The New Orleans Pelicans (1-4) will face the Orlando Magic (1-5) tonight in the preseason finale of the schedule. The game is reportedly not going to be televised, so the best bet is either listening to it live on 99.5 or following the action on the Pelicans app.
There is no hope for New Orleans to finish with a winning record, but it’s interesting to note that the last time they did so during exhibition play, the team found the postseason. The Pelicans went 5-2 in 2014-15 en route to a 45-37 regular season record and a playoff berth. Before this fact dejects anyone, though, let me also remind you what transpired in just the previous year. The Pelicans went 7-1 in the preseason but struggled to a 34-48 record during the 2013-14 regular season.
Although some have found comparisons between the funny season and the real thing in the past, they are less apt today. With premiums placed on rest and the minutes of key players managed more scrupulously than ever, there exists less correlation. For instance, have a look at the standings from almost one calendar year ago: the Cavaliers went 1-6, the Spurs finished one win stronger (2-4) and the holders of the best regular season winning percentage in history, the 2015-16 Warriors, went an uninspiring 3-4.
So, don’t dismiss the fact the Pelicans are going to enter the regular season shorthanded with several key pieces out, but take all specific results from the exhibition games with a grain of salt. If Anthony Davis appears in practically every regular season contest on the upcoming schedule and Jrue Holiday beats most of the time tables floating out there, it’s difficult to envision the Pelicans finishing near the cellar of the Western Conference, the ugly place they currently reside in now.
The Pelicans opponent on Thursday, the Orlando Magic, have not fared any better; they’ve notched just one win in six preseason tries. Following the offseason trade of Victor Oladipo, Serge Ibaka has cemented himself as one of the main weapons on their roster. He and Evan Fournier are averaging over 16 points a game, but beyond Jeff Green other key members of the rotation have struggled mightily. Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, Mario Hezonja and Nikola Vucevic all have field goal percentages hovering below 35%.
Defensively, the Magic (106.4 DRtg) have shown as much trouble as the Pelicans (107.3 DRtg) in slowing down opponents during the month of October. However, if Davis makes an appearance, expect the Pelicans to perform much better during his time on the floor. According to NBAwowy, the Pelicans have recorded an 110.1 ORtg and 103.1 DRtg in his 60 minutes of action, but an abysmal 102.2 ORtg and 112.1 DRtg when he’s sat.
See, some hope exists this squad may not start out as flat as last season, but we likely won’t know for certain until the middle of next week. #FingersCrossed