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Round Table #7: Pelicans final push for the playoffs

Just nine regular season games remain for the New Orleans Pelicans. The staff with The Bird Writes examines the potential return of Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday and playoff chances below.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

1) Ryan Anderson is expected to return during the road trip. Should he? What should his role be now?

Kevin Barrios: I guess so, but I also wouldn't be upset if we just let him rest. We are probably missing the playoffs and we've been playing well without him. I hate to see him get rushed back for nothing. If he does come back I would use him very sparingly 10-15 minutes a game when the offense hits a lull. Just put him in there to see if he can provide a spark. If he's off, continue to play Dante Cunningham and Alexis Ajinca to help us further evaluate their futures.

Jamile Dunn: If he is 100% the he should definitely return. His role should be the same as always, score of the bench, and don't be a disaster on defense. I like what Ajinca has brought and think Monty should try playing them together in spurts. You'd have to install street car tracks to make the trip anymore comfortable for opposing guards but the other teams also have to defend us so it's worth a shot.

David Fisher: If a player is healthy, he needs to play. Anderson needs to go and see what his body can do now. Waiting until October to play games that matter may give his body time to heal, but it doesn't help his confidence much at all. His role should be what it always was, three point bomber off the bench. If anything with the additional talent maybe he will be asked to create his own shot less, which should be good for everyone.

Zachary Junda: I am of the belief that injured players should not return to action unless they are absolutely confident that they can play. I won't begrudge Anderson if he does something that contradicts a doctor or the team because it's his body. If he wants to return, let him; if not don't pressure him into coming back.

Oleh Kosel: If Ryan Anderson is healthy, I don't see any reason why he shouldn't return. His role should be similar to what it has been in the past, but over the remaining games he's active, Monty shouldn't automatically resort to playing him 28 minutes a game. If Anderson is struggling, winded or the match-ups are not favorable, he should give way to another teammate.

2) Whose minutes will be most adversely effected by Anderson's insertion into the rotation? Are you ok with that outcome?

KB: Cunningham will be the victim. Ajinca mostly plays the 5 spot, so he shouldn't be too affected by Anderson's return. I'm okay with that, as long as it's the winning formula. If Anderson is cold and hogging the ball then we need to yank him and play the gritty defender hustle play guy. If Anderson is on target, get him shots and start stepping on the opponent's throats. It's really a game-by-game feel thing since Ryan has been so streaky lately.

JD: I'll say Dante Cunningham. His defense has been much appreciated but if I see one more 21 foot 2 point jumper I might have Pierre put a hit out on Cunningham.

DF: His minutes will come off Cunningham's plate. While I love the effort that Cunningham brings if I could replace every long two of his with an Anderson three pointer I would do it in a heartbeat.

ZJ: Let me put it this way and you tell me who you'd rather:

Player A who is shooting 48 percent from the floor, 51 percent from three with an Offensive Rating of 118 and Defensive Rating of 109

Or

Player B who is shooting 41 percent from the floor, 34 percent from three with an Offensive Rating of 111 and Defensive Rating of 110

Player A is Luke Babbitt. So no, I wouldn't be okay if Anderson vultures Babbitt's minutes.

OK: Dante Cunningham's minutes will be affected the most, but I expect Quincy Pondexter, Alexis Ajinca and Luke Babbitt all will see their roles curtailed. I'm fine with this as long as Monty sticks to playing logical rotations based on merit.

3) Jrue Holiday is also rumored to be close to a return, although with less certainty than Anderson. Would you rather the Pelicans shut him down?

KB: I'd really prefer that Holiday be shut down until the playoffs, then bring him in as a 6th man. Two stress reactions in two years is no joke. Let that heal and reduce all unnecessary strain on it so that he can return fully healthy next year. It's worth the gamble if we make it to the postseason.

JD: Nope, these cats get paid to play. If the doctors say he's ready and he feels good then he should play. His defense will this team down the stretch and the more minutes the core players can get together the better.

DF: If everything checks out, he needs to go play. The Pelicans should carefully monitor his minutes and recheck the injured area as often as is feasible.

ZJ: If Holiday has even less certainty about his return than Anderson then don't risk his, or the franchise's, long-term health. Say he's not ready but comes back because he caves to the franchise's "playoffs or bust" mindset and winds up hurting himself again and the team doesn't even make the postseason, how is that a positive? Better yet, let's say the Pelicans do catch Oklahoma City but Holiday, again, gets hurt somewhere along the line. Who's going to look at that and say "boy Holiday getting hurt again is a bummer but it was totally worth getting pistol whipped by Golden State in round one"?

