Our New Orleans Pelicans are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Over the next 48 hours their opponent will be determined, and Anthony Davis and company can have a big say in who that opponent is with a win Wednesday night at home against the San Antonio Spurs. A loss probably locks the Pels into 7th or 8th and a first round date (with a likely quick exit) against either the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors.
Who should the Pelicans want to face in the postseason? Glad you asked! Time to rank the Pelicans potential playoff opponents (assuming the Pelicans win on Wednesday). Let's begin with the least desireable.
Utah Jazz - Nope. Not at all. This is the worst matchup for the Pelicans outside of Golden State or Houston in my mind. Quin Snyder's team is superbly coached and will play to their meticulously crafted game plan. A NOLA-Utah matchup sounds like a good revenge playoff series, until Utah has slowed the game down to a crawl and former blog hero (I haven't forgotten Icebird) Joe Ingles is raining fire behind the arc.
Utah would be the most satisfying team to beat in the playoffs (non-Houston division), thanks to the ongoing Twitter war with Utah Jazz sports personalities who hate Boogie and think Gobert is better than AD (I won't even give them the satisfaction of being named but you know) to be clear. However, if the Pelicans lose to Utah in the playoffs those same people will be unbearable all off-season. Nope. Pass. Next.
The remainder of possible opponents all have desirable traits.
Oklahoma City Thunder - This is a good matchup thanks to Jrue Holiday being a potent defender of Russell Westbrook. Few things would solidify Jrue's bid to make First Team All-Defense (despite voting already being completed) like a nightly show in the playoffs like this one.
I knock this opponent down thanks to Steven Adams. He always beats the hell out of Anthony Davis and I'd rather we get the full Davis experience in the playoffs.
The rest of these matchups? SIGN ME UP.
Minnesota Timberwolves - Anthony Davis vs. Karl-Anthony Towns is the main course. Jrue Holiday trying to slow down Jimmy Butler in crunch time provides an excellent dessert. The only reason this matchup is not rated more highly is the Pelicans struggled all year with the Timberwolves leading to a 0-4 record. It could certainly change in the playoffs and this matchup would bring out the best in AD. The other possible matchups are just better for the Pelicans.
Portland Trail Blazers - I fear Damian Lillard in the playoffs. Any sane fan should too. Jusuf Nurkic is going to do a number on Anthony Davis, but unlike Steven Adams, he's not quick enough to frustrate Davis for long on offense. This one is more favorable than Minnesota in my opinion but just barely. It's practically a tie and I use the head-to-head record (NOLA 0-4 against MIN, 2-2 against Portland) to break the tie. I can see why some may flip these two.
Denver Nuggets - Without a doubt the most preferred Pelicans playoff opponent and also the least likely since the Thunder would need to lose to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday to even have a shot along with a number of other favorable things for the Pelicans. However, if by some miracle New Orleans did get Denver in the playoffs, Anthony Davis might average 50 points a game and it would be incredible to watch him devour Nikola Jokic every single night.
That's it. You're probably asking what about the Spurs. Unfortunately if the Pelicans win on Wednesday the Spurs are knocked down to the 7th or 8th spot thanks to tiebreakers. Matt Moore has been BUSY breaking down all these tiebreakers on his Twitter feed, @HPbasketball. This chart by @BlazersBySagar also helps.
I have done it! Here is how the Western Conference's seeds #3-9 play out in every single possible outcome of games remaining.— Sagar Trika (@BlazersBySagar) April 10, 2018
I'll make this a thread and update it as results come in. pic.twitter.com/g1Y8Hq9w0p
Utah is really the only undesirable matchup for the Pelicans. I can see someone making a strong case for any of OKC, Minnesota, or Portland. All three have positives and negatives for New Orleans in the playoffs.
Home court would be great and the easiest route there begins tonight if the Warriors defeat the Jazz. After that, hope for a Pelicans win on Wednesday and Portland to beat a tired Jazz team on a SEGABABA, keeping Utah at 47 wins. Root against Utah the next two nights. Please. If Utah gets to 48 wins it's not good for New Orleans.
New Orleans gets the fourth seed this way and a likely matchup with Oklahoma City. I expect the Thunder to defeat Memphis on Wednesday with Russell Westbrook logging close to 40 minutes if necessary to make sure he gets his 16 rebounds needed to average another triple-double.
Who do you hope the Pelicans play in the playoffs?