborated on his goals for the year: “It’s definitely been a goal for myself to start the season off strong on the defensive end. I’ve gotten the respect as a shot-blocker in this league. I know it’s something that I do. But I’m trying to take that to the next step.”
“I’ve already proven that you can lead the league in blocks and not make an All-Defensive team or not be Defensive Player of the Year. So it’s time to do more and assert myself more on that end.”
Turner has had four games this season with at least five blocks, including two games where he stuffed the opponent eight times. His defensive prowess is much more than just blocking shots though; he’s averaging a career-high 1.5 steals per game so far and has had seven games in which he recorded at least two steals.
Indiana’s offense will continue to run through Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon, who are both playing at an All-Star level this season. But, as much attention as those two have gotten, it’s the defense that has really shaped this Pacers team.
The loss of assistant coach and defensive guru Dan Burke was a concern before the season began. The truth is the Pacers are much more aggressive on defense now, playing further up on the perimeter. This is the same scheme that Bjorkgren and Nick Nurse incorporated with the Toronto Raptors. Ibaka played that role last year and this season it’s been Boucher, who currently ranks third in the league in blocks behind Turner and Gobert.
With Sabonis often guarding the opponent’s biggest/strongest player, Turner is left to defend more on the perimeter. This is a real challenge given his disadvantage against smaller, quicker wing players. To his credit though, Turner has stayed in front of them. And that is what makes his shot-blocking even more impressive; every game and on multiple possessions, Turner is essentially guarding two players by himself for seconds at a time.
Since Turner’s rookie season, only three players have blocked more shots than he has. He ranks 15th in the league in deflections and is top-five in terms of defensive field goal percentage at the rim. Indiana’s defensive rating is a 107.7 when he is on the court and a 111.3 when he is on the bench. These are the signs of a truly elite defensive player.
And, with Turner as their defensive anchor, the Pacers have a scary three-headed monster that could ultimately be a nightmare for the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season.
2021 NBA Draft Evaluation: What Are We Missing?
With limited in-person opportunities to NBA franchises, will the 2021 draft be the toughest to scout?
There were loads of talks last offseason about how the 2020 NBA draft would be the hardest to scout in recent memory. The draft started in 1947 and – without knowing what it was like to try and scout a country full of potential players sans a large scouting department, over 100 games a week on national television, and even more via other streaming sites – it’s hard to believe that statement holds much water.
But it did have its challenges though. With the season ending as conference tournaments were getting underway, NBA teams lost out on several crucial scouting opportunities both in and out of season. Despite having college basketball back, the scouting landscape is still not the same. It has not been determined if NBA personnel will be allowed to attend the NCAA Tournament or what postseason events will look like. In this piece, we go through some of the challenges organizations are facing while preparing for the 2021 NBA Draft.
THE CANCELLATION OF THE NIKE HOOP SUMMIT AND MCDONALDS ALL-AMERICAN GAME
The kickoff to scouting a new crop of freshman players actually happens before they ever step on campus. The Nike Hoop Summit and McDonald’s All-American game are the first two events in which NBA scouts can watch the next incoming freshman class in person. While they may have seen some of the players at Youth FIBA events, they can get early evaluations of players that will most likely make up a majority of the lottery in the next draft class.
Getting an early evaluation of these players allows you to track progress. They’ve all been dominant at the high school level playing against their peers. But watching them allows you to evaluate where they are at, and gives you a baseline for what they can bring to the table. When you see them several months later playing at the college level, you are able to have an idea of what skills translate, which do not, and how a player has improved both physically and with their skills since leaving high school. Getting the early evaluation on a player allows you to track whether a player progresses in college or whether they are the same player they were in high school.
The games themselves are not unimportant, but they do not have as much of an impact as a lot of people think, at least for the American prospects. The practices are what the organizations are really interested in seeing. This gives scouts the opportunity to see how these young athletes compete, handle coaching from someone they are not used to coaching them and conduct themselves on the court when there are no TV cameras or spotlight. The Nike Hoop Summit, which pits 12 American prospects against a team of 12 international prospects, has proven to be a launching pad for international players looking to get drafted. Dennis Schroder and Bismack Biyombo are two examples of international players who turned a good performance at the Hoop Summit into an early-round draft selection.
Not being able to watch these players in person before entering their freshman season has put organizations behind in terms of getting a full, proper evaluation of them. While players like Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State don’t need events like this to boost their stock, other stand-out freshmen could have elevated their early projection.
THE ABILITY TO ATTEND COLLEGE GAMES AND PRACTICES IN PERSON
College basketball games have never been more accessible than they are now. Not only are there 100 games on TV every week, but for the games that are not, colleges upload them to Synergy Sports Tech, a film sharing website that every team uses and that NBA teams can access. Within one hour of the end of every game, teams will have the ability to download and watch full games.
The issue is not that teams cannot watch prospects, but seeing the game is only part of what scouts do when seeing players on college campuses. Scouts often get to the games 2-3 hours ahead of time to watch warmups. They want to see how players approach the game. Does he warm up hard? What is his intensity like as the game approaches? While you can get an idea for someone’s height, length, strength and wingspan over film it is much easier to get a gauge on it when seeing someone in person. Warm-ups are also a chance to watch a player take over 100 jump shots and assess his form. During the game, they will pay attention to how he interacts on the court with his teammates, coaches and refs. When things go wrong during the game, they will want to see how he responds.
Practice is similar. Scouts want to see how early they get in the gym, do they stay after to get up shots and how do they respond during practice when the coach pushes them. While some states are allowing fans to attend games, scouts are not on the road like they normally would be at this time. Not only are most schools not allowing them to attend practices and games, but a lot of organizations are not sending their scouts out on the road for fear of them contracting COVID-19 and the quarantine restrictions they’d eventually face.
POSTSEASON SCOUTING EVENTS
It is still too early to see what post season scouting events will look like. Last season, the Portsmouth Invitational, NBA Combine and individual team workouts at NBA facilities were canceled – and these events are important for multiple reasons. First, it gives teams the chance to watch athletes in a different setting outside of their schools. While the top prospects won’t play at the combine, many athletes will and there is always someone who plays well and elevates their stock. Seeing players outside of the constraints of their college system helps teams get a better picture of how they could translate to the NBA.
Another benefit of having these postseason events is getting proper medical information. During Portsmouth and the Combine, you’re able to get proper measurables on the players and at your team facility, your medical staff can evaluate the players more thoroughly for physical injuries and potential lingering problems.
There is still a lot of time to determine what the scouting landscape will look like before the 2021 NBA draft. Given how things are going though, and depending on how things go moving forward, this could very well be one of the harder drafts to scout due to the limited in-person opportunities available to NBA teams. Not only will there be a smaller sample size of the incoming freshman class, but a year-and-a-half of in-person scouting information on the players who returned to college will be missing too.
Again, while this won’t make a huge difference for the class’ biggest prospects, it will simply change proceedings in every other aspect – but the NBA always finds a way.