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Pelicans schedule for December offers no help to climb back into playoff picture

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Eight games in 13 days featuring the top four in the West. Things could get very ugly.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans now sit 12th in the Western Conference with a record of 7-15. Five full games behind the Portland Trail Blazers (12-10) for the eighth and final playoff spot. The task of crawling into playoff contention, as Tom Ziller pointed out last week, is extraordinarily tall even for NBA players. While we would like to believe there is time for a turnaround history tells us the odds are long. The first month of the season says far more about the remainder of the season than we prefer to admit.

Playoffs? Ha. Four prominent computer models we tracked last year think playoffs a long shot at best. Last February entering the All-Star Break all four predicted New Orleans to finish around 6th worst in the league, which is exactly where the Pels actually finished. This year they think a top five finish (in the lottery) is a strong possibility.

PROJ W PROJ L PLAYOFF % DRAFT POSITION
ESPN BPI 32 50 3.30% T-5th
Basketball Reference 33.2 48.8 5.30% 5th
Five Thirty Eight 31 51 6% 5th
numberFire 33.8 48.2 5.90% T-5th

Ouch.

New Orleans doesn’t get an easy schedule to crawl out of the basement either. In the next 13 games the Pelicans face seven opponents above .500. On the plus side, just two of their games against sub .500 opponents, at Phoenix on December 11th and at Philadelphia on the 20th, are on the road. Thus far they haven’t taken advantage, going 3-6 against teams under .500.

Date Opponent Pelicans Rest Opponent Rest Advantage TV
12/2/2016 LA Clippers 2 SEGABABA Pelicans
12/4/2016 at Oklahoma City 1 3 Opponent
12/5/2016 Memphis SEGABABA 1 Opponent
12/8/2016 Philadelphia 2 1
12/10/2016 at LA Clippers 1 2 NBATV
12/11/2016 at Phoenix SEGABABA 1 Opponent
12/13/2016 Golden State 1 1
12/15/2016 Indiana 1 SEGABABA Pelicans
12/16/2016 at Houston SEGABABA 1 Opponent
12/18/2016 at San Antonio 1 2
12/20/2016 at Philadelphia 1 1
12/21/2016 Oklahoma City SEGABABA 1 Opponent
12/23/2016 Miami 1 SEGABABA Pelicans
12/26/2016 Dallas 2 2
12/28/2016 LA Clippers 1 1 NBATV
12/30/2016 Knicks 1 1

After Thursday’s game against Philadelphia this team will be tested. Eight games in 13 days (just five days off) including three separate back-to-backs. Rest disadvantage on the back half of a back-to-back each and every time. Match-ups against every team in the top four in the Western Conference (Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, and Houston Rockets). To say this team cannot afford a loss on Thursday is a substantial understatement.

History leads us to believe the die is cast on the Pelicans season already. Only a surprising run through the best the West has to offer between now and Christmas may put New Orleans back on track. Anthony Davis is going to keep being amazing. It’s up to the rest of the roster Dell Demps has assembled to give Davis a chance.