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Pelicans start winning just when they need to be losing

#TankFlight is in danger of a crash landing.

A cast of D-League players and NBA journeymen are now winning meaningless games for the New Orleans Pelicans. Last week they went 3-1, the best week for the Pelicans since they went 3-1 in middle January. A win over the New York Knicks came with a significant cost as Jrue Holiday and Alonzo Gee suffered season-ending injuries. After a competitive loss against the San Antonio Spurs this rag-tag bunch racked up wins over the Denver Nuggets and Brooklyn Nets.

On the plus side, wow TIm Frazier might be a superb third point guard (behind Holiday and Tyreke Evans) or possibly a competent one if one of those players is traded. Imagine the chemistry he could develop with Anthony Davis if he's doing THAT with Alexis Ajinca in traffic!

So far these victories have not cost the Pelicans precious ping pong balls, but the schedule sets up for real consequences. Just one game, Wednesday against the Boston Celtics at the Garden, features an opponent in the playoff race. Four games against teams worse than the Pelicans are on the docket. First up, the hapless Philadelphia 76ers who have finally accomplished their goal of ending the season with the worst record in the league.

Four projection models demonstrate just how precarious the situation has become for the Pelicans. Sliding all the way back to ninth or even tenth in the lottery isn't impossible.

Pelicans Knicks Nuggets Kings Bucks
ESPN BPI 32 33 33 33 34
Basketball Reference 32.4 32.8 33.3 33.4 34.0
Five Thirty Eight 33 33 33 33 34
numberFire 32.3 32.7 33.5 33.5 34.3

In the event of the fourth way tie that Five Thirty Eight projects the Pelicans would have a roughly 3.8% chance of winning the lottery instead of 6.3% if they finish sixth by themselves.

The National Championship game is tonight and tips off at 8:19 PM on TBS. There is not a lot of NBA talent on the floor. Brice Johnson, the highest rated prospect on either roster, does not appear in the first round of recent mock drafts by Jonathan Givony for Draft Express or Chad Ford for ESPN.

A number of things work against Johnson as an NBA prospect. First, he's a senior and will turn 22 just four days after the draft. Second, he's not terribly tall (6'9.5" in shoes) or long (6'11 wingspan) for an NBA big man. Both measurements come in below average for a power forward. A similarly size player would be Dante Cunningham, who was 6'8.25" in shoes with a 6'11" wingspan at the 2009 combine. Cunningham has logged over 75% of his minutes at small forward this season and 43% there over the course of his career.

Last Week: 26 - This Week: 25

The Pelicans lost two more guys - Jrue Holiday and Alonzo Gee - for the season and Ryan Anderson could be done as well. But their only loss in the last four games was by eight points in San Antonio, with the Spurs only missing one rotation guy (David West). The eight games since Anthony Davis last played have been their best defensive stretch (102.6 points allowed per 100 possessions) since mid-January.


Last Week: 27 - This Week: 26

To counter the numbers we passed along last week illustrating the challenges facing Anthony Davis in his bid to earn an All-NBA Third Team spot and make an extra $24 million, here's the flip side: Davis did average better than 24 PPG, 10 RPG and 2 BPG for the Pels amid all of their many injury woes. Of the 39 previous players to hit all of those benchmarks, 36 earned All-NBA status.

Sports Illustrated

Last Week: 28 - This Week: 26

EWING THEORY ALERT. The Pelicans, sans Anthony Davis, won three games (who cares the competition was iffy) in a week where Luke Babbitt averaged almost 17 per game, and Dante Cunningham led the team in minutes each night. Bring on the ping-pong balls.

CBS Sports

Last Week: 27 - This Week: 26

If I told you they had more injured players than wins this season, you'd have to think about it for a second, right? It wouldn't automatically be absurd on its surface. That's how bad they've been, and how many guys are on the shelf.