The New Orleans Pelicans probably won’t make the playoffs in the Western Conference this season, because at least 48 wins might be needed to do that according to the NBA odds. However, this team might be able to win 45.
2014-15 Regular Season Total: 44
Why the Pelicans Will Go Over the Number
The biggest reason by far to think that New Orleans can go over the number established by NBA odds is that Anthony Davis is blossoming into a genuine star, one of the better big men in the world. Davis approached 21 points per game last season (20.8), and he snapped down an average of 10 rebounds a game, giving him an average of a double-double. He also averaged almost three blocked shots per game… and he clearly hasn’t reached his potential. He’s only 21 years old, in fact. He’s going to be better this season if he’s healthy, and that improvement is what can carry this team to a much higher level of performance. With Davis getting so much attention in the low post, the Pelicans’ guards – and the team has a lot of them – will be able to get pretty good shots. This team is deep at both guard positions. Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Jimmer Fredette, Austin Rivers – a lot of high-profile players, some of them established in the league, others trying to find defined roles on the bench, are being looked at as possible options before the season begins. The ones that stick on the final roster could create a team with good inside-outside balance.
One limitation of the Pelicans last season is that they finished next to last in the number of three-pointers made. Yet, the Pelicans were sixth in three-point shooting percentage. What does this say? It says that players were accurate as shooters but could not get open easily or create their own shot. With Davis getting better, perhaps the Pelicans will be able to free up more shooters. This team averaged 99.7 points per game in a Western Conference that had a ton of teams average over 100 points. New Orleans might get the offensive improvement it needs.
Why the Pelicans Will Stay Under the Number
The Pelicans were 24th in field goal percentage defense last season, and that was with Davis steadily improving as a low-post defender. The Pelicans were also 27th in two-point field goal percentage defense, and they were next to last in free throws allowed. The Western Conference is so good because its best teams relentlessly and smoothly move the ball. The best teams in the West also have really good shooters and very quick guards who can get to the basket consistently. For these and other reasons, the elite teams in the West averaged well over 100 points per game last season, so New Orleans’ average of under 100 points might not seem that bad (it was 18th in the league), but relative to the West and not the Eastern Conference, it was really pretty bad. The foremost guard options on this team, mentioned above – Evans, Gordon, Holiday, Fredette, Rivers – are not extremely accomplished defensive players. This team is still going to have problems getting stops during the season, and there are so many talented teams in the West that the Pelicans could make great improvements and still finish the season below .500. That’s how good the West is.
You could take the optimistic road or the pessimistic one, and the reality for New Orleans is that the West is just too deep, with at least nine teams that are better than the Pelicans, maybe 10. New Orleans will not be able to win 44 games. Go under with your NBA picks.
NBA Pick: Under 44