By: Field Level Media
New Orleans Pelicans NBA Bubble Restart Preview
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS (28-36), 10th place, Western Conference
Where are they now: The Pelicans are 3.5 games behind the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, which belongs to the Memphis Grizzlies, and are just percentage points behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the No. 9 spot. The No. 9 team would earn a play-in opportunity for the playoffs if it finishes within four games of the No. 8 spot.
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New Orleans Pelicans NBA First Half Highlights
Zion Williamson’s long-awaited arrival, after the forward recovered from a preseason knee injury, means the Pelicans have much more firepower than they did at the start of the season. While New Orleans has looked impressive at times with their No. 1 overall draft pick finally in the fold, they were just 10-9 with Williamson on the court. The Pelicans appear to have plenty of talent to make a playoff push.
Making the Pelicans even more intriguing is that Williamson has hinted toward bringing even more when the season resumes. Being even further away from his knee procedure is a likely reason for all of his confidence.
“Yeah, I think there are going to be parts of my game that y’all didn’t see before that you all are going to see in the future when we start playing,” said Williamson, who worked out with his stepdad during the recent downtime, adding that he felt like a 5-year old again.
New Orleans Pelicans NBA Bubble Roster Rundown
Williamson showed little trouble adapting to the NBA game as the Duke product scored 23.6 points per game and grabbed 6.8 rebounds in his 19 games. Getting into a flow with All-Star forward Brandon Ingram (24.3 points, 5.3 rebounds) will be the team’s key for success.
The duo had just shy of two months on the court together and learning from that time will be key. Ingram said he added muscle mass over the break and focused on ways he can be more effective no matter what spot on the floor he is asked to occupy.
Guards Jrue Holliday and Lonzo Ball hold the key to getting balanced contributions from the team’s two stars.
Ball might have been playing his best basketball in a Pelicans uniform at the time play was halted. He was 21-for-36 on 3-pointers (58.3 percent) over his final four games, taking advantage of defenses sagging on Williamson and Ingram inside.
“(Ball) was probably playing as well as any guard in the league at that stage,” head coach Alvin Gentry said.
Three Pelicans players were diagnosed on June 30 as having contracted conoravirus, according to executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin, but none were named.
New Orleans Pelicans NBA Bubble Playoff Outlook
The consensus seems to be that the Pelicans stand a solid chance to be in the eight-team Western Conference playoff field even if they still have two teams to leap in order to get there. The simple key to at least securing a play-in opportunity: Win one more game during the restart than the Trail Blazers and win as many games as the Grizzlies in order to stay inside a four-game deficit in the standings.
While the Pelicans’ main contributors are young, they have a solid blend of veterans as well in starter Derrick Favors, as well as E’Twan Moore and JJ Reddick who deliver off the bench.
“When you’ve got that experience from No. 1 to No. 15 on the bench … you have the unselfishness and the willingness to do whatever it takes to win and make sure the next person is successful,” said Josh Hart, another Pelicans bench option. “That’s when you win and have a winning culture. That’s what we have here and that’s what we’re continuing to build on. It’s definitely going to come in handy for these eight games, and then when we make the playoffs.”
New Orleans Pelicans Best Bets: According to Caesars Casino & Sportsbook, the Pelicans are +1800 to win the Western Conference and advance to the NBA Finals. Those are long odds for sure, but they are not only better odds than all five teams outside of playoff contention in the Western Conference, they are even better than the current No. 8 seeded Grizzlies (+20000).
–Field Level Media