Is the NBA’s Western Conference too strong for the Pelicans to overcome?



By Alvaro Pena

The NBA’s Western Conference is undoubtedly stronger and far more competitive than the Eastern Conference. Seven teams in the west won over 50 games while the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers were the only teams in the Eastern Conference that passed the 50 win mark. With a New Orleans Pelicans team that only won 34 games for the 2013-14 season and were far from making the playoffs; can they surpass or even compete against teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Los Angeles Clippers?

For starters, the Pelicans are placed in the hardest division in the west. To come out on top of the division, the Pel’s need to win their division games in the regular season against the Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, and the defending NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs.

The Pelicans were 4-12 in division games and were fifteen games back from the Dallas Mavericks eight spot to get into the playoffs. This can be blamed on injuries the Pelicans suffered during the season.

Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right tibia. Darius Miller missed the first eighteen games with a fractured foot. Key role players like Jason Smith had recurring knee injuries and Ryan Anderson was done for the year when he suffered a dangerous neck injury in a game against the Boston Celtics.

With the approaching 2014-15 regular season the Pel’s are all back and healthy. With their potentially great starting “Big Five” of Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Anthony Davis and newly acquired Omer Asik; the Pelicans have the ability to compete against the elite teams of the west.

They have been impressive on their offensive and defensive schemes in the preseason. Offensively, the combination of Holiday, Gordon and Evans in the starting lineup gives the Pelicans a fast-paced offense. All three can handle the ball down the court and distribute it for easy post or three-point shots. They can also penetrate the lane or play pick and roll offense with Davis and Asik, which can lead to some entertaining lobs.

Defensively, the Pel’s have been communicating and rotating well in the preseason. Our starting five have the ability to play man to man defense with any team in the NBA. Jrue Holiday is great in pressuring the ball and getting steals for fast-break points. Plus, the presence of Anthony Davis and Omer Asik can change an opponent’s plan of attack. Davis led the NBA in blocks (2.82 per game) last season and the addition of Asik will help the Pelicans improve their defensive rebound numbers.

The Pelicans team has not yet let any opponent score over 100 points in the preseason. Coach Monty Williams has been emphasizing the importance of defense since he arrived in New Orleans and his players have responded to his challenge. The last two-preseason games against the Washington Wizards and the OKC Thunder, the Pelicans held them down defensively to only 84 and 86 points.

NBA analysts or the so called experts think that the New Orleans Pelicans are still not good enough for the playoffs and possibly won’t even get the eight spot. In the eyes of Anthony Davis, he believes his team has the potential to be great. That’s coming from a college champion and two time Olympic gold medalist. I’ll take his word for it.

If the Pelicans stay healthy this time around, they can easily take the two spot in their division, San Antonio would be in first spot and the Pel’s would have the 4 or 5 spot in the Western Conference. These are the Western Conference standing’s from the 2013-2014 season.

  1. San Antonio Spurs
  2. Oklahoma City Thunder
  3. Los Angeles Clippers
  4. Houston Rockets
  5. Portland Trailblazers
  6. Golden State Warriors
  7. Memphis Grizzles
  8. Dallas Mavericks

So if New Orleans makes the playoffs, which team will be out?







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