New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans’ breakout player will be…

Brandon Ingram! Prior to a deep venous thrombosis in his right arm cutting his season short, he was in the midst of a spectacular statistical run. Over his final 15 games, Ingram averaged 23.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists, and his shooting efficiencies were off the charts good: a 56.5 FG%, 37.9 3PT% and 75.0 FT%. This effort combined for a 62.9% true shooting percentage over that span — hello, Kevin Durant territory. With whispers coming out of training camp that he could lead the Pelicans in scoring this upcoming season, don’t be surprised if Ingram finally breaks out.

It all goes wrong if…

Several key injuries strike the core during the first quarter of the season. Coming off such a disappointing campaign which revolved around the Anthony Davis trade request to then riding the highest of highs since the David Griffin hire in April would suck the air right out of the Smoothie King Center. The New Orleans Pelicans do not have pressure to make the playoffs, but fans are yearning to see the team play competitive basketball on most nights, offering legitimate hope of better things to come down the road.

What we’ll be saying about the Pelicans at the end of the season…

The future is doggone bright! The Pelicans may have narrowly missed the playoffs, but consecutive berths sit on the horizon. Zion Williamson is going to be a superstar, Lonzo Ball has found a great home in Alvin Gentry’s system and there’s great rookie talent sitting at the end of the bench in Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes – and Didi Louzada is overseas. If the vets (Jrue Holiday, Derrick Favors and JJ Redick) stick around for all of next season, New Orleans will be one of the eight Western Conference favorites to find the 2020-21 postseason. Book it.

Final prediction

The oddsmakers have the Pelicans at 38.5 wins, but that feels a little low to me. It’s difficult to imagine New Orleans falling short of that win total simply due to a really deep and talented roster. Now, there’s a chance that the Pelicans tack on several more wins or so than my predicted 43-39 finish and squeak into the playoffs, but that would require the players meshing with each other and exhibiting knowledge of the system right out of the gates, Zion becoming an unstoppable force sooner rather than later and the three-point shooting rarely holding the team back.

Final prediction: 43-39

Oleh Kosel (@OlehKosel)