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More likely to miss the playoffs this season: Spurs or Pelicans?
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Steve Aschburner: The Pelicans. Both these flawed teams should be propped up a bit by intangibles -- the Spurs’ habit of reaching the postseason, the Pelicans’ urgency to do so to keep big man Anthony Davis happy. Both these teams suffered personnel losses -- Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili gone from San Antonio (and Dejounte Murray sidelined), DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo out of New Orleans. To me, the Pelicans will need something Herculean from Davis, Jrue Holiday and newcomer Julius Randle to avoid backsliding out of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Spurs at least added All-Star DeMar DeRozan and still have coach Gregg Popovich and defensive principles to trust.
Tas Melas: Ugh ... these are two outcomes I definitely don’t want to pick from. It feels extremely wrong/stupid/ignorant to doubt Gregg Popovich with two All-Stars. Amazingly, the Spurs had a top-three defense last season without Kawhi Leonard's claws for most of it and they’ve been a top-three defense for the last six seasons! But I think this is finally the year that mark is snapped considering the aging starting lineup and no Dejounte Murray. The Pelicans have a formula that got them to the Western Conference semifinals last season while the Spurs are gonna have to reinvent theirs. I’m not doubting Anthony Davis as he heads in to his prime or Jrue Holiday after he re-found his groove. Gimme the Spurs (this still feels dumb).
Shaun Powell: Being without Dejounte Murray for the season could cost the Spurs a handful of games in a conference where only three games separated the No. 3 seed from the No. 9 last season. So let's go with the Spurs as the odd team out for the first time in 21 years, despite what will surely be a strong coaching effort from Gregg Popovich.
John Schuhmann: It's hard to predict the end of the Spurs' 21-year playoff streak, but it's harder to imagine this team being good enough on both ends of the floor to finish higher than Golden State, Houston, Utah, Denver, Oklahoma City or the Lakers. Both of these teams are probably in a fight for the final two spots with Minnesota and Portland. The Spurs have had a top-five defense for six straight years, but lost a lot of that end of the floor with the departures of Danny Green and Kyle Anderson, along with the injury to Dejounte Murray. And on offense, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, in addition to being mid-range heavy, aren't the type of pairing where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The Pelicans have questions in regard to their depth, their size on the wings, and point guards not named Jrue Holiday. But Holiday + Anthony Davis + shooting is a pretty good formula for success. Davis took things to a new level after DeMarcus Cousins' injury last season and is by far the best player on either of these teams.
Sekou Smith: The Spurs have playoff DNA embedded in every crack and crevice of their organization. So it's hard to see them falling all the way out of the playoff mix, which almost happened last season. It's still extremely difficult to think of them missing out this season, especially with DeMar DeRozan sporting a huge chip on his shoulder these days. But if it's a choice between the Spurs and Pelicans this season, I can't pick against Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. Not after what I saw from them in that first-round playoff series wipeout of Portland. So I'd say the Spurs are more likely to miss the playoffs of the two. But I've got both the Pelicans and Spurs in my top eight in the Western Conference (Minnesota is the odd team out this time around).