Coming off of a strong 48-win season and Western Conference Semifinals appearance, the Pelicans were widely expected to build on that success with a roster that, while flawed, played to the team’s strengths and style of play. Adding Elfrid Payton and Julius Randle around the core of Jrue Holiday, Nikola Mirotic and Anthony Davis appeared to be solid moves on the surface, but injuries and poor play in close games have plagued the Pelicans so far.
The Pelicans currently sit at 16-21, good for 14th in the Western Conference. Payton has only played in six games so far, while Mirotic has missed significant time with an ankle injury, appearing in just 25 games. While Holiday, Davis and Randle have stayed healthy, the team’s lack of point guard and wing options have hampered their play.
What’s more troubling is that the Pelicans are 6-14 in clutch games, with an 87.2 offensive rating and 110.1 defensive rating in such situations. Their -22.9 net rating in the clutch is 29th in the league, behind only the Cavaliers. This is in stark contrast to last season, when the Pelicans went 30-20 in clutch games while posting a +8.2 net rating.
While many consider Davis to be an MVP candidate, he can only do so much with this current roster, despite having Holiday and Randle alongside him. The Pelicans have been one of the best offensive teams in the league (they currently own the league’s fourth ranked offense), but have been plagued by their 26th-ranked defense.
With that being said, the Pelicans are still just four games out of the playoff picture at the moment, with the surprising Kings holding down the eighth seed. There is certainly time for the Pelicans to turn things around just enough to squeeze into the playoffs, especially if they can stay healthy and/or make a trade to bolster the team’s depth in the backcourt or on the wing.
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