The New Orleans Pelicans surprised a lot of people last season when they climbed out of the ashes of their horrific start and eventually battled their way into the playoffs.
With Zion Williamson coming back, and the additions of Dyson Daniels and a full season of CJ McCollum, expectations will be much higher heading into next season.
The Pelicans will be considered a long shot title contender next season, and many will have them as a trendy pick to win the Western Conference, especially if Zion stays healthy and puts up MVP numbers like we know he can.
High expectations also bring pressure, as the Pelicans will no longer be an underdog, but will have a target on their backs as one of the teams people expect to climb in the Western Conference.
So what do the Pelicans have to do to meet these expectations? How far do they have to go to be considered a success?
New Orleans Pelicans: What a successful season looks like
The New Orleans Pelicans made the playoffs last season without Zion, so that is the baseline for success next season.
I think anything short of that would be seen as a failure for the Pelicans, as they have a deep and talented roster that should improve on last season. Anything else would be a big disappointment.
But just eeking their way into the playoffs as a play-in team would also be unsatisfying, even though the West will be strong again next season.
I think most fans would be happy if the Pelicans ended in the top-6 and didn’t have to play their way into the playoffs only to face a top-2 team that would have home court advantage.
After taking the top-seeded Suns to six games in the playoffs last season, I think it’s fair to say that the Pelicans need to make the second round of the playoffs for next season to be considered a real success.
This is still a very young team, and they haven’t even played together at full strength, so it will take time for all of the pieces to come together, and the young Pels may not quite be ready to be considered a title contender, even though they do have the talent.
But a trip to the second round at least would be the next step for a team that hopes to have sustained success and be a mainstay at the top of the Western Conference.