The New Orleans Pelicans received a number of breaks in their schedule. They only face the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder three times a piece. Two of those three games will be on the road but missing two title contenders once each is a blessing. On the flip side they get only three games each against the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers; predicted lottery teams. The schedule is not ideal, but it isn't awful.
The most challenging sections of the schedule occur very early on. October and November see very few "gimme" games. Over the next few days we here at The Bird Writes will break down the schedule with a special focus on rest advantage. In the below table whenever a team is rested while their opponent played the previous day I refer to it as a significant advantage. During the Pels first 17 games they receive such an advantage just once, against the Warriors on Halloween, while their opponents gain the advantage five different times.
|Date||Rest - NOLA||Opponent||Rest - Opponent||TV||Significant Advantage|
|10/27/2015||Opening Night||at GSW||Opening Night||TNT|
|10/28/2015||SEGABABA||at POR||Opening Night||FSNO||Opponent|
|10/31/2015||2 Days||GSW||SEGABABA||NBA TV||Pelicans|
|11/3/2015||2 Days||ORL||1 Day||FSNO|
|11/6/2015||2 Days||ATL||1 Day||FSNO|
|11/7/2015||SEGABABA||at DAL||1 Day||FSNO||Opponent|
|11/10/2015||2 Days||DAL||2 Days||FSNO|
|11/11/2015||SEGABABA||at ATL||1 Day||FSNO||Opponent|
|11/13/2015||1 Day||at TOR||1 Day||FSNO|
|11/15/2015||1 Day||at NYK||1 Day||FSNO|
|11/17/2015||1 Day||DEN||2 Days||FSNO|
|11/18/2015||SEGABABA||at OKC||1 Day||ESPN||Opponent|
|11/20/2015||1 Day||SAS||1 Day||ESPN|
|11/22/2015||1 Day||PHX||1 Day||FSNO|
|11/25/2015||2 Days||at PHX||1 Day||FSNO|
|11/27/2015||1 Day||at LAC||1 Day||NBA TV|
|11/28/2015||SEGABABA||at UTH||2 Days||FSNO||Opponent|
SEGABABA = SEcond GAme of a BAck-to-BAck
Playing at a disadvantage against the Portland Trail Blazers may at first seem to be insignificant. It is only the second game of the year. However, toss in the energy of the Rose Garden on opening night, a late night in Oakland against the defending champs when they hang their banners, and the complete unknown of what exactly a completely rebuilt Blazers team is and how they will play and it a recipe for potential disaster.
The Pelicans one game with advantage is their home opener against the Warriors. Might Steph Curry and company come in with heavy legs after a late game on ESPN against the Houston Rockets? Halloween in New Orleans should provide an excellent atmosphere.
The rest of the Pelicans games at disadvantage are substantial. On the road against division nemesis Dallas. If Chandler Parsons (microfracture surgery) and Wesley Matthews (achilles) are still out it could feel like an easy victory. On the road against the Atlanta Hawks.
Then we get to potential games that shape the playoff race. On the road against the Thunder on ESPN, scene of this memorable shot. Think the Thunder won't be out for revenge by the bucket full?
Finally closing out the month with a back-to-back against the Los Angeles Clippers (243 elevation) and the very next night against the Utah Jazz (4,200+ elevation) will be taxing. Not only for the elevation change, but two quality opponents. The Clippers expect to compete for a championship while the Jazz, who finished an impressive 19-10 after the All-Star Break, hope to ride a stifling defense led by Rudy Gobert into the playoffs this season.
It is unlikely that the Pelicans will get out to a roaring start. As we will see later in the schedule things turn decidedly their way, setting the table for a dominant January and close to the season. Might the Pelicans take advantage of some teams battling injury (Dallas) or lost players (Atlanta, DeMarre Carroll; Portland, almost everyone) to get out the gate more quickly than expected? Absolutely.
Anthony Davis is one of the best basketball players on the planet. He could take another big step forward. Darren Erman's approach on defense might pay immediate dividends. Alvin Gentry's offensive philosophy might ignite instantaneously.
I just wouldn't bet on it early on. Ready, instead, for the hot takes of "the Pelicans made a mistake with Gentry" from local media outlets. A record around .500 as the calendar flips from November to December is hardly out of the question.