The New Orleans Pelicans finished their season last night with a victory, number 34 on the season. All told they finished with the 10th best record in the West and seven games behind the eighth seeded Portland Trail Blazers. They will enter the NBA Lottery in the tenth slot with 4% chance at leaping into the top three and keeping their first round pick. Absent lottery luck the pick will convey to the Sacramento Kings, fulfilling all of the Pelicans' obligations in regards to the DeMarcus Cousins trade.
Despite Anthony Davis playing a career high 75 games, Jrue Holiday playing 67, and Dell Demps adding DeMarcus Cousins the Pelicans failed to hit the over on their win total, set at 37 before the season began. There are certainly positives to pull from this year despite a 34-48 record.
Optimism for next season begins with the acquisition of DeMarcus Cousins. Barring a disaster this summer it's reasonable to expect the Pelicans over/under to be set in the low-to-mid 40's next season. BoogieBrow means expectations, make no mistake. Reaching contender status, however difficult, is a far easier task than it was before Boogie moved to the bayou. Having two top 20 players in the league raises the ceiling of the franchise and the pressure on everyone involved.
Two other bright spots this season were the defense moving out of the basement and improved health. New Orleans was better than league average defensively for the first time since 2011, ranking 9th in defensive rating. As for health, Davis played 75 games and probably would have played 78 if the Pelicans were not eliminated from playoff contention. On the year Davis ranks 15th in total minutes played with 2,708 minutes. Jrue Holiday missed just three games due to injury after missing the first 12 caring for his wife Lauren after she had their child and brain surgery.
Unless Holiday leaves in free agency or the Pelicans acquire another marquee player (likely thanks to lottery luck) I would predict Las Vegas to put their over/under near 44. Unlike the past two seasons I will probably be guessing New Orleans hits the over unless injuries roll in during the preseason.
Now we wait for the lottery. A lucky bounce or two and Dell Demps will have a valuable asset to pursue another top line talent. If not, the future with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins in tow is still bright. Those bright lights will do little to cool the seats of Alvin Gentry or Dell Demps. The pressure of expectations comes in the bright future package.