A Closer Look at the New Orleans Pelicans’ 15-15 Record

By:
Published: December 30, 2014

Going into the Phoenix Suns game tonight, the New Orleans Pelicans bring a 15-15 record. For some, this record is a great disappointment. For others, mild disappointment. For still others, a sign of hope.

Since the record at this point likely has some real information content, let’s take a closer look to see if there’s something there jumps out one way or the other.

Looking Back

First, we address the injuries:

  • Omer Asik missed 4 games in the middle of November. The team was 2-2 without him, 13-13 with him.
  • Eric Gordon missed part of a game against the Utah Jazz with a shoulder injury, and he has missed every game since then. The team 7-5 in games with him (including that Jazz game), 8-10 without him. Both records are within one game-change of a 0.500 record.

Next, let’s look at the surface-level details of the schedule:

  • In the Western Conference, the Pelicans are 11-10. In the Eastern Conference, the Pelicans are 4-5.
  • At home, the Pelicans are 9-4. Away, the Pelicans are 6-11.

At this point, one could quite legitimately conclude that this team is mediocre, run of the mill, average, etc., all with some high-priced talent and Anthony Davis. The inference for some is the roster and the moves that assembled it are subpar at best.

With such a strong conclusion, the assumptions need to be scrutinized. So, we dive into the schedule:

  • The Pelicans have played 16 teams with an over-0.500 record, and they are 4-12 against these teams.
    • Among these teams, on the road, against Eastern Conference teams, the Pelicans are 0-4. These 4 teams were the Bulls, Cavaliers, Hawks, and Wizards, and they are currently ranked 2 through 5 in the Eastern conference. That leaves only 1 team currently above 0.500 in the East left to play on the road: Toronto. This game will be played on January 18th.
    • Among these teams, at home, against Eastern Conference teams, the Pelicans are 1-0. They beat the Cavaliers in New Orleans. Nothing to see here.
    • Among these teams, on the road, against Western Conference teams, the Pelicans are 2-5. These games were against the top 7 teams in the West, with wins over the Rockets and Spurs, losses against the Clippers, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Trail Blazers, and Warriors.
    • Among these teams, at home, against Western Conference teams, the Pelicans are 1-3. The lone win was against the Spurs, while the losses were against the Mavericks, Trail Blazers, and Warriors (this one in overtime). These latter teams are the top two teams in the NBA.
  • The Pelicans have played 14 teams with an under-0.500 record, and they are 11-3 against these teams.
    • Among these teams, on the road, against Eastern Conference teams, the Pelicans are 0-1. They lost to the Pacers in a real stinker. Nothing to see here, even if there is something to smell.
    • Among these teams, at home, against Eastern Conference teams, the Pelicans are 3-0. They beat the Hornets, Knicks, and Magic in New Orleans. Not much to see here.
    • Among these teams, on the road, against Western Conference teams, the Pelicans are 4-1. They lost to the Nuggets, but defeated the Jazz, Kings, Lakers, and Thunder.
    • Among these teams, at home, against Western Conference teams, the Pelicans are 4-1. They lost to the Kings, but defeated the Jazz, Lakers, Thunder, and lowly Timberwolves in the biggest beatdown of the season.

The strength of the Pelicans schedule to this point has been discussed, but a hard look at the schedule is revealing. Particularly, though Pelicans have truly struggled against the best teams, there is room for the record to improve in a meaningful way if the Pelicans can continue to take care of the weaker teams while they get healthy and improve their defense to the extent they can. While they are far from being a title contender, the playoffs may not be as far-fetched as some believe.

Conversely, among the bottom four seeds in the West (Mavericks 22-10, Clippers 21-11, Spurs 19-13, Suns 18-14), only the Spurs have played as few Eastern Conference games as the Pelicans (Mavericks 15, Clippers 14, Spurs 9, Suns 15).

Looking Ahead

Looking from now through the end of January, the Pelicans play 17 games, 8 of which are against Eastern Conference teams. 2 of these are against teams over 0.500. The first is in Toronto, as mentioned above, and the other has the Pelicans hosting the Wizards. This game is on Monday, January 5th and is set to be broadcast on NBATV. The other 6 games are against weaker Eastern Conference teams. The Pelicans host the Sixers but are on the road for the other 5 games: Celtics, Hornets, Knicks, Pistons, Sixers.

Of the other 9 games, all against Western conference teams, of course, there are 3 very winnable ones: Lakers, Nuggets in New Orleans, Timberwolves in Minnesota. The other 6 are top teams, but only 1 game is away: Spurs tomorrow night. The other 5 games are at home with the Pelicans hosting the Clippers, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Rockets, Suns. This Suns game tonight is then doubly important since they are currently sitting the 8th seed in the West.

The remaining schedule will still have some favorable games, since of the 35 games past January, 13 will be against Eastern Conference teams, with 4 on the road, 9 at home.

The Pelicans will not win all of those very winnable games in all likelihood, but there is an opening in January for the Pelicans to have their record better reflect their potential if the schedule was truly an issue. Factor in a possible Eric Gordon return and the team coming together potentially with other teams starting to have to play a harder schedule, and the Pelicans could very well find themselves more squarely in the playoff picture.

This is not fool’s gold either. Rather, it is very possible that the schedule shows a little fool’s gold for the teams against whom the Pelicans are competing for playoff spots.

You are your record, but your record is much more than a win total. I’m sure this 15-15 can be parsed out many ways, as the 0.500 demarcation is pretty arbitrary, for example. I think the point is made, regardless: just due to the scheduling factors, the Pelicans may take a nice step above 0.500 over the course of January.

The crux is, of course, that the team has to perform. None of the above is a prediction. It is simply laying out a reasonable possibility. The team has to make it happen.

I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it here: I’m holding off judgment of this team until January. Then, we’ll see.

3 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.