New Orleans Pelicans’ standing based on luck-adjusted win pace

Trey Murphy III & CJ McCollum, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Trey Murphy III & CJ McCollum, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Raw NBA standings are important to look at because, well, that’s what matters for playoff seeding!

With that said, looking at more granular variations of league-wide standings is also important because it gives you a more holistic view of how a team is performing.

Enter, Thinking Basketball’s Luck-Adjusted Bayesian Win Pace model (which you can find on This number, as the name implies, estimates a team’s win pace by factoring in the probability of certain events occurring based on past evidence while also accounting for luck.

Much to the chagrin of New Orleans Pelicans’ fans, this model does not view them in a very favorable light. As it stands, they are currently at a 39-win pace, meaning they would conclude their final 21 games of the season by going 9-12.

This win pace has them tied with the Chicago Bulls for 22nd in the NBA overall and, more importantly, has them finishing outside of the play-in picture at twelfth in the Western Conference.

Part of the reason the model may be so low on them is that the team has had great opponent shooting luck this season. On the year, the Pelicans allow the lowest opponent three-point percentage (35.4%) on wide-open threes (threes where the shooter has 6 feet or more of space) in the entire league (per This statistic is considered “lucky” because defenses have very little control over the conversion rate of wide-open threes.

And normally, this number is bound to regress to the mean. If, and when it inevitably does, the Pelicans’ top-10 defense might start looking more like a middle-of-the-pack unit, which diminishes the team’s overall net rating.

There are two pieces of good news here. First, because of the immense level of parity that exists in the league today, the Phoenix Suns (the team the model has projected as the fourth seed in the West) are only at a 45-win pace. That’s only a six-game win pace difference between the twelfth and fourth seed in the conference.

And second, the model is not accounting for injuries. And if there is any team in the NBA that has been negatively impacted by injuries, it is the New Orleans Pelicans, who have had some of the worst injury luck in the league this season.

So, the model isn’t saying that the healthy version of this team is mediocre. It’s saying that the injury-riddled version of this team is mediocre. If they do manage to ever get healthy, we could see them sky-rocket up the Luck-Adjusted Bayesian Win Pace leaderboards very soon.

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