The chickens have come home to roost in New Orleans. Or at least, that is the narrative many see with the recent wave of injuries suffered by the New Orleans Pelicans. Thus far in the preseason Alexis Ajinca, Omer Asik, Luke Babbitt, Norris Cole, and Tyreke Evans have been newly injured while Quincy Pondexter and Jrue Holiday continue to deal with old wounds. That seems like a lot of injuries to one team. If the Pelicans had built more slowly they would be able to handle the situation.
Earlier this year SB Nation rolled out a tool to imagine what each NFL team would look like if they had an offseason similar to the San Francisco 49ers. For that tool they used the depth chart of each NFL team and simply applied the same moves that occurred to the Niners this summer. Basketball is different from football, and in order to compensate I will use NBA Rank as a guide. Each Western Conference Roster is listed by their team order in NBA Rank.
What happened to the Pelicans this October?
|Tyreke Evans||Out 6-8 Weeks|
|Jrue Holiday||Minutes Restriction|
|Omer Asik||Out 2-3 Weeks|
|Quincy Pondexter||Out TBD|
|Norris Cole||Out 6 Weeks|
|Alexis Ajinca||Out 4-6 Weeks|
|Luke Babbitt||Out TBD|
That's pretty rough. A lot of marginal players are suddenly forced into the spotlight in this situation. The starting lineup isn't awful but depth at point guard falls off a cliff after Jrue Holiday reaches his minutes cap. Center is also an enormous problem.
The famously deep San Antonio Spurs could navigate a similar injury list though. Right?
|LaMarcus Aldridge||Out 6-8 Weeks|
|Tim Duncan||Minutes Restriction|
|David West||Out 2-3 Weeks|
|Boris Diaw||Out TBD|
|Manu Ginobli||Out 6 Weeks|
|Patty Mills||Out 4-6 Weeks|
|Kyle Anderson||Out TBD|
The Spurs starting lineup looks like Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Matt Bonner, and Tim Duncan (for just 15 minutes). Off the bench they have Ray McCallum, Boban Marjanovic, and Rasual Butler. Somehow, from Bonner and Marjanovic the Spurs are going to need to squeeze 81 minutes. Gregg Popovich is a wizard, and he'd need to be to keep this team above .500. How about if we applied these same injuries to the Memphis Grizzlies?
|Mike Conley||Out 6-8 Weeks|
|Zach Randolph||Minutes Restriction|
|Courtney Lee||Out 2-3 Weeks|
|Jeff Green||Out TBD|
|Matt Barnes||Out 6 Weeks|
|Vince Carter||Out 4-6 Weeks|
|Beno Udrih||Out TBD|
Send help. Who is the point guard? Can a lineup of Russ Smith (#391 in NBA Rank), Tony Allen, ???, Zach Randolph (for just 15 minutes), and Marc Gasol go .500 in the NBA? The bench is Brandan Wright, Jordan Adams, and Jarnell Stokes. Who is going to dribble on this team? Or shoot? Or pass?
If there is any team that would make this look like a breeze it would be the Oklahoma City Thunder. They don't call it the OKC Model for nothing.
|Russell Westbrook||Out 6-8 Weeks|
|Serge Ibaka||Minutes Restriction|
|Kyle Singler||Out 2-3 Weeks|
|Anthony Morrow||Out TBD|
|Dion Waiters||Out 6 Weeks|
|Mitch McGary||Out 4-6 Weeks|
|D.J. Augustin||Out TBD|
Again, we have to ask, who is the point guard? Cameron Payne, Andre Roberson, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka (just 15 minutes), and Steven Adams isn't awful. A bench of Enes Kanter, Nick Collison, Nick Novak, and Josh Heustis finds itself woefully lacking in ball handlers. Can Payne, a rookie, play 48 minutes a night? What about Roberson as well? Do we explore Nick Novak, point guard, as an option?
Since the Thunder are sitting on 15 guaranteed contracts who should they waive to survive? That requires eating a contract while paying a massive luxury tax bill. On top of that, the only contracts which expire next summer are Durant, Waiters, Novak, Morrow, and Augustin. So waive an injured Augustin and bring in a minimum contract to start point guard?
Hopefully this has served as enlightening to the absurd depth of the injuries the Pelicans have faced in three short weeks. We wouldn't wish this on any franchise or fan base. Can the New Orleans Pelicans weather the storm? It is doubtful. They're not alone in that category either.