Ranking Dallas Mavericks among division rivals: 3. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans finished ten games under .500 last season and failed to reach the play-in tournament. They entered the offseason looking to improve their roster enough to give Zion Williamson his first playoff experience in 2022, but things went a bit off the rails.
New Orleans traded Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams for Jonas Valanciunas in a move that was a significant short-term victory, but they let Lonzo Ball go to Chicago and replaced him with Devonte Graham and Tomas Satoransky. The Pelicans finished 23rd in defensive rating last season, and they did little to fix that issue this summer.
New Orleans will be relying on internal growth and JV to make the leap into the play-in tournament this season. The Pelicans still feel like a sub .500 team that could be sellers or buyers at the trade deadline.
The race for the final play-in spot seems wide open. The Pelicans, Timberwolves, and Kings are all hungry to make it, but which team grabs the position? Expect it to be a tight race. New Orleans needs a healthy Zion and Brandon Ingram plus an improved defense to find their way into the top ten in the Western Conference this season.