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The Pelicans find themselves at the bottom of the Western Conference, sitting 2.5 games behind the Thunder and Rockets — two teams often projected to finish in some order of last and next to last before this season.
No matter how you slice it, New Orleans’ reality is as bewildering of a story as any in the NBA through the first third of the 2021-22 schedule.
No one opined a 7-20 record was possible in Pels’ land, even with the breaking news on media day that Zion Williamson had broken a bone in his right foot over the summer. Jonas Valanciunas had replaced the space-destroying Steven Adams. An ineffective Eric Bledsoe was shipped out. And the talented youth was supposed to take an important step forward, with Trey Murphy III and Herbert Jones serving as lagniappe.
While there have been some noteworthy showings and standout performers, not enough has gone right. The young players have not collectively elevated the play of the Pelicans to a higher level. The team remains horrific in clutch minutes, having won but a single contest in 10 opportunities. The peaks and valleys evidenced from wins to losses couldn’t be sitting wider apart.
For as poorly as things have gone in New Orleans, though, it couldn’t be any sunnier in San Francisco.
Sitting atop the standings are the Warriors, a team originally predicted to find the playoffs but certainly not dominate the competition night in, night out. Not at least until Klay Thompson was back in action and exhibiting pre-injury form.
Thus, with Golden State’s 21-4 start, it’s not surprising that the majority of fans picked the Stephen Curry-led group to win the Western Conference earlier this week.
Naturally, they’ve been voted as the biggest story of the season, too.
Looking back, it’s difficult to believe that the Warriors finished dead last in the league a few years ago. They sat out the bubble festivities entirely because Steph missed most of that season. They lacked real depth. Although D’Angelo Russell was flipped for Andrew Wiggins, no one viewed the trade as a potential game-changer at the time.
Will the Pelicans bottom out similarly despite possessing some stellar contributors on the roster but come together in the near future? Or, can the ship steady somewhat and we get a chance to witness David Griffin’s vision, with Zion proving a more unstoppable force as he’s surrounded by better fitting pieces?
It’s hard to imagine that any bad guesses exist.