The 2015-16 season wasn’t an unmitigated disaster for the New Orleans Pelicans, but little else could’ve gone wrong for the team. Following that disappointing campaign, the Pelicans are in a great position to rebound in 2016-17.
Below is a look at the Pelicans’ most interesting matchups ahead in the new season and a prediction for how the year will unfold.
Season Opener: vs. Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 8 p.m. ET
Championship Odds: 50-1 (via Odds Shark)
Having a healthy Anthony Davis will go a long way toward getting New Orleans back to the playoffs. Davis missed 20 games, and the team eventually shut him down for the year in March.
Injuries in general killed the Pelicans. According to Basketball-Reference.com, head coach Alvin Gentry used 21 players, including Orlando Johnson, Jimmer Fredette and Nate Robinson.
Of course, the team’s misfortune came with a silver lining. Falling into the lottery meant the Pelicans were in a position to select Buddy Hield in the first round of the NBA draft. Hield averaged 25 points a game and shot 45.7 percent from three-point range in his senior year with the Oklahoma Sooners.
His scoring is exactly what New Orleans needed to add in the offseason, especially after losing Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson in the offseason.
Everything hinges on the health of Davis, which isn’t exactly comforting, since he hasn’t played 70 games in a single season in his NBA career. As long as the MVP contender overcomes that 70-game threshold, the Pelicans should secure a top-eight seed in the Western Conference.
Top Matchups Houston Rockets
First Home Matchup: Friday, Dec. 16 at 8 p.m. ET
First Away Matchup: Thursday, Feb. 23 at 8 p.m. ET
When New Orleans meets the Houston Rockets, the scoreboard operators are going to be working overtime.
According to NBA.com, the Pelicans finished 28th last year in defensive rating, allowing 107.3 points per 100 possessions. The Rockets, meanwhile, are coached by Mike D’Antoni, to whom defense was anathema during his stints with the Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers.
Beyond just the aesthetic pleasure that will come from Houston and New Orleans’ head-to-head clashes, these games could have playoff implications.
Hiring D’Antoni was either crazy enough to work or just plain …
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