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Can Anthony Davis lead the New Orleans Pelicans to the NBA playoffs?

The Western Conference race is tight, DeMarcus Cousins is lost, but some optimism is still possible!

New Orleans Pelicans v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

What odds do you give the New Orleans Pelicans to make the 2018 playoffs and why? (0%, 25%, 100%, any percentage you like!)

Kevin: 60%

I’m going to say we have a 60% chance — though I really believe we will be in there barring injury.

The new big three and a bench built around defense and ruggedness has had time to gel and figure out how to play with each other. I think the new parts and the possibly returning parts — Solomon Hill and Frank Jackson — provide the coaching staff a lot of flexibility in their lineups and minutes allocation. I also believe Anthony Davis is in the right frame of mind to completely dominate.

That being said, with the margin of error so low, with so many solid teams fighting for so few spots, any missed time — even just a quarter missed in a game — could derail the playoff push, and we already know that our schedule doesn’t do us many favors.

Jamile: 51%

After never really getting to see the young vet team (Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Davis, Anderson) play together due to injury, it’s sad to see another season tarnished by a serious injury to a core player. Prior to DeMarcus Cousins going down, I felt the Pels were a playoff lock, all that was left to be determined was which seed NOLA would earn.

The Pels finished the “first half” strong, winning three in a row and seemingly getting at least some of their groove back. If they can carry that momentum over for the last 25 games, they’ve still got a great shot to make the playoffs, and given how tight the Western Conference standings are, the Pelicans can actually get a decent seed. On the negative side, the Pels are notoriously inconsistent, and just when we want to believe, they generally rip our hearts out with a blow out loss to Brooklyn or Sacramento.

For me, I would place the teams odds at 51%, meaning I think they have a slightly better chance than not to make the playoffs — but only slightly. The teams behind the Pels (Clippers & Jazz) have inferior front line talent to New Orleans and teams in front like OKC, Denver and Portland have all had inconsistencies of their own. The Pelicans schedule to close the season isn’t too tough, so I think they make the playoffs, but as always, you have to guard against expecting too much out of one of the NBA’s premier yo-yo teams.

Preston: 50%

I think it’s foolish to say anything other than 50% at this point. If AD can continue his 41 ppg average over the past three games throughout the remainder of the season, then a fifth or even fourth seeded finish might not be so improbable.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Against three meager opponents in Brooklyn, Detroit and Los Angeles, the Pelicans showed their upside, and got meaningful minutes from guys like Emeka Okafor, DeAndre Liggins, and Cheick Diallo. These guys were not rotation players just weeks ago, and the Pelicans will have to count on them to keep up this level of play over what promises to be a difficult slate of games in a very short period of time.

The Pelicans are still not playing any defense, giving up 111.1 points per game. Will the Pelicans defense get further exposed by teams fighting for their very playoff lives, or do the Pelicans have another gear they’ve been saving for a season ending run?

In addition, the West is heating up. Don’t look now, but the Clippers are a game back of the Pels, and the Utah Jazz have won 11 straight….

David: Coin flip

It’s close to a coin flip to me, leaning slightly pessimistic. 45-50% or so? Utah needs to keep up their red hot play to pass the Pelicans. The Clippers lurk too. Barring a big time injury to a team ahead of the Pels, I don’t think New Orleans can move up much in the West, but holding their place is possible. Can they hold off both the Clippers and Jazz? I don’t know. Schedule clearly isn’t going to help New Orleans much.

Oleh: 66%

Hey, I’m feeling rather optimistic at this precise moment! Maybe the long All-Star break helped erase some of the memories from the bad losses, but I’m actually digging the Pelicans playoff chances — as long as they don’t suffer any more devastating injuries.

To say there’s any sizable difference between the #3 seed, the #10 seed and everyone in between, is laughable. We’re more than 2/3’s of the way through the schedule and just four games separates eight teams in the loss column. Odds are, there’s going to be a couple of teams that find some separation and finish the season on a hot steak, some that hang around the edge of the playoff bubble with average or slightly above average play, and a few who fail to break .500 the rest of the way. I feel like the Pelicans are destined for that middle group and will find the postseason as one of the last three seeds.

Admittedly, a lot of my hope stems from the belief that Davis is genuinely going to give it his all and carry the team. After witnessing him go through the motions for a couple of weeks following Boogie’s injury, he looked a changed man during the last three games before the break. His aggressive play, a much more stoic than usual game face, and confident tone with the media, all exuded a particular noteworthy focus. If he can avoid suffering those emotional letdowns after the disappointing defeats — yes, there will be more, I like the New Orleans Pelicans odds of playing deeper into April.

Travis: >50%

I’d put it at worse than a 50-50 proposition — and that’s being nice, but I’ll round up!

The Cousins injury, when it first happened, was hard to fully understand. The team was hot, beating the Houston Rockets in the very game he went down. The loss of a historically-great point, rebound and assist producer at his position is something the team is going to struggle to recover from not just this season, but until his return (whenever that is). Simply slotting in another big might help buoy the defense, but with all attention back on AD, this spells trouble for the final 25 games.

The good thing is the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff race is a jumbled mess; the bad thing is they’re all good teams. Yikes!