New Orleans Pelicans: Are they a Western Conference pretender?

Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images /

The New Orleans Pelicans are 11-9 so far this season. Based on what they accomplished, they should be classified as a perennial pretender in the NBA. They have a long way to go before they can be treated as a serious threat in the NBA.

The New Orleans Pelicans are currently sitting at seventh place in the Western Conference after their recent loss to the defending NBA champions. They were riding a three-game winning streak but couldn’t muster up a sustainable effort in the fourth quarter to beat the Golden State Warriors.

Ladies and gentlemen, the New Orleans Pelicans are where they are supposed to be after 20 games in the season. Where they were last year compared to how much they’ve improved so far this season is a testament to how far the organization has turned around in a span of one year.

This team has flown underneath the radar and seems to have the capability to position itself as a top-five seed later on in the season. Both DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis have settled on their roles and have given the Pelicans the firepower they needed to be competitive in the Western Conference. Both All-Stars are currently in the top 10 in points, rebounds and blocks per game.

No team in the league can say they have two players who are excelling in each of those categories. But unfortunately, the New Orleans Pelicans should be classified as a pretender until they address a few issues.


What has hurt the New Orleans Pelicans so far this season is their bench play, 3-point shooting and turnovers per game. Usually when the Pelicans lose games they should have won, you can always point to one of these categories.

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The bench is ranked 28th in the league in scoring and a lot of that has to do with how Alvin Gentry shortens the rotation and gives ample shots attempts to his starters. That is clearly the wrong gameplan to execute, especially against elite teams. Even if the Pelicans win or lose games, having erratic bench rotations doesn’t bode well for the consistency this team is trying to achieve.

That’s where their 3-point shooting (ranked 26th) is their Achilles heel if the bench doesn’t produce. A lot of those 3-point shots stem from rushed opportunities and ill-advised attempts. DeMarcus Cousins has been one player who has taken a nosedive, shooting 32.3 percent from 3-point land, compared to his decent 36.1 percent from a year ago.

At this juncture, Cousins is hurting his team by taking 3-point attempts away from teammates who are more than capable in making those shots. His playmaking and inside presence in the paint will give Alvin Gentry some ideas to deploy his shooters for easy 3-point shots. If they miss those shots, either DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are more than capable to fight for the offensive rebounds and tip the ball in the net.


The New Orleans Pelicans will also need to make sure to take care of the basketball and not cause any unnecessary turnovers. Being ranked 25th in the league in turnovers (16.5 per game) will not bode well for the prospects of the Pelicans being a potential title contender in the Western Conference. If they can take care of the ball with careless passes or in-game violations, than they can make a turn around in that department.

The Pelicans have made great strides in the offensive side of the ball, being ranked ninth in offensive rating, third in assists and second in points in the paint. They are also in the top 12 in second chance points and ranked second in clutch wins.

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The New Orleans Pelicans are sporting a mixed bag of positive adjustments and disappointing shortcomings, but they have the talent and coaching to address their mistakes.