Two more games remain for the New Orleans Pelicans. Their potential role as spoiler for the Portland Trail Blazers has been usurped by Russell Westbrook eliminating the Denver Nuggets on Sunday afternoon with an absolutely bonkers game winner. At best they can lose on Tuesday to the Los Angeles Lakers and potentially harm the Lakers chances of keeping their draft pick. Losing both games could help the Pelicans keep their pick if Dallas wins at least once or if the Minnesota Timberwolves and/or Sacramento Kings win out this week. Neither seems terribly likely as the Mavs, Kings, and Wolves all have incentives to lose.
Wednesday presents an interesting conundrum considering the lack of incentive for both teams. The game being televised on ESPN and Adam Silver's recent comments on rest could certainly apply. Portland is already resting both Damian Lilliard and C.J. McCollum Monday night against the San Antonio Spurs due to various injuries. The playoffs begins on Saturday or Sunday for Portland and head coach Terry Stotts may choose to play everyone on Wednesday in the interest of avoiding rust. For the Pelicans, on the second night of a back-to-back, the calculations are equally interesting. Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins are out for Tuesday’s game against the Lakers. Will they both be available for the season finale to help the NBA honor its commitments to broadcasting partners?
After briefly surging into the teens the Pelicans end the season in the bottom ten league wide according to all four media outlets I follow. Matt Moore’s “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” comments on Jrue Holiday’s pending extension are the most prophetic. The one question is, what is “market price” for Holiday? Our own Nico Baguio has already outlined what fair value could be for Holiday. If Jrue Holiday’s on court contributions are worth maybe $17 million how comfortable will the Pelicans be in paying $22 million or more per season? The debate on what Holiday is worth in comparison to what it may cost to retain him is certain to continue for the next couple months.
Last Week: 18 - This Week: 21
The Pelicans have had the fifth most improved offense since the All-Star break, 3.6 points per 100 possessions better than it was before the break. But they've still been below average on offense and better with DeMarcus Cousins off the floor (109.7 points scored per 100 possessions) than with him on the floor (102.5). Whether or not the Cousins-Anthony Davis combo eventually functions better, the Pels are desperate for help on the wings. But if re-signing Jrue Holiday is priority No. 1, wings will need to be found in the bargain bin. The Cousins trade hasn't really eased the pressure on the front office to put more talent around Davis.
Last Week: 19 - This Week: 21
The Pelicans' season was more like four rolled into one. 1) The before and after Jrue Holiday's return from tending to his wife and daughter. 2) The eventual shift to small ball with Anthony Davis playing center. 3) Swinging that blockbuster trade on the night New Orleans hosted the All-Star Game to land DeMarcus Cousins next to The Brow. And 4) Some stubborn play in March and April that kept the Pels in the chase for the No. 8 spot in the West longer than any team outside of Portland or Denver. Now, though, comes the hard part. What kind of team will the Pels put around their two All-Star big men? And will it include Holiday given all the external interest he'll attract as an unrestricted free agent? Stay tuned.
Last Week: 19 - This Week: 21
Does anyone really know what this team is going to look like in six months? Not at all. But the Pelicans will be in the crosshairs this summer and present one of the more interesting quandaries in recent memory. I’m still willing to bet on Boogie and Brow.
Last Week: 17 - This Week: 23
They're going to be criticized if they let Jrue Holiday walk. They're going to be criticized if they give Holiday a huge new contract. There's no win here, but Holiday has been more than good enough for the Pelicans to retain at market cost.