Pelicans Pick: Where Will it Fall?

As of today, the New Orleans Pelicans boast a record of 26-37, good for last in the Southwest Division, but more importantly 11th worst in the NBA. As was noted in a previous Fanpost, the Pelicans have one of the more favorable home/away schedules down the final stretch of the season. In fact, of the 5 teams likely to fall in the 8-12 range for lottery positioning (Pelicans, Nuggets, Pistons, Knicks, Cavaliers), the Pelicans are the only team with more home games than away games from here on out. The overall numbers are as follows:

Pelicans: 12 home, 7 away

Nuggets: 9 home, 10 away

Pistons: 6 home, 12 away

Knicks: 7 home, 10 away

Cavaliers: 9 home, 9 away

Although the Cavaliers have as many home games as away games left on the year, their home schedule is particularly brutal as they play Miami, Oklahoma City, Houston, Toronto, Indiana, and Brooklyn among their nine games in Cleveland. The Sixers will receive the Pelicans draft pick as long as it remains outside the top 5 this year, and New Orleans is almost guarenteed to finish the season somewhere in the 8-12 range. Since there are so few games left in the season, I went through the exercise of estimating where each of the aforementioned five teams would end up record-wise based on their likely results during the rest of the season:

Knicks: 33-49 (8-9 the rest of the way, finish with 12th worst record)


Losses: IND, @SAC, @PHO, @GS, @MIA, @TOR, CHI, @BRK, TOR

Nuggets: 32-50 (5-14 the rest of the way, finish with 11th worst record)


Losses: @MIA, @ATL, LAC, @DAL, WAS, @OKC, @SA, SA, @MEM, @HOU, HOU, @GS, @LAC, GS

Pelicans: 31-51 (5-14 the rest of the way, finish with tied for 9th/10th worst record)



Pistons: 31-51 (6-12 the rest of the way, finish with tied for 9th/10th worst record)


Losses: @TOR, IND, @DEN, @PHO, @LAC, MIA, @IND, @BRK, @ATL, @CLE, @CHI, TOR

Cavaliers: 28-54 (4-14 the rest of the way, finish with 8th worst record)

Wins: @ORL, CHA, @MIL, BOS


Obviously there are a handful of borderline games on the calendar for each team that could swing the results to some extent, but for the most part these predictions are based on who the favorite should be according to record and home/away status (there are a couple I hedged in both winning/losing directions based on homestands, away trips, back-to-backs, etc.). There has been a lot of discussion on tiering of the prospects in this year's draft, with most people classifying pcisk 1-4 as the first tier (Wiggins, Embiid, Parker, Exum). The second tier is a little grayer, but it consists of 5-8 (Randle, Vonleh, Smart, Gordon). Once you get beyond the 8th pick, the preference for the field gets more subjective and will likely involve team need as an elevated component, so the variation in pick quality isn't likely to change as much depending on where a team falls within the 9-12 range (i.e., the 9th pick vs. the 12th pick shouldn't be a big difference). With that said, I think it's highly unlikely the Pelicans pick falls within the top eight. I will continue to root for the Pelicans to lose and the Nuggets/Knicks/Pistons/Cavs to win, but the circumstances support a high expectancy that the Sixers pick will be somewhere from 9-12 (assuming no lower-positioned teams hop into the top 3).

Also, as a side note, the chance that the Pelicans would fall into the bottom five records by the end of the season is almost impossible, as three of the four 22-42 teams (Kings, Lakers, Jazz, Celtics) would have to outplay the Pelicans by 4+ wins each. If these teams win at the same rate over the next 18 games as they've won in the first 3/4 of the season, they'll win about six games each, meaning the Pelicans would have to go 2-17 the rest of the way to have the same record.

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