The New Orleans Pelicans are currently 3.5 games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race, but there’s reason to believe in this team.
The NBA has finally put together a plan to go forward, and it’s been cemented with a schedule to boot. Grabbing each team within six games of the 8th-seed (22 of the 30 teams, adding the Washington Wizards, Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers and the New Orleans Pelicans who would otherwise be out of the playoff picture) and offering the opportunity for a play-in game if the 9th-seeded team is within four games, the league found a way to please most involved with the league.
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While the opportunity waits in the hands of the Pelicans, the 8th and final playoff spot certainly won’t be handed to them. With Damian Lillard, Devin Booker, De’Aaron Fox, DeMar DeRozan, Ja Morant and others standing in the way, New Orleans will have a fight on their hands.
That doesn’t mean it’s completely out of the question, though. Before the NBA made an abrupt halt in play due to the Coronavirus, the Pels had the best starting five in the league statistically (Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and Derrick Favors), had made drastic strides defensively and Zion ascended to what may be considered superstar status. By nearly all accounts, the Pelicans pass the eye-test of being a playoff team.
Including the aforementioned stars, there are a few other things that could get in the way of one of the youngest, hottest teams in the league.
Health has to be a priority for a few guys on the roster, fitness and busting off the rust of quarantine will be key for several of the big guys and those players who weren’t able to access high-quality facilities over this time period and chemistry — for the Pelicans and their opponents.
Despite the negatives and challenges ahead, it’s fair to say the rest of the league should fear the Pels.