Flip on a talking head television show or start playing an NBA-related podcast. It will not be long before the phrase ‘deepest team in the league' is used when discussing the New Orleans Pelicans. The top-end talent is unproven but the supporting cast has already pushed an NBA Finals contender to six games. A big part of the team's top-six defense boils down to following Herb Jones' blueprint for stonewalling NBA All-Stars.

The Pelicans passed a big test in their most recent win. Willie Green's retooled game plan worked against the Indiana Pacers and Tyrese Haliburton in the Smoothie King Center. The Hoosier state's All-Star finished with zero points, three rebounds, and three assists in a 129-102 Pelicans home win.

Jones only had two steals and one block in the back-to-back home-and-away series with the Pacers. The shat sheet is not the story though, it's what Haliburton did not get a chance to do, per Jones.

“I think we did a good job guarding (Haliburton),” Jones understated. “I tried to pick him up full court and then as a team, we were super aggressive in trying to limit his threes and ISO ball.”

That's a recipe that will work in the playoffs. Be sound defensively as a team, play with near abandon buy-in to the concept, and funnel every NBA All-Star back toward Jones. The defensive stalwart has used the same approach to slow down several All-Stars the Pelicans might have to square off against in a seven-game series.

Pelicans, Herb Jones vs Western Conference All-Stars

New Orleans Pelicans forward Herb Jones (5) pressures Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) in the third quarter at State Farm Arena.
Larry Robinson-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans are currently in fifth, being pursued by five teams led by NBA All-Stars. Luke Doncic, LeBron James, DeAaron Fox, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry are all fighting to avoid the NBA Play-In Tournament. Jones detailed how the Pelicans plan to slow down those Western Conference rivals, whenever they might pop up in the postseason.

“It's limiting the breakdowns,” Jones explained. “If you don't get beat off the dribble you won't be out of position. That way you give yourself a chance to box out and rebound. If you're scrambling all over the place it's going to be hard to find somebody (to box out).”

“We don't really want people shooting layups,” Jones continued. “I don't think any team wants you to be in the paint. We just try to get out and contest a lot of the threes that we give up. I guess that's the reason why our defense is ranked pretty high. I think if we just continue doing a good job and flying around and contesting shots we'll be okay.”

Consider what Jones has done to disrupt All-Stars this season. In the age of pace and space beyond the arc shot barrages, Jones is fifth in contested three-pointers. He is 11th in charges drawn this season, always a step ahead when providing the weak side help that has to slide into the paint.

Jalen Brunson needed 14 tough shots (four made) to score 14 points in the New Orleans home opener. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (0-5 from three) needed 20 shots to get 20 points in the Pelicans second road game of the season. Cade Cunningham needed 22 to get 22, the trend was obvious during the first week of the season. Scoring on Jones would be one of the toughest jobs in the world.

Luka Doncic took 16 shots and scored 16 points in a Dallas Mavericks loss on November 14. Aaron Gordon was held to 14 points on 14 shots, but Jones had the help of Dyson Daniels to corral Michael Porter Jr.

The Denver Nuggets fell to the Pelicans by five (11/17/23) despite Nikola Jokic's 18 assists triple-double. DeAaron Fox needed 18 shots to hit 14 points on November 20 and fared just slightly better two days later.

Paul George had 34 points (30 shots) in a losing effort on Thanksgiving Eve. Jones held George to seven points in a Pelicans road win on February 7, and Kawhi Leonard was 4-10 from the field. The Pelicans won every game mentioned above. Jones was not the primary defender on the All-Stars for every shot, but his presence had been invaluable for the team's defensive confidence.

The difference between these Pelicans with and without Jones is night and day according to Doncic, via Rod Walker of The Times-Picayune.

“He’s just a great defender,” Doncic said. “You could see his impact today when he wasn’t there for the first game (Sunday, November 12). I really admire that guy.”

Herb Jones ready for NBA Playoffs rest, not awards shows

Everyone has the same rest during the NBA Playoffs. The only thing that differs is the hotel's name and the turbulence experienced during the flight. Playing the Pacers twice in three days was not that big of an advantage for New Orleans, but there was a slight benefit for Jones.

Sure, Indiana had the same film to study and a 123-114 win in front of their fans to celebrate on the flight down. Jones had time to get rested, an advantage the Pelicans needed.

“It was no huge change to me,” shared Jones. “I take the same approach after each game. Watch the film and whoever the next opponent is I try to study that team. Usually, I get more sleep because we just played (the Pacers). I didn't have to watch as much film. It's no problem to play the same team twice.”

How does Jones feel about being a top-six defense for the second year in a row? Well, therein lies a problem. Fans and the media can see top-six stats over two seasons and feel slightly complacent. Not Jones.

“Hopefully we get to number one. That'll be the goal in mind,” Jones deadpanned. “I don't anybody is okay with being sixth.”

Jones did clam up when asked about personal accolades like First-Team All-Defense.

“I ain't going to talk about…I can't. I'm just going to leave that up to whoever and live it. I'm just going to try and do my job the best I can for my teammates. The awards? I really don't get caught up in those.”