The New Orleans Pelicans have played 8 games on the 2016-17 schedule, and they remain the only team in the Western Conference without a win. While making the playoffs was always going to be a tough task for this roster, nobody expected the team to get off to such a horrendous start.
At the same time, 74 games remain — too many to pack it in now — so as painful as it may be, let’s force ourselves to be optimistic for a minute. The Pelicans may be without a win, but there are still a lot of encouraging signs to keep the team and fans hopeful for the remainder of the season.
For starters, they are simply too talented to be one of the worst teams in the NBA. The strong roster is carried by Anthony Davis, who has asserted himself as one of the best players in the league again.
In addition to the great play of Davis, the Pelicans should be encouraged by the improvement of guards Tim Frazier and E'Twaun Moore. Both players have been forced to contribute more than expected while Jrue Holiday spends time with his sick wife and Tyreke Evans continues rehabbing his knee. The missing guards are several of the best scoring playmakers in the league and their impending returns would significantly strengthen the rotations. Just imagine sliding Frazier and Moore to the bench. Suddenly the reserves have teeth while Davis gets the help he so desperately needs in the starting lineup.
It is also hard to be discouraged by all the early season performances of the New Orleans Pelicans because they have lost a lot of close games to very good basketball teams. Two of their losses have come against the Golden State Warriors, and they only lost those two games by a total of 18 points. The Pelicans also have two close overtime losses that could have easily been wins. New Orleans lost a road game to the Memphis Grizzlies last Wednesday 89-83 in overtime. The team had several chances to win the game, but they were clearly tired from their game against the Milwaukee Bucks one night earlier.
The Pelicans suffered their second straight overtime loss when they faced the Phoenix Suns two days after their devastating game against the Grizzlies. The Pelicans had their chance to win in regulation, but they could not stop Devin Booker from sinking a game-tying shot as time expired. E'Twaun Moore was also unable to make a game-winning shot at the end of overtime in their 112-111 loss to the Suns.
With a little more luck, the New Orleans Pelicans could easily have three wins through their first eight games without two critical pieces. Additionally, good things could come very soon for the Pelicans, so the fans should not completely give up on the season yet. The horrible start is certainly going to make it a lot harder to make the playoffs, but the Pelicans are more than capable of going on an extended winning streak, especially with having an MVP candidate and Rookie of the Year candidate on the roster.
Even if the team misses out on the postseason again this year, the future isn’t as dark as it currently appears for the Pelicans. Elite basketball players can carry their team to the playoff on their own, and Anthony Davis is quickly developing into one of those special players. If Buddy Hield, E'Twaun Moore and Tim Frazier continue to improve too, then New Orleans will be on the path of fielding that competitive team in the near future, with signs likely emerging as soon as Holiday and Evans are back in action.