By: Louis Prejean
Before the start of the 2015-16 NBA season, many expected the New Orleans Pelicans to grow from their play the year prior. They exceeded any expectation placed upon them last season and even made it to the postseason. The Pelicans came into this season with a hope of improvement. They felt like they could get even better by keeping their core group of players around for this season and a new head coach that would cater more to the up tempo style of play the team has been wanting to run on the offensive side. Oh, and another year of Anthony Davis in the NBA meant more experience which would equate to more production.
The Pelicans started the 2015-16 season 1-11. Most of the losses were blamed on injuries to key players from the start, like Tyreke Evans, Norris Cole, and Alexis Ajinca. As the season progressed, the Pelicans started to get healthier and at the start of 2016 things were looking up for them. They had played the toughest schedule in the NBA through the first few months of the season and their schedule eased up tremendously after January 1, 2016. There were still lingering concerns for New Orleans. Their defense was still giving up over 100 points per game and the offense was not flowing as smoothly as anticipated under Alvin Gentry. Maybe an easier schedule could mask those problems with weaker opponents and more home games.
Sort of right.
The Pelicans were starting to turn their season around since the turn of the new year. They had a stretch in January were they won six of seven games and were slowly climbing up the Western Conference playoff ranks. Then, the problems that have been looming for this team reared their ugly head, as the Pelicans have now lost four straight games and are seven games behind the 8th spot in the West. With a record of 18-32, the New Orleans Pelicans have been nothing short of disappointing. Many analysts and people that follow the NBA closely believed this team could snag a playoff spot as high as the 5th seed. That goal has evaporated at this point.
The Pelicans rank 24th in opponents points per game and 27th in defensive rating. They give up 105 points per game. Their offense under Alvin Gentry has not been consistent either. New Orleans is 0-24 when scoring under 100 points. 0-24. Let that sink in.
Anthony Davis has failed to live up to expectations, despite averaging a seemingly great 23.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game. His Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is at 25.0. Last season Anthony Davis led the NBA in PER with 30.8. Most thought Anthony Davis would only improve, but instead he has not lived up to maybe some unrealistic predictions. Davis also worked on expanding his range in the offseason, but he is only shooting 28% from the perimeter. This expansion has caused Anthony Davis to not get easy baskets like he did from working the baseline and pick and roll/pick and pop situations like he had in previous seasons. This leads to less rhythm for him and the rest of the team. The Pelicans have been getting out to slow starts and play from behind a lot.
Ever since the start of the season, one thing after another has built up to this 18-32 record. This may be the point of no return for the New Orleans Pelicans. They have dug themselves into a huge hole and it is still possible to climb out of it. There is a slight chance the Pelicans can make the playoffs thanks to the other inconsistent play of some Western Conference teams. They are in the midst of a lost season. From unfortunate injuries to poor coaching and underachieving play of key players, the New Orleans Pelicans are clinging on to little hope of saving their season.