Posted on: March 6, 2023, 10:52h.
Last updated on: March 6, 2023, 12:36h.
The New Orleans Pelicans continue to struggle offensively without an injured Zion Williamson, and DraftKings is offering a prop bet on the Pelicans making or missing the playoffs. The Pelicans are -140 odds of missing the playoffs and are +115 odds of making the playoffs.
Despite a losing record of 31-33, the Pelicans are currently in ninth place in the Western Conference standings. If the season ended today, the Pelicans would earn a spot in the Play-In Tournament, but they’d have to win two games to qualify for the playoffs with the #8 seed.
According to the most recent predictions from FiveThirtyEight, the Pelicans are projected to finish the season with a 41-41 record. They have a 39% chance of qualifying for the postseason.
The Pelicans are a long shot at +13000 odds to win the NBA championship. They’re currently ninth on the NBA futures board to win the Western Conference at +5500 odds.
West Cluster Splinters into Two Groups
The Denver Nuggets (45-19) have the #1 seed locked up in the Western Conference. The Memphis Grizzlies (38-25) and Sacramento Kings (37-26) are fighting for the #2 seed. The Phoenix Suns (36-29) are in fourth place, and 9.5 games behind the Nuggets, but bettors jumped on their bandwagon after they added Kevin Durant in a trade.
The rest of the Western Conference is clogged up with mediocre and subpar teams cannibalizing themselves for the final playoff spots. It’s still a tight race in the West during the final five weeks of the regular season because only three games separate sixth place and 13th place.
Four teams with winning records are separated by one game, and that group is above the Pelicans in the standings. It includes the Golden State Warriors (34-31) in fifth place, the Minnesota Timberwolves (34-32) in sixth place, the Dallas Mavs (33-32) in seventh place, and the Los Angeles Clippers (34-33) in eighth place. All four teams seek to avoid the Play-In Tournament, so they want to finish the regular season in the top six.
The Pelicans are clustered with five teams with losing records, but everyone is separated by one game. Two of those teams are currently slated to meet in the Play-In Tournament, while the other three are on the bubble.
The Pelicans are in ninth place but only have a half-game lead over the Utah Jazz (31-34) in 10th place and the LA Lakers (31-34) in 11th place. The Oklahoma City Thunder (30-34) in 12th place, and the Portland Trail Blazers in 13th place and are just one game behind the Pelicans in the loss column.
The Ghost of Zion Williamson
The Pelicans have 18 games remaining in the regular season, and still don’t know when Williamson will return to the team. Williamson, an NBA All-Star and starting power forward, hasn’t played since January 2. Without Williamson in the last 27 games, the Pelicans went 8-19 and tumbled from third place to eighth place in the standings.
The Pelicans were in first place for one week in December when the top seed in the West was in a three-team race with the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies. Once Williamson injured his hamstring, the Pelicans spiraled without their leading scorer.
Forward Brandon Ingram finally returned from a toe injury and has been the team’s only consistent scorer. Veteran guard CJ McCollum has struggled while playing through a thumb injury on his shooting hand.
It seems like there’s a cloud out there that we’re trying to get past,” forward Trey Murphy III told The Athletic. “We’re not hitting shots. That’s the bottom line. That’s just how basketball works sometimes.”
Williamson was close to returning before the All-Star break but suffered a setback in rehab. The Pelicans are getting desperate because time is running out to get Williamson’s rehab back on track.
On Deck: Tough Games vs. Kings, Mavs
The Pelicans face two tough opponents this week when they square off against the Sacramento Kings on Monday, which ends a three-game road trip. They then return to the Big Easy to face the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday to begin a four-game homestand.
Aside from their next two games, the Pelicans caught a break in the schedule. With 18 games remaining in the regular season, they face the sixth-easiest schedule. They play three more games against the two worst teams in the conference, with two road games against the Houston Rockets and one home game against the San Antonio Spurs.
The Pelicans have four games with playoff implications against bubble teams, including two against the Portland Trail Blazers and one each against the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder.
As bad as the Pelicans played without Williamson, they could still stumble into the Play-In Tournament. They have a chance to backdoor a playoff berth as the #8 seed because the Lakers are vulnerable without LeBron James on the court. James is nursing a foot injury and could miss the remainder of the season.
The Pelicans have a losing record against the point spread this season. They have the eighth-worst betting record in the NBA with a 29-34-1 ATS clip. Since they lost Williamson, the Pelicans are 10-17 ATS in their last 27 games. In the last six games, the Pelicans are 1-5 straight up and 1-5 ATS.
The Kings are -5 favorites at home against the Pelicans tonight. The Pelicans are 12-20-1 ATS on the road this season with the fifth-worst betting record as an away team.