Community Shootaround: New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans have quietly moved up in the Western Conference standings over the last two months.

New Orleans was a ho-hum 26-21 in late January after a three-game losing streak. The team is now 17 games above .500, good enough for fifth place in the conference. The Pelicans have won nine of their last 11 games after disposing of the downtrodden Pistons on Sunday afternoon.

Perhaps the biggest reason why the Pelicans look more dangerous is that — cross your fingers — Zion Williamson has remained in uniform with the end of the regular season coming in three weeks.

After appearing in only 114 games in his first four NBA seasons, Williamson has played 60 this season. He’s gotten in better shape and the results show it. He had a seven-game stretch this month in which he averaged 27.3 points and 8.3 rebounds. On Sunday, Williamson bullied the depleted Pistons with 36 points.

CJ McCollum is also finishing strong after dealing with a lung issue early this season. He racked up 30 points in two of the last five games.

Trey Murphy III has been on fire from the perimeter this month. He entered Sunday’s game averaging 19 points and making 45.1 percent of his 3-point attempts in 10 March contests.

The Pelicans also have a lockdown defender in Herbert Jones and a pesky backup guard Jose Alvarado, who had a big game (17 points, seven rebounds, six assists) in a win at Miami on Friday night.

The big concern is second-leading scorer Brandon Ingram, who could miss the remainder of the regular season with a bone bruise in his left knee.

The Pelicans aren’t far behind the Clippers for the No. 4 spot but they also have the Suns, Kings and Mavericks a short distance behind them in the standings. They have to hold off at least two of those three teams to avoid the play-in tournament.

In historical terms, the Pelicans’ postseason resume is relatively barren. They won a first round series during the 2007/08 season and another during the ’17/18 campaign.

During the last two seasons, they lost in the opening round to Phoenix in 2022, then got bounced in the play-in tournament by Oklahoma City in 2023.

That brings us to our topic of the day: What do you think the Pelicans’ ceiling is this spring? Will they avoid the play-in tournament? Are they capable of winning a first-round series and beyond, or do you think they’ll have an early exit?

Please take to the comments section to weigh on this topic. We look forward to your input.

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