The current NBA CBA was ratified on December 8th, 2011. A protracted lockout by the NBA owners concluded and an abbreviated 66 game season began on Christmas Day. Negotiations ended in a rout for the owners but there was significant hope for small market franchises like the New Orleans Pelicans. The luxury tax grew far more punitive and additional limits on tax paying teams promised to reel in big spending.
Chris Paul was traded (after he stated his desire to become a free agent at the conclusion of the season) to the Los Angeles Lakers the same day according to Adrian Wojnarowski. In the deal, negotiated by Dell Demps (this part is important), the then-Hornets would receive Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic, and the New York Knicks 2012 First Round pick. That trade was not approved due to basketball reasons according to the NBA, then operating as owners of the franchise.
Less than a week later Demps crafted a trade ownership would approve with the Los Angeles Clippers. Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chris Kaman, and the Minnesota Timberwolves 2012 First Round Pick. (I miss rooting for the "Tumblewolves", do you?) Gordon was a potential star, Aminu was a lump of really athletic clay, and that unprotected Minnesota pick was expected to be incredibly valuable.
Instead, the last five seasons professional basketball in New Orleans has been a struggle. Hope provided by finding a new local owner (Tom Benson) and winning the Anthony Davis lottery has gradually faded away. The NBA CBA, expected to open the league to greater parity, has instead divided the West distinctly between the haves and have-nots.
Let's see how the Pelicans rank in the Western Conference over the last five years. Here are the win totals for all 15 Western Conference franchises. Bold totals are playoff teams that season.
|1||San Antonio Spurs||50||58||62||55||67||292||74.1%|
|2||Oklahoma City Thunder||47||60||59||45||55||266||67.5%|
|3||Los Angeles Clippers||40||56||57||56||53||262||66.5%|
|4||Golden State Warriors||23||47||51||67||73||261||66.2%|
|8||Portland Trail Blazers||28||33||54||51||44||210||53.3%|
|12||New Orleans Pelicans||21||27||34||45||30||157||39.8%|
|13||Los Angeles Lakers||41||45||27||21||17||151||38.3%|
Only the Pelicans remarkable appearance in the playoffs last year (with a massive helping hand thanks to a foot injury to Kevin Durant) provided the playoff field with any variety over the last three seasons. The eight teams in the playoffs this year? Unsurprisingly the same eight teams with records over .500 the last five years.
You should take a moment to enjoy the Pelicans having a superior record to the Lakers over the last five years.
If building an organization with a winning culture takes time the Pelicans find themselves far behind in the West. Houston and Memphis appear to be ripe for a step back, especially considering their own vacancies at head coach. Utah Jazz fans would certainly like to pencil their own team into a potential playoff slot should either team fall. Can the Pelicans as well?
Competition, as I outlined briefly at the end of the season, will be stiff.