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Predictions on New Orleans Pelicans finish in Western Conference amid Jimmy Butler debacle in Minnesota

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Mainstream is sleeping on the Pelicans once again.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans-Media Day Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

With Minnesota on the verge of losing Jimmy Butler, where do you think the New Orleans Pelicans finish in the West and why?

Kevin: 5th seed

I don’t think the mess in Minnesota changes where the Pelicans will finish because I’ve always had them ahead of Timberwolves. I believe that New Orleans will finish as the 5th seed this season, and unless Butler ends up in Portland or Denver, I don’t see how any potential trade affects the Pels in the standings.

Jamile: 5th seed

The Warriors and Rockets are still at the top of the conference, but after that, the picture gets much cloudier. Jimmy Butler dismantling the Timber-bulls will provide a little relief, yet it will still be an absolute battle for playoff seeding in the West. I would put New Orleans above teams like the Nuggets and Lakers, placing them firmly in the middle class of the West with Utah, Portland San Antonio, and OKC. Any one of these teams could finish as high as the three seed or as low as seventh or eighth seed.

A huge part of where the Pels finish will be determined by the aggressiveness of Jrue Holiday. If we get a full season sized helping of late season/playoff Jrue, the Pelicans could be elite. New Orleans already has the best front court in the league. If this team now has a consistent dynamic and aggressive backcourt to compliment them, that blows the top off of their projected ceiling.

Preston: 5th seed

Minnesota should not have a definitive effect on the Pelicans’ standings in the Western Conference this season, with or without Jimmy Butler. Jeff Teague is one year older, and the roster is littered with the depth of the contending Bulls from yesteryear. Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns have nowhere to go but up, but have not yet shown enough to lead the franchise on their own. With Butler in the mix, the infighting and backstage distractions should be enough to implode any hopes of a playoff finish.

Now, should Butler be dismissed from the conference, the teams out West will benefit as a whole. The Pelicans’ principal concern should be the Los Angeles Clippers. Right now the ‘other’ team from LA looks primed for a sweep, but should the Clips add Jimmy Butler in addition to Beverley, Bradley, SGA, Harris, Williams and Gortat, they may have enough to take a few from our hometown heroes.

Zachary: 5th seed

First of all, I want to congratulate the Wolves on their first playoff appearance since I was in fifth grade. Hope the Jimmy Butler era, which amounted to basically crashing on your buddy’s couch for the weekend, was worth it. Anyway, with the Lakers’ additions and Minnesota’s impending departure, I think the Pelicans are about right where they finished in the playoff standings. Golden State is still at the top, Houston is second, but the gap between them and the Warriors widened, and you can talk me into the Lakers being third. New Orleans remains bunched up with Oklahoma City, Utah, San Antonio, and Portland. Let’s say New Orleans finishes fifth.

Oleh: 4th seed

Barring Jimmy Butler winding up on an immediate rival from last year’s standings, New Orleans will not be affected by how the situation unfolds in Minnesota. Outside of the Warriors, Rockets and probably Jazz, the Pelicans have as good of a chance as any of grabbing that final home court spot in the first round of the Western Conference: A 20-8 regular season finish followed by a good playoff run, a core engineered to further the successful identity discovered after DeMarcus Cousins was lost to a season-ending injury, and Jrue Holiday, Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic all primed for good seasons as opportunity glistens. Oh, and let’s not forget about the newly added depth to the roster. Alvin Gentry is going to have viable choices sitting on the bench.

At first glance, losing Rajon Rondo hurts. While it remains to be seen if the leadership void can aptly be filled by a maturer Davis and Holiday — but those closest to the team are confident with the status quo, numbers indicate the Pelicans will be just fine. Lineups with Holiday-Moore-Mirotic-Davis remained potent as ever in the minutes Rondo sat. The biggest problem was when multiple big minute players were asked to rest — the bench could not remotely replace the production. Now, there’s plenty of hope the reserves won’t be outmatched by the competition on a regular basis.

Travis: 6th seed

Quick note: Jimmy moving to South Beach makes so much sense to me, meaning he would leave the Western Conference, which might help move Minnesota from playoff contender to pretender.

This season is gonna be hard, folks: making the playoffs at all would be a success. All the teams that didn’t make the playoffs should be better (yes, even those pesky Suns!) and Golden State and Oklahoma City should definitely be as good or better than they were last year, too. I’ll predict another 6 seed for New Orleans, but they could land anywhere from the 4-seed to 9th or 10th, depending on injuries. The goal should be homecourt in the first round of the playoffs.