clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What are the best and worst case scenarios for the New Orleans Pelicans this season?

If everything breaks right, a long playoff run is conceivable!

New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

It’s an exciting time to be a New Orleans fan. There exist real expectations for the 2022-23 season, with many predicting a return trip to the playoffs for the Pelicans.

To be fair though, there’s been a noticeable buzz about this team going as far back as to those dark, turbulent days. This is well before they emerged out of the play-in tournament and gave the Suns a noted run for their money in the playoffs. Before several big regular season wins over LeBron’s Lakers. Even before the trade for CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr.

Honestly, positive signs began appearing while loads of negativity still hung in the air, at least to those not fixated on promoting their own agendas.

Willie Green was able to earn the trust of his team from the jump, allowing for the ship to be held fast together despite a rocky 3-16 start. Herb Jones’ defensive clamps were felt by some of the league’s best from day one. Jonas Valanciunas was the offensive hero the team needed in the first half, proving quickly to be a viable force inside the paint for those times when Zion Williamson isn’t on the court.

Soon thereafter, Josh Hart unlocked a good deal of hidden potential. Grand Theft Alvarado burst onto the scene. And Brandon Ingram continued to evolve in all aspects, showing greater maturation on the floor while leaving no doubt as to who is the undisputed leader of the locker room.

Minus Tony Snell, the entire cast that tasted playoff basketball is back, but now they’ll have a healthy and motivated Zion alongside — and don’t overlook Dyson Daniels, who I think will soon be a household name.

If you don’t understand what the fuss is all about, you soon will. This young Pelicans team is loaded with grit and talent. They should be good. Just how good depends entirely on injury luck and how quickly the chemistry can gel on the court.

What’s the ‘Best Case’ scenario for your team this season?

I dunno, maybe seeing the Pelicans reach the NBA Finals? That’s not blasphemy. They say if a team is good enough to make it to the conference finals, then they’re good enough to play for a championship. While the odds are not remotely favorable, if all the important things were to break right for the Pelicans, they could shimmy right through that small window of opportunity.

Zion, BI and CJ can all lead an offense individually. Together? The combined firepower is going to be unstoppable once the trio figures out how to play with one another. Then there’s the three rookies from last season who contributed vitally to the cause down the stretch. Herb, Jose and Trey Murphy have already shown greater ability this preseason. Valanciunas is a rock. Nance is a fantastic glue guy who can man the center position on small-ball units. And much of the rest of the roster is filled with players who would receive regular rotation minutes on multiple other teams.

What’s the ‘Worst Case’ scenario for your team this season?

If key injuries really decimate the Pelicans, being a two-and-done play-in team feels about right. Think last season’s Clippers, who finished eighth with a 42-40 record. They didn’t have the services of Kawhi Leonard all season and Paul George missed significant time; however, due to strong depth and a great coaching staff plus team resiliency, the Clippers stayed near a .500 record all season.

What’s the ‘Most Likely’ scenario for your team this season?

Since I’m buying the talent, camaraderie and coaching staff, let’s say a second-round exit. It feels the Pelicans are most likely to finish somewhere between fourth and seventh in the West, but I believe we shall see this team play its best ball in the spring again. There’s plenty of room for improvement, including for the new starting lineup to incorporate Zion.

What are you most excited for going into this season?

To watch this fun, tight-knit group of Pelicans come together even closer after making more wonderful memories over the next several months, while also posting consecutive playoff appearances for just the third time in franchise history. To climb onto a path of sustainable success, the team first has to post positive back-to-back seasons.

Predict your team’s win/loss record for the season.


Predict your team’s conference seeding.


Roster Additions

Some may believe that Dyson Daniels, the eighth overall pick from the 2022 NBA draft, is the only addition, but Zion Williamson deserves mention because he missed the entirety of the previous campaign!

Roster Losses

Tony Snell

Last season’s team record


Last season’s conference ranking


Last season’s offensive and defensive rating (via Basketball Reference)

112.84 offensive rating (20th) and 113.82 defensive rating (19th)

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.