On Thursday, ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, released their Western Conference power rankings heading into the 2023-24 NBA regular season. And while it is true that the West is just as stacked as it usually is (if not more so), one can’t help but think they did our New Orleans Pelicans dirty.
What do I mean by that, you ask? Well, not only does ESPN think that the Pelicans won’t make the playoffs next season. They also don’t even think they will make the play-in tournament. That’s right, after making the play-in tournament in back-to-back seasons, ESPN believes the Pelicans will regress so much that they won’t even be a top-10 team in their conference in 2023-24.
"“The Pelicans project to fight for a spot in the play-in tournament, as they continue to deal with injury after injury. New Orleans is two different teams when Zion Williamson is on the floor; it ranked eighth in offense and was 10 games over .500 before he exited in early January. Improving the team’s 21st-ranked offense must be a top priority.”"
Okay, I know the whole bit here is to be outraged, but they do make a good point. The Western Conference is stacked. And if the Pelicans aren’t healthy, their goose is cooked. And over the last couple of seasons, they just haven’t been healthy.
The tricky part about rankings is that, no matter how many good teams there are, only ten teams can make the playoffs/play-in tournament. Also, ESPN doesn’t technically think the Pelicans will regress. In fact, they are projecting them to have the exact same record as last year (42-40). They just think that the West is too tough for the same as last year to cut it for them this time.
I guess the best way to stop being underestimated is to stay healthy so we can show them how good we are when we’re at full strength for an entire season.