Blogtable: How will Davis' injury impact playoff hopes for Pelicans?
Each week, we ask our scribes to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day
* * *
With Anthony Davis out for up to two weeks (and perhaps longer) with a sprained finger, the Pelicans’ chances of making the playoffs are ____________?
* * *
Steve Aschburner: Acquisition-dependent. The Pelicans as currently constituted aren’t going to reach the postseason. There are too many teams to climb over from their current perch in the West and they haven’t played defense well enough to rely on clamping down night after night to get there (they should be better on that side of the ball, frankly, with Anthony Davis to anchor them). This team needs help at the trade deadline or in the buyout market afterward, not just for a playoff push but to finish strong enough to persuade Davis New Orleans remains the long-term locale for him. Tall order.
Shaun Powell: I’d say fragile, a lot like Davis. The West is simply too deep this year and two teams that were struggling — the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz — got their acts together and now appear strong. The Pelicans haven’t had the same level of bounce, and time could be running out soon. The good news is last year they were in a similar situation. They caught fire right after the All-Star break, not only making the playoffs but advanced to the Western Conference semifinals. They’ll need to copy that.
John Schuhmann: Slim. The Pelicans were fortunate to begin this no-AD stretch against the Grizzlies, who have been one of the worst teams in the league over the last six weeks. But after they host the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, the Pelicans will play six straight games against teams no worse than the 27-21 Spurs. Overall, New Orleans has the West’s sixth-toughest remaining schedule in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage. Twenty of their 35 remaining games are at home, but they’re an uninspiring 7-5 at the Smoothie King Center since Thanksgiving. The Pelicans’ offense ranks in the top five, a fact which defies the idea that they need more talent around Davis. Big runs from the Rockets and Spurs took both of those teams from 14th place to the top six in a about a month. But the Pelicans’ defense has been terrible (it currently ranks 26th), and it’s hard to see them turning things around on that end of the floor (enough to climb four spots in the standings) with almost 60 percent of the season in the books.
Sekou Smith: It is going to be a grind for the Pelicans, with or without Anthony Davis healthy and in uniform. The more perplexing question about their season is why a team with Davis as its anchor is floundering near the bottom of the Western Conference standings in the first place? The Pelicans — given their accomplishments last season and the expectations that accompany a superstar like Davis — have been one of the NBA’s more disappointing teams this season. But Davis’ injury history and the Pelicans’ checkered history with Davis as their anchor should be cause for pause. The future of this partnership is on shaky ground if the Pelicans miss out on the playoffs. And that appears to be a very real possibility right now.