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ESPN projects New Orleans Pelicans to finish 11th in Western Conference

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Expectations are quite modest after the draft and free agency. Agree or disagree?

NBA: Denver Nuggets at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The summer forecasts from the sports leader are in and ESPN predicts the New Orleans Pelicans will finish 11th in the Western Conference standings, up just one spot from last seasons ugly finish.

In 2015-16, the Pelicans posted a record of 30-52, but in hindsight that wasn’t entirely shocking. Team personnel missed a grand total of 351 games due to injury or illness. That mark easily led the league, and only three other teams (Grizzlies, Wizards and Sixers) saw their rosters surpass the 250 game limit.

Therefore, it might come as a surprise to some to see ESPN’s panel project a 35-47 record for the 2016-17 season. The heart of their reasoning is rather sound though, as it involves Anthony Davis, questioning whether his body can withstand the grind of an 82-game schedule.

After winning 45 games and making the playoffs in 2014-15, the Pelicans fell well below expectations with a 30-win effort last season. Anthony Davis missed 21 games and posted the worst shooting percentage of his career as the Pelicans finished 12th in the West. Our panel is expecting a bounce-back of sorts for New Orleans this season, but until Davis proves he can play a full season (he's missed at least 14 games every year), the Pelicans' ceiling might go only so high.

Injuries can cause the ultimate derailments in the NBA. Some teams have proven to be better able to circumvent their impact, but nearly every franchise will fail to meet expectations to some degree when important players start racking up the DNPs.

Before the start of next season, The Bird Writes will publish a number of their own predictions, but for now I’m curious to learn your thoughts. At this point in time, within what win range do you foresee the New Orleans Pelican likely finishing? 31-35 wins? 36-40? Over 45? Or, gulp, maybe 30 or less?

Let’s hear it in the comments below!