The New Orleans Pelicans, now a week after the All-Star break, are positioning themselves to make what could be a playoff run for the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Currently sitting with a 25-33 overall record following their most recent loss in LA to the Lakers, the Pels are starting to turn the wheels a bit. Owning a 12-8 record over their past 20 games, the Pelicans now sit just 3 games behind division rival Memphis Grizzlies for the 8th and last spot in the West.
The story of the last eleven games has been rookie-phenom Zion Williamson, as the club has a 6-5 record since returning from injury. Williamson has been on an absolute tear of late, averaging 22 and 7 assists the last two weeks as he tries to bring his team into playoff contention.
With solid support from veterans JJ Reddick and Derrick Favors, the two older players have brought a presence and stability to an extremely young locker room. New Orleans has also had unexpected solid contributions from rookies Niccolo Melli and Jaxson Hayes. Melli, a solid three-point shooter, and defender, participated as part of the ‘World’ team in the 2020 All-Star weekend festivities.
The unanimous MVP of the Pelicans through this point of the season is without a doubt forward Brandon Ingram. Ingram, a first time All-Star in Chicago, has elevated himself to a whole new level of NBA player this season. Now in a leading role for the Pelicans averaging 25 points and 6 rebounds a game, all eyes will be on BI and Zion to take this New Orleans team to the next level.
The Pelicans have the easiest remaining schedule in the entire league, with less than ten of their remaining 23 games against teams who have a winning record. The team they are trailing, the Memphis Grizzlies, have the toughest remaining schedule in the NBA and are also going to be hobbled with Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke for the next few weeks.
At the time of this article posting, the Pelicans are currently up 20 points on the Cleveland Cavaliers. If they win Friday night’s game, they will be just 2 games out of the 8th seed. While they play the Lakers again this weekend, their schedule starts to get easier shortly after.