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Pelicans make up no ground in NBA power rankings

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The New Orleans Pelicans aren’t awful. They’re just there. Bad often, good occasionally, and consistently inconsistent.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

This is worse than the treadmill of mediocrity. The New Orleans Pelicans are on their way to another season without the playoffs despite Anthony Davis. Logging seasons on the treadmill assumes a team is typically in the hunt most years for the brass ring that is the eighth and final seed in the playoffs well into the season. Sometimes that team scratches their way in for a short stay, other seasons the wheels fall off after the All-Star Break and it is simply too late to tank for a good draft pick.

New Orleans is not on the treadmill of mediocrity. It’s worse, a treadmill of simply bad basketball going on its second consecutive season. Once again they are 9-20 through 29 games. Once again their playoff hopes seem rather foolish before Santa arrives with his gift of an entire day of Christmas basketball. For most of the casual fans around the country, basketball season begins on Christmas Day. The Pelicans could be an outlier and make a run — they are not mathematically eliminated yet and won’t be for quite some time — but the odds of it are practically microscopic.

Despite all that, there have been two very encouraging developments this month. Buddy Hield has caught fire and is shooting a blistering 50% (23/46) from behind the arc in December. Tiny sample size? Sure. Nylon Calculus estimated that it takes over 750 3-point attempts before there is significant reliability in a player’s 3-point shooting prowess. It’s a tiny sample, but Buddy looking like he’s figuring it out is a good thing. Hopefully he keeps shooting (and starting).

Next up is fellow rookie Cheick Diallo. As almost any writer covering the Pelicans has noted Diallo is still incredibly raw. There is the fluidity to his movement, and his touch around the basket, that gives anyone rooting for the Pelicans hope. Maybe the coaching staff will find more minutes for Diallo, as I suggested last week.

NBA.com

Last Week: 25 - This Week: 25

Buddy Hield still has a long way to go with his overall game (he has the second lowest free throw rate among 141 players who have taken at least 200 shots from the field), but he found his jumper. He scored a career-high 21 points in Thursday's win over the Pacers and is one of three guys who has shot 50 percent or better on at least 40 3-point attempts this month. The Pelicans got Tyreke Evans back last week, but still haven't figured out their frontline. Alexis Ajinca has started the last six games at center and they've been outscored by 13.6 points per 100 possessions in 75 minutes with Ajinca and Anthony Davis on the floor together since then.

ESPN

Last Week: 29 - This Week: 27

Since the Pelicans' initial 4-0 burst after the return of Jrue Holiday, they've only managed a 3-10 mark, with two of those wins coming against the Lakers and Suns. But Tyreke Evans (albeit on a minutes restriction) is back in the lineup now, too, while Buddy Hield is starting to gradually look more comfortable with the NBA game. It's also worth diverting our statistical focus on Anthony Davis' ridiculous numbers for a change to acknowledge that the unheralded Tim Frazier -- named MVP and Rookie of the Year in the D-League in 2014-15 -- is the only current player in the NBA not named James Harden who has managed to increase his assist average by more than 4 dimes since last season.

Sports Illustrated

Last Week: 23 - This Week: 24

Tyreke Evans is back, for whatever that’s worth.

CBS Sports

Last Week: 26 - This Week: 26

The Pelicans need shakabuku, a Buddhist concept that means a spiritual kick to the head. They need a hard reset on their identity.