After arriving via trade in late January, Nikola Mirotic looked to serve as a form of life support for the reeling New Orleans Pelicans. With DeMarcus Cousins out for the season, some sort of gauze was needed to stop the bleeding for a team trending downward in a stacked Western Conference.
What initially appeared to be an effective stop-gap solution, as the team won ten straight games shortly after Mirotic’s debut, quickly transformed into wavering confidence in the power forward’s consistency.
In an ideal situation, Mirotic would be asked provide an offensive lifeline for the Pelicans second unit, allowing Anthony Davis‘ minutes to remain at a mildly reasonable clip. However, in the thirteen games following the winning streak, Mirotic’s rotational effectiveness began to steadily decline. His plus-minus dipped to a paltry -45 and he looked lost amidst New Orleans’ faltering offense, failing to score double figures in nine times.
Through his first 25 contests donning the Pelicans heinously questionable color scheme (how does a team from New Orleans undergo a re-brand and intentionally leave Mardi Gras colors out?), Mirotic’s plus/minus was a lackluster -15. He was averaging 12.4p/7.4r on 38% shooting from the field and 29% shooting from three.
As the Pelicans dropped their fourth straight, another postseason devoid of Anthony Davis seemed inevitable. But, in early April, a piece of facial hair synonymous with the New Orleans Pelicans front court went missing.
No, I am not referring to Anthony Davis’ Red Bull plug thinly veiled as a poor April Fool’s joke. I am speaking of a new, baby-faced assassin — Nikola Mirotic.
As a lifelong disciple to the church of junk science, good news is on the horizon for Pelicans fans. Since Mirotic has gone clean-shaven, the Pelicans are 5-0 and ‘Three-Kola’ is on an absolute tear.
25.8p/12.0r on 56% shooting (47% from 3) with a +/- of NINETY EIGHT. The only marked change? The removal of some extraneous hair follicles. My scientific process says this is an open and shut case.
To paraphrase former Press Secretary Sean Spicer, “The science is fake, but the stats are real.” Take a look at Mirotic’s pre- and post-beard numbers:
With Mirotic under contract through next season, the upcoming year gleams much brighter than it retrospectively appeared some two months ago. The prospect of attempting to contain Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Nikola Mirotic and Chieck Diallo in a half-court set can present hellacious (you can have that one on me, Webster) match-up issues in favor of the Pelicans. But since securing a top-six seed in the Western Conference Playoffs with a win over San Antonio, the future has to be now.
This New Orleans squad is going to have their hands full if they want to become the first team since Chris Paul left town to make it past Round 1. With the Portland Trail Blazers looming, I mustache you a question: who better to help lead Anthony Davis than the new beardless wonder?