The New Orleans Pelicans were one of the surprise teams of last season, as they rebounded from a horrific start to eventually make their way to the playoffs via the play-in tournament.
With Zion Williamson returning, a full season of CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr. and the addition of lottery pick Dyson Daniels, the Pelicans are hoping to build on that success and make a deep run into the playoffs next season.
The NBA recently released their first preseason power rankings and they agreed that the Pels would be a playoff team, placing them 8th in the Western Conference, which is pretty fairly balanced.
You could make an argument for several teams to be at the top, but here is how their final rankings looked:
- #1: Golden State Warriors
- #2: Phoenix Suns
- #3: LA Clippers
- #4: Denver Nuggets
- #5: Memphis Grizzlies
- #6: Dallas Mavericks
- #7: Minnesota Timberwolves
- #8: New Orleans Pelicans
- #9: Los Angeles Lakers
- #10: Portland Trail Blazers
- #11: Utah Jazz
- #12: Sacramento Kings
- #13: OKC Thunder
- #14: Houston Rockets
- #15: San Antonio Spurs
I think there are a couple of things that stand out right away. The first is that the top is going to be heavily reliant on players who are returning from injury as both the Clippers and Nuggets have several key players trying to make comebacks next season.
The Grizzlies are probably wondering why they’ve dropped after finishing with the 2nd seed last season. The Jazz are another team that has been picked much lower than last season because of their trade of Rudy Gobert to the Timberwolves, who probably swapped spots with them due to that trade.
It was also nice to see the Lakers ranked lower than the Pelicans, as the Pels can swap draft picks with them and hope to cash in again next offseason as they did in this one.
But what about the New Orleans Pelicans, is that ranking fair?
New Orleans Pelicans in the Western Conference power rankings
I do think the Pelicans’ 8th-place ranking is fair for now, as we haven’t seen this team at full strength and haven’t seen Zion Williamson play for well over a year.
Zion is the big wild card here, as no team in the West is getting an addition as potential this impactful outside of the Los Angles Clippers, who will be getting Kawhi Leonard back.
If the Pels have good injury luck next season, I could definitely see them leapfrogging some of the teams ahead of them in the preseason Western Conference power rankings, including the Mavericks (who haven’t improved their roster), the Grizzlies (ditto) and possibly even the Clippers or Nuggets if their injury woes continue.
It really comes down to Zion. If he is healthy and has an MVP-type season, the Pelicans could end up as a top-four seed in the West, but if he’s not, they could still be a fringe playoff team as they were last season.
Because of that uncertainty, I think these rankings are fair, as the 8th seed should be a baseline for the Pelicans next season, but hopefully they will climb even higher.