OK: Again, if Holiday is fully healthy and his doctor declares his tibia 100%, he should play. I'm not one to buy into possible integration problems, not when the Pelicans haven't been on a tear like an elite team (say the Warriors or Hawks.) It's more important to have the most talented pieces on the floor than worry about how they might fit together when the team has gone just 8-7 in their last 15 games.

4) If Holiday is 100%, what is his role on the team as the season winds down?

KB: I'd use him as a 6th man and make sure that either Gordon, Evans or Holiday are in the game at all times unless it is a blowout. Stagger the minutes in a way that they all get good rest, but that we always have a starting guard in the game.

JD: Initially, I might bring him off the bench and see how he responds. If it's positive then I move him into the starting lineup and shift Tyreke back to his super sub position off the bench. Tyreke and Ryno on the floor might help to prevent some of the long dry spells we've seen of late.

DF: I want him starting if he can go. Even if he has a really low minute cap I would rather him start and give Tyreke Evans a break on the creating responsibilities. Jrue only playing the first eight minutes of each half just to let Evans breathe a little would be great.

ZJ: If Holiday really is good to go like a Taco Bell gordita crunch then I'm making him my second unit ball handler after Tyreke Evans. If that's too much for him, that's fine we'll let Cole be that guy; conversely if Holiday comes back to form quicker than you'd expect from a guy missing as much time as he did, sure why not let him be the starting point? This all depends on how he's feeling.

OK: I'm going to assume Holiday's stamina will be well below par since he's been relegated to lots and lots of rest over the last 2+ months. This, combined with the fact that the current starters (Evans-Gordon-Pondexter-Davis-Asik) have a +4.9 Net Rating in 200 minutes, means Monty Williams should not push the issue with Jrue. Thus, he should come off the bench a la Anderson, and if either of them are playing well and not serving as a hindrance, they can be out there in the closing minutes.

5) Playoffs? Playoffs! What do you think the chances are the Pelicans make it? How much does making the playoffs shape your opinion of this season?

KB: Anthony Davis is statistically the best player in the league right now. The city is caring about basketball again. We are playing meaningful basketball is late May/early April for the first time in a long time. This is all good. However, I believe we have underachieved even with the injury excuse. I believe an upgrade at the coaching spot would cement winning playoff basketball for the length of AD's tenure in New Orleans. If we make the playoffs it is unlikely we make that change and I fear we will never meet our full potential, but we will still be a perennial playoff team — though one that doesn't go as far as it could. So they good news is, we will have a long run of winning basketball in the very near future even if it doesn't lead to the serious title contention that it should. So yes, it's hard not to see this as a success, much like the Haslett era of the Saints. As for this season, we let too many winnable games go and had too many poorly timed injuries in the stretch run. Russell Westbrook is like Atlas and a rabid pitbull and will drag the limping Thunder into the 8th seed with the help of Enes Kanter, D.J. Augustin and Anthony Morrow.

JD: I'd give them about a 45% chance at this point. OKC has some tough games coming up but the Pels can't really worry about that. If they go out and play like they're capable they can pass OKC. My guess however is that OKC claims the final spot (hope I'm wrong). Playoffs have no impact on my thoughts about this season. It would be a nice milestone to build off of for this young group but if they don't make it I would not consider that a big deal. Either way I think the cupboard is stocked for Calipari next year :)

DF: Before the season started I thought AD would be an MVP candidate and the team would win about 45 games. Davis has been the MVP candidate (despite already missing 14 games and large portions of three others), the team has suffered far more injuries than I could have imagined (again), and they're on pace for about 44 wins. Exceeding expectations regardless of the playoffs. As for making the playoffs, the odds are about 25% or less.

ZJ: I won't go higher than 30 percent for New Orleans to catch Oklahoma City. I had the Pelicans finishing ninth this season anyway so, unfortunately, it looks like I was right on that one. Humble brag? If this were the O.W.L. exams, I'd give the Pelicans an A for acceptable (that's like a C for you kids who were too kool to read Harry Potter). They exceeded expectations (wink wink) against Western opponents, but they get a P (poor) for how they fared against the bottom-feeder Eastern teams. Remember them losing to the Knicks, Sixers, Celtics twice (BOFA), Magic and Hornets? Good thing that hasn't proved to be costly.

OK: I give the Pelicans around a 10% of making the playoffs -- there's just not enough games left in the season to be any more optimistic. If the Thunder finish the season 4-4 (they have 5 games remaining against teams inside the playoff picture), the Pelicans need to close out their schedule 7-2. That would mean New Orleans, a 14-21 away team, would need to go 4-2 in their remaining 6 road games. Or, that they would have to win 3 of their 5 remaining games against shoe-in Western Conference playoff teams (POR, GSW, MEM, HOU, SAS).

At this point, making or missing the playoffs is purely for selfish reasons and it will not change my opinion of the season in it's entirety.