Two weeks into the regular season and the identity of the team at the bottom of the Western Conference rankings is a surprise: the New Orleans Pelicans. After making the playoffs last year with a 45-37 record, the Pelicans have begun the 2015-2016 season hesitantly, losing eight of their first nine games. In the rugged West, starting the season 1-8 has already hurt their chances of getting to the playoffs again this season considerably.
At first glance, the Pelicans are a better than average team statistically, as they don’t seem to have a problem getting the ball in the basket. The problem is at the other end of the court. New Orleans is getting consistently outrebounded and they are not defending the three-point line, resulting in opponents shooting 39.2% from behind the arc (29th in the league).
The team has been troubled by some early injuries. They will not be able to count on Quincy Pondexter and former rookie of the year Tyreke Evans has yet to play a game because of surgery to his right knee. Both players are not expected to return on the floor in November. Norris Cole remains sidelined with an ankle sprain he suffered during the preseason and head coach Alvin Gentry has no choice other than to limit Jrue Holiday’s minutes this early in the year.
The frontcourt has been similarly decimated by injury. Bigs Alexis Ajinca and Omer Asik, who both played in the European Championship this summer, have had some injuries throughout the early part of the year, and to make matters worse, superstar Anthony Davis got injured after their first win of the season.
Davis has been playing like the franchise player people expect him to be, although his numbers are slightly down from last season. The only real positive news coming from New Orleans is the play of Eric Gordon, who is averaging 20 points per game. Gordon has been injury prone, missing a total of 132 games since moving to the Pelicans five years ago, but the Pelicans sorely need his offensive game to stay competitive.
The Pelicans will need to become healthy quickly, however. If they cannot string together a couple of wins in the next two weeks, their playoff hopes will already be shattered come December.