Why the heavy-hitting New Orleans Pelicans are this year's dark horse team

San Antonio Spurs v New Orleans Pelicans
San Antonio Spurs v New Orleans Pelicans / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages

The Western Conference is loaded with talent, per usual. No matter the seeding, each postseason matchup will be absolutely star-studded and loaded with talent. Each potential playoff team in the West has had some sort of spotlight throughout the season, but it seems as if the New Orleans Pelicans are being shunned from notoriety.

It wasn't long ago when the Pelicans were one of the most-watched teams in the league when they drafted phenom Zion Williamson first overall in 2019, hitting four straight threes in his NBA debut that ultimately went down as one of the best rookie debuts in league history. The only thing different from then to now is that the team has gotten significantly better but has gotten significantly less attention.

New Orleans' big three of Williamson (22.8 ppg on 58.6 percent), Brandon Ingram (20.9 ppg on 49 percent), and CJ McCollum (18.8 ppg on 45.5 percent) account for 54 percent of the team's scoring. Williamson has played 62 of 73 games this season, which is already the most games he's played in one season over his short four-year career thus far.

He continues to be one of the most dominant forces at the rim in the league; Ingram is one of the best mid-range players in the league; and McCollum is one of the best shooters in the league between the mid-range and the three.

Why the heavy-hitting New Orleans Pelicans are this year's dark horse team.

New Orleans is one of the better well-balanced teams in the league, and a big part of that is because of its depth. Herb Jones is having an All-Defensive caliber year and has developed into a consistent shooter from deep; Jonas Valanciunas is a bruiser on the boards and in the post; and Trey Murphy's versatility on both sides of the floor marks him as a do-it-all player.

Not to mention Jose Alvarado, Naji Marshall, Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Hawkins, and Dyson Daniels as players who excel at their respective roles on a nightly basis. The Pelicans currently own a 45-31 record and sit in the seventh spot in the West.

They're among the top ten teams in the league with 8.2 steals (3rd), a 37.8 three-point percentage (6th), 30.5 made two-point field goals (7th), 44.5 rebounds (7th), 33.9 defensive rebounds (8th), a 48.8 field goal percentage (8th), and 110.4 opponent points per game (8th), as well as just outside the top ten with 27 assists per game (11th) and 115.6 points per game (13th).

The New Orleans Pelicans are a well-oiled machine on both sides of the floor, led by three stars that are elite scorers in certain areas of the floor. They're most likely going to play either the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder, or Minnesota Timberwolves as of right now and have a legitimate case for upsetting any of these teams. Pay very close attention to this team.