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New Orleans Pelicans on surprising identical pace to 2014-15 NBA playoff version

The same record, similarly effective offenses and two disappointing defenses.

NBA: New York Knicks at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

As the calendar flips to 2018, the New Orleans Pelicans sport an even 18-18 record — far from inspiring but not unprecedented either. Through 36 games of the 2014-15 season, the Monty Williams-led team sat an even .500, too.

The one notable difference resides in the NBA standings. As to where this current version sits in 8th place in the Western Conference, the squad from three years ago was 9th and 2.5 games outside of the playoff bubble.

Interestingly, the comparisons go much deeper than just wins and losses. Thirty-six games into both seasons, each Pelicans teams fielded a top 10 offense and a bottom 10 defense. (League rankings are in parenthesis.)

Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Net Rating
2017-18 Pelicans 108.6 (6th) 107.7 (25th) +0.9 (11th)
2014-15 Pelicans 105.9 (7th) 105.8 (24th) +0.1 (15th)

As history tells, the 2015 playoff team went on to wrap up their season on a charge, finishing with a 28-19 record. Many believe General Manager Dell Demps trading for Quincy Pondexter and then later Norris Cole helped propel the Pelicans ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the final postseason seed.

With only 1.5 games separating the 2017-18 Pelicans from the 5th seed and both the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz poised to make runs from behind, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the front office seeks out upgrades to the roster before the February 8th trade deadline.

Although Frank Jackson and Tony Allen are expected to return soon, Solomon Hill, the starting small forward and one of the team’s stoutest defender, remains without an official timetable. In addition, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Jrue Holiday have been asked to shoulder enormous loads, as evidenced by reading their names towards the top of the leaderboard in average minutes per game — all inside the top 20.

Coming off two disappointing losses at home to the Mavericks and Knicks and a 5-5 record in the last 10 games beckons for assistance. Omer Asik and Cheick Diallo are not a part of the regular rotation and Jameer Nelson and Dante Cunningham haven’t contributed as well as the coaching staff would have hoped throughout the last month.

To top it all off, January is about to turn hectic. Starting this Wednesday on the 3rd in Utah, the Pelicans will play 14 games in 28 days, and despite the competition not looking as fearsome as the already completed portion of the schedule, New Orleans has lacked the consistency of late to be able to trust them emerging with more victories than defeats.

Should Dell Demps trust the roster he has assembled and wait for internal improvements or should he prioritize upgrading the roster over these next five weeks?