Pelicans Notes: Playoff Race, B. Graham, Williamson

Passing the Lakers in the standings should be the motivating factor that drives the rest of the season for the Pelicans, writes Scott Kushner of

As Kushner notes, moving ahead of the Lakers would be doubly beneficial for the Pelicans. For one, the two teams currently rank ninth and 10th in the Western Conference standings, and the No. 9 seed will host the No. 10 team in a win-or-go-home game in the play-in tournament next month.

Additionally, the Pelicans will receive the Lakers’ first-round pick if it lands in the top 10, so pushing the Lakers further down the standings would increase the likelihood of New Orleans getting that lottery pick. Currently, the Lakers have the NBA’s 11th-worst record.

The Pelicans will host the Lakers on March 27, then will face them in Los Angeles on April 1, so they’ll have a couple opportunities in the coming weeks to directly help their own cause.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • An assistant general manager in the Pelicans’ front office, Bryson Graham is viewed as a strong candidate to continue climbing the basketball operations ranks, either in New Orleans or elsewhere, writes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. “I think he’s really good,” one NBA executive said of Graham. “He’s smart, he works hard and he knows his s–t. (He) will be a GM in the next five years.”
  • Graham tells Vorkunov that he’s thrilled to be an assistant GM in New Orleans, but his goal is to ultimately run a team. “I mean, I’m winning right now, just being in the door,” Graham said. “But for me to sit here and say that, ‘Oh, I don’t care about being the GM one day or being the vice president.’ Eh, that’s a bunch of bull. I want that opportunity. And I think everybody that’s in my shoes ultimately should strive, as long as it’s coming from a good place.”
  • With Zion Williamson eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason, Keith Smith of Spotrac explores what the former No. 1 overall pick’s next contract could look like. As Smith observes, Williamson’s history of health issues, his “uneasy” relationship with New Orleans, and his incredible production when he has played will make the situation a fascinating one to watch.
  • In case you missed it, Williamson – who is back in New Orleans after rehabbing his foot injury elsewhere for much of the year – is expected to rejoin the Pelicans when the team returns home this week. The club’s road trip wraps up with tonight’s game in Memphis.
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