Pelicans Predictions: The Pelicans finish 10-6 in The Southwest division

NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 02: Anthony Davis (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 02: Anthony Davis (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Media day is over and 2017-18 basketball is almost here! That means time for more New Orleans Pelicans season predictions. This latest installment of “Pelicans Predictions” we break down the tough Southwest division and the Pelicans odds of finally finishing ahead of the pack. The prediction; The Pelicans will finish 10-6 in the Southwest division.

In football, a record of 10-6 normally gives a team a playoff spot. Though the NBA season is drastically longer, the New Orleans Pelicans should view their division like a football season of sorts. In the Western Conference, there won’t be many nights off, every team will be forced to bring their best. We’ve seen years in the past where teams have had to win as many as 49 games just to be the 8th seed.

The Pelicans know that feeling when in 2015 they had to win 45 games in order to make the playoffs. Being in a loaded conference is one thing, being in a loaded division is absolute hell.

The Southwest division was the only division in the west where all five teams had a winning percentage of a least 40 percent last season. In fact, the only other division in the NBA that could compare was the Eastern Conference’s Central division.

It’s safe to say with both Chicago and Indiana respectively rebuilding, we won’t see a repeat of that this year. No team that made the playoffs last year in the West had a negative record in their division. That doesn’t look to be changing this season.

In the Southwest division alone, Chris Paul is back as a Rocket. The Mavericks drafted Dennis Smith and brought back Nerlens Noel, the Grizzlies are aiming to mix young and old, and the Spurs are the Spurs.

The Southwest has been arguably the league’s most competitive division for the past 10 years. From great drafting to strong personnel moves there aren’t many questionable decisions that take place annually. For the Pelicans, it’s been the complete opposite. They’ve had trouble being

For the Pelicans, it’s been the complete opposite. They’ve had trouble being consistent and keeping up with the moves of their counterparts. This year, however, they easily have the best roster construction in team history. To add to their good fortune, every Southwest team has a question mark or two.

The Grizzlies still possess Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, and they’ve resigned a bright spot from last season in JaMychal Green. They have belief in the health of expensive wing Chandler Parsons and look to extend the careers of talented guards Tyreke Evans and Ben McLemore.

Their “grind and grit” style of play still presents its challenges, they always have for NOLA. Those teams, however, also had Zach Randolph and Tony Allen. Some would argue those two were the cornerstones of the basketball culture created in Memphis.

The Grizz have a reputation of being able to bully their opponents. Let’s go out on a limb and say there is no bullying Rajon Rondo or DeMarcus Cousins.

Did we mention Tony Allen is a Pelican?

Additionally, from a style perspective, there isn’t another team in the NBA that matches up like New Orleans does. Memphis is similar to San Antonio as they’re always well coached, and seem to play consistently no matter who’s on the floor.

It’s unknown if that will be enough to keep them among the best this year. New Orleans has a few more play-makers, Memphis lost leadership and a huge percentage of toughness.

The Pelicans should expect to win at least three of their encounters. 

The Rockets also made waves this offseason. Rumored to be adding Carmelo Anthony to go with recently acquired Chris Paul, Houston ended up falling short. That doesn’t, however, take away from the impact CP3 will provide for the franchise. Everywhere Paul has been, he’s improved his teammates and made the average player look special at times.

Everywhere Paul has been, he’s improved his teammates and made the average player look special at times.

There’s no reason to think he won’t do the same this season. Star guard James Harden looked worn out by the end of last year. Beaten up from being the team’s catalyst night in and night out, fatigue eventually caught up to “The Beard”. Chris Paul will help take some of those responsibilities.

Chris isn’t the guard he was in the Big Easy, but he’s still elite. Chemistry and health may play a role, but with Harden and Paul spending so much time together in the offseason, the odds are in their favor.

With veterans Eric Gordon and Nene‘ leading the bench the team will still be problematic for the Pelicans, who didn’t have many answers for the team last year defensively.

In their defense, not many teams did. What should work in the Pelicans direction this year is the reduced ball handling of James Harden. Harden produced two triple-doubles last year against NOLA and was a terror in the pick and roll every time up the court.

This year with James being off the ball more, that will presumably allow Jrue Holiday to matchup where he is best defensively and away from as many pick and rolls as possible.

With the addition of Rondo and Allen, New Orleans should be able to hold their own defensively more times than not. Houston, however, is still a talented team. The Pels shouldn’t expect easy but not the headaches from last season either.

These two should split in their matchups this season.

The Dallas Mavericks, are the perfect example of a team in purgatory in the West. With a good season, they could finish either 7th or 8th in the playoffs. They could possibly win a couple playoff games before being eliminated in the first round. With a bad season, they’ve wasted money spent on Nerlens Noel and Harrison Barnes. Not to mention, Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki’s time as he would like nothing more than the chance to compete and make one more playoff run.

Dallas is another team that has seemed to have NOLA’s number but is going through a transition. In drafting point guard Dennis Smith, Dallas should have a solid future but it’s their present that is murky. Wesley Matthews and a solid bench should keep Dallas competitive but they will sink or swim because of their point guard.

Even with a talent like Smith, there’s a learning curve when coming to the NBA. The point guard was ranked 36th with 3.38 turnovers per game last year in college. Those traits tend to carry over for young explosive guards.

The Mavs also may have plans to start Barnes and Dirk respectively at power forward and Center according to Mavs beat writer Earl K Snead. That is not a matchup Dallas can win battling Boogie and Anthony Davis.

Throw in Rondo getting the chance to face the team and coach that helped label him a malcontent and fireworks should be expected.

The Pelicans should be disappointed with anything less than three wins against Dallas this season.

Then we have the Spurs, who made their name off of matchups. They’re coming off of a year where an injury to star forward Kawhi Leonard cost them a legit opportunity to battle into a deep series with Golden State.

Tony Parker hurt, Jonathon Simmons gone, Pau Gasol older, and LaMarcus Aldridge unhappy are all negatives that can be pointed towards. The Spurs, however, always find a way to make things work. This season shouldn’t be any different.

The factor working in the Pelicans’ favor is their top-heavy structure. In the one game the teams played after the arrival of Boogie, the Pels played well all game before losing in overtime.

With an improved roster, and more time spent together; similar circumstances could arise. 

New Orleans should battle tight with San Antonio, with coaching easily leading the Spurs to two wins, but an overall split.

In a division that has seen the most internal change in years, the Pelicans have the best chance to strike within. The matchups are there, and finally, the roster is as well.

Chemistry has always created separation between the four other teams and the Pelicans. This year the chances are high that the fortune reverses.

For this to work, the Pelicans are going to have to stay healthy. They also have to limit the division’s stars to the best of their abilities. Kawhi can’t be smiling, “Cliff Paul” can’t return, Dirk cannot stick his tongue out, and last but not least Kanye West can’t be calling Mike Conley in the middle of the night after a Pelicans game.

Next: Is a more selfish Jrue Holiday a good thing?

A record of 10-6 come January is a number Saints fans are dreaming about right now.

There’s a real chance that they’ll see it from their basketball team by April.