Pelicans have been a ‘horrendous’ defensive team. Can they improve under Willie Green?

The last time New Orleans was not a bottom-10 defensive team, Rajon Rondo was a Pelican, Nikola Mirotic was living stateside in the Crescent City, and Alvin Gentry was the head coach.

In other words, it’s been a long time since the Pelicans have been anything other than bad at getting stops.

In 2017-18 — when the Pelicans made a surprise run to the Western Conference semifinals — they finished 14th in points allowed per 100 possessions. Since then, they have finished 22nd, 21st and 23rd.

“The past two, three years — since I’ve been here — defensively, we’ve been horrendous,” reserve wing Josh Hart said. “So that’s something we need to change. Especially if we want to get to our goal, the playoffs, this year. That’s what we have to do.”

Scoring the basketball shouldn’t be a problem, provided Zion Williamson’s fractured right foot heals in a timely manner. The Pelicans were nearly a top-10 offensive team last year even though they were one of the league’s worst 3-point shooting teams.

What’s more difficult to project: What, if any, progress is possible on defense?

The New Orleans Pelicans will hold an open practice Saturday in Thibodaux for south Louisiana residents who were affected by Hurricane Ida. 

“This may sound crazy, but just being better than we were last year,” coach Willie Green said. “Protecting the paint is going to be key for us. Keeping teams off the free-throw line.…

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