The New Orleans Pelicans started the season out as one of the worst teams in the league. Scoring only one win in your first ten games out of the gate will tend to earn you that label. However, the Pelicans have gone 14-15 since, good for 11th place in the loaded Western Conference.
The Portland Trailblazers, currently sitting at the 8th spot, are only 2 games ahead of the Pelicans in the standings. This means NOLA is still well within striking distance, with the season only almost to its halfway point. Could they, beyond all expectations from the season’s first few weeks, reach the postseason?
Healthy Team, Healthier Record
After a horrible start, the New Orleans Pelicans must credit their health for their resurgence. Jrue Holiday’s return to the team line-up on Nov. 18 seemed to jumpstart the team’s engines, which were completely kaput in their first eight games – all losses.
Now, they’re pretty much an average team in the league. They currently find themselves at 27th place in offensive rating and 7th place in defensive rating, according to ESPN’s Power Rankings. Naturally, the offensive rating would be the concern for fans. It seems like there’s no other reliable source of scoring in the team except Anthony Davis. He currently averages a spectacular 29.1 points per game – more than double the team’s second best, Holiday’s 14.3.
However, things can only continue to look up if the team manages to stay healthy. According to The Bird Writes, these last two months have been very healthy – Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, and Langston Galloway have each missed just one game in that span. Solomon Hill missed two for the birth of his child, and Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore each missed three. Rookie of the Year candidate Buddy Hield is on track for a perfect 82-game season.
The Race for 8th Spot
Now, the New Orleans Pelicans are stuck in traffic along with the other 8th place contenders. For every game that Davis and company hurdle to make the promised land, there’s one for the Blazers as well. Toss in the Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets in there, it all starts to look pretty tight.
What do the New Orleans Pelicans need to do? Well, for one, Anthony Davis needs to continue playing his phenomenal season. But the other Pelicans are going to need to step up. Could they package some players for Rudy Gay, who’s expressed his intent to leave the Sacramento Kings? Could they be the ones to pick up Paul Millsap from the Atlanta Hawks? Both scenarios would be instant boosts on the firepower front. If a trade doesn’t happen, then Holiday, Hill, and company need to turn up the scoring, which is easier said than done.
Meanwhile, they need to hope that the Nuggets continue to be subpar (ie., hope that their 140-point output vs Indiana was just luck), Also, maybe, the Kings give up on keeping DeMarcus Cousins and trade him before the deadline. If the right pieces fall into place, we just might see a duel between the Unibrow and the Warriors’ Kevin Durant in the first round.