Is it just me or does the Feb/Mar schedule look a little bit more friendly than the first 3months+. I feel like if the Pelicans can avoid dropping further behind that 8th spot the likelihood of closing is decent. If so then in early April there is a home and away with the Nuggets that could be interesting
8 Crazy Seeds
Ok, only 7 of them are crazy for the New Orleans Pelicans to get, but the 8th seed is not crazy at this point. The Pelicans are 11-21, sitting in an unsteady 11th seed. The top 7 seeds range in record from 27-4 down to 18-13. The 8th seed Sacramento Kings are at 13-17, 4.5 games behind the top 7. Seeds 9 to 15 range in record from 13-19, or 1 game out, to two teams at 9-21, 4 games out.
It can be factually stated that the Pelicans are just 3 games out of the 8th seed. Absolutely. However, 8 teams are competing for that 1 seed, one team is in the driver’s seat, and 7 others are all less than 4 games out. The fallacy, or at best omission of convenience, is that the Pelicans are not competing with the team in 8th for the playoffs; they are competing with all 8 teams. This is a significantly more difficult position to be in, especially with such a tight grouping.
What the Pelicans have in their favor, and you can take it to the bank that this is what they see when they look at the season, is that
- 8th: The Kings may have some looming issues that will cost them wins
- 9th: The Blazers are in freefall
- 10th: The Nuggets are close, about to make a move, may or may not help this season
- 11th: The Pelicans are getting healthy, early record has no predictive value
- 12th: The Lakers have nearly the same record, but the lack a star, youth will hit a wall, injuries are mounting
- 13th The Wolves are not putting it together, are focused on development, defense
- 14th-a: The Suns have not been able to put it together and need to make a move to improve this season
- 14th-b: The Mavericks’ age is keeping up with them, injuries may start to be a factor
Moreover, each of the other 7 teams is no better than 21st in DRtg (108.6)at this time. The Pelicans DRtg is currently 14th at 106.8. Rankings can be volatile with a glut within of 1 of the average DRtg of 107.5 at the moment, but the point is still made and is a valid one, and one that must be accepted by those who like to play sensitive sample theater when the Pelicans DRtg rank drops below average due to noise . . . if losing 0.5 unit of DRtg is important enough to declare the defense bad in some way, then being over 3 times that better than teams they are in competition with must be important, too.
So, in this picture . . . again, not the way everyone should see it, but perhaps the way the team sees it . . . the real competition is down to 2 teams: The Kings and the Nuggets, and of them, maybe just the Nuggets. This picture may wrong, and it can change regardless, but this problem is earlier to solve than the one I laid out as more difficult, and a touch harder to solve than “3 games out.” If health actually persists, the offense picks up as a result, which is not unreasonable given the most common positive remark in any evaluation of Gentry is his ability to generate offense given not too much to work with, and players like Hill and Buddy get into the roles and rotation that fits them. This requires hitting Gimmel, maybe, but it’s not crazy.
It can be factually stated that the Pelicans are closer to last in the West than the 8th seed, if one simply looks at the current record. This bolsters the spirits of those who advocate draft pick optimization. Those same people, nearly to a person, repeatedly denigrate the Pelicans ability to draft well. They can hold out hope for regime change, which is guaranteed to happen one day, so it’s an empty defensible position for mere rhetoricians, but it’s really not consistent. It may be that draft pick optimization is the best option among bad ones, but the rhetoric just fails elsewhere. Good picks can be traded for established stars, but this option seems close to universally panned (not by me; hello, Cleveland).
Beyond a seeming lack genuine advocacy for pick optimization, the actual ability to get to the last seed is may be beyond the capability of the Pelicans. Again, everything revolves around Davis. People want picks to help Davis, without considering if they actually will, but that is because Davis is a legitimately great player in the NBA. Holiday is good. Evans is good at what he does. People want Buddy to develop. These things may put a floor on their win total compared to other teams who can lose more effectively (cue the laugh track), which means the optimal pick may be not be good enough to justify the cost.
Then there is the Process. Davis is going to get his. They will get Buddy to improve.
I’m not saying the Playoffs will happen. Time will tell us that. I’m not saying this is what should happen, though I may discuss that quite soon. I’m saying this is one way to look at the season, and it’s likely one that is similar to the way the team sees it. They all want to win. Anyone reading this wants wins, too, just maybe on their terms and not those of the team. Such is life.