The 2016-17 season tips off tonight. Mere hours from now TNT will broadcast live NBA action that matters directly into your homes. We’ve made it!
Now, time to get down to business. Las Vegas has put the New Orleans Pelicans over/under line at 37 wins. We asked everyone on our staff to respond how they expect the Pelicans to finish this season; above or below 37 wins. No pushing here!
Let’s take a look how our staff would (or even possibly has!) bet on the Pelicans this season.
Jason Albert (Over): I believe that the Pelicans will win around 40 games this season. With the depth that New Orleans added at the wing this year with Buddy Hield, E'Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway, and Solomon Hill they are more equipped to deal with the amount of injuries this team always seems to have. Also with Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, and Terrence Jones on contract seasons look for them to try to max out their future earnings.
Kevin Barrios (Over): I'll go slightly over. I expect the Pelicans to make some strides on defense, and continue to be one of the stronger offenses in the league. Also, at some point we need to have a somewhat healthy stretch. I don't think we are a playoff team yet, but we will be fighting for a spot heading in to the final weeks of the season and will be in the next year with some more tinkering/growth.
I think we are a 39 win team with the potential to win 44 games if everything doesn't break wrong — but unfortunately history says someone or some people will likely break down. E'Twaun Moore will be an absolute steal destroying the stain of the Eric Gordon era, Buddy Hield will bolster the scoring on the 2nd unit, and Terrence Jones will be an unselfish playmaking big that will feed AD in transition and off of cuts. If Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Quincy Pondexter and Omer Asik can return to at least 80% of their peak Pelican performances, we will have a lot of depth and lineup versatility. I anticipate that this season will be fun.
Isaac Constans (Under): I don't think that the Pelicans reach 37. The Western Conference is simply talent-laden, and I'm not convinced that the Pelicans have the chops currently to compete with the potential-realizing T'Wolves or Jazz (which should still be our name).
Maybe most significant for my conclusion, however, is the durability of this team. The Pelicans have to prove to me that they have the stamina and sturdiness to make it through an NBA season with the coherence of a starting lineup, and they're not off to a great start. Two starters removed from a fully fledged starting lineup does not bode well. N.O. has talent and potential, but it takes a lot more than that to even hit 35 wins in the Western Conference.
Chris Cucchiara (Over): If I were to throw down some "jellybeans" on the Pelicans over/under for the 2016 season, I would put them on the over. I think the Pels will win 39-41 games, but this will depend on the health of Anthony Davis. Hopefully the defense will be able to "muck up" enough games and the offense will continue the passing display that we saw during the preseason.
The first game will be telling because Denver at home on opening night needs to be a win for the Pelicans, not because the Nuggets are a bad team, but because of the start that the Pels got off to last year. A win on opening night would take a lot of pressure off the team.
David Fisher (Under): Is Anthony Davis going to play 70+ games this season? When is Jrue Holiday returning to the lineup? I would change my expectations wildly if I knew the answers to both of those questions. Here’s what I’m assuming; history is a decent enough guide to inform us how things will go this season. Anthony Davis will probably play between 65-70 games, missing 12+ due to minor injuries. Jrue Holiday, when he does return, will still have to play himself into game condition. The schedule at the beginning of the season is brutal enough that the franchise digs a hole too deep. 37 wins is a great line because I see the Pelicans right around that number, but if I had to bet on it (I wouldn’t) it would be the under ever so slightly.
Jonathan Harvey (Under): The Pelicans, as a whole, improved defensively this year, and have more depth than last season. Oh, and Anthony Davis has a new young bud who can shoot the ball. With that said, many teams in the West improved from last year.
The Suns got healthy. Everyone is feeling the Jazz. The Timberwolves and the Nuggets have more depth and another year of experience. The Lakers do not have Byron Scott letting Kobe Bryant dribble the ball for 20 seconds before tossing up a contested fadeaway jumper most possessions. I guess the Kings are still the Kings.
It’s not crazy to say that third tier teams in the West have become more competitive, and the Warriors boarded a spacecraft that has a crash course to the NBA beyond. This is without mentioning the Russell Westbrook warpath, Spurs machine and the rest of the maybe-by-some-stroke-of-unforseen-luck-we-will-contend second tier.
So, to say that the Pelicans will win enough games to come close to .500 basketball when Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Quincy Pondexter all have injuries to open the season would be illogical. Is it possible? Sure. But I’m going under.
Zachary Junda (Over): There's no way with the pieces they added this summer, players that better fit the way the game's being played now, that the Pelicans can't win more than 37 games. Actually there is a way: health; and if there's any team that could use as many good graces as possible when it comes to being healthy, it's this one. They stay healthy, they hit the over. They don't? Welp.
Oleh Kosel (Over): The Pelicans will finish with 39 wins thanks in large part to a healthier roster. Granted, the odds of improving significantly upon 351 games missed to injury is an easy bet to make, but New Orleans appears better suited to handle the rigors of an 82-game schedule. The team is deeper, has taken steps to improve their track record, and a number of high injury risk players have been replaced by a more durable assortment.
Additionally once Jrue Holiday returns, I expect the team to hit another gear. The preseason schedule painfully revealed the need for star power on the court at all times. When Anthony Davis played, the Pelicans beat the opposition by nearly 5 points per 100 possessions; when he sat, they were outscored by close to 10 points per 100 possessions. Holiday's presence will further lift a collection of solid role players to bigger and better things.
Travis Tate (Under): The Pelicans' over/under win total of 37 seems too high to me, so I'm left wondering less about how many games I think the Pels will win and wondering more about why others might think they'd win 37 games. The answer is Anthony Davis -- and the only way this team knocks on the door of the playoffs is with an MVP-caliber season like that from two years ago. In order of importance, the Pels need the following from AD to hit 37 wins: 80 games, 25+ PPG, 30+ usage%, 14+ assist%, and the relationship between his 3PT%, 3FGA and eFG%, but those will be what I’m looking at.