The New Orleans Pelicans are hurting both literally and figuratively.
New Orleans was expected to contend for a Western Conference playoff spot this year, however, the Pelicans have gotten off to a 0-6 start as they have been riddled with injuries. This is the franchise’s worst start to begin a season since the 2004-05 season when they lost their first eight contests according to ESPN. The Pelicans finished with a franchise worst 18-64 record that year.
There are a number of reasons that New Orleans is one of three winless teams in the NBA; however, injuries are atop the list as its roster has already combined to miss 30 games, noted SB Nation. The Pelicans have been without guards Quincy Pondexter (knee), Norris Cole (ankle), and Tyreke Evans (right knee surgery) all season. All three players are out for the foreseeable future, according to the Times-Picayune.
Forward Luke Babbit and center Omer Asik have also missed time due to injuries as has point guard Jrue Holiday, who is on a strict minutes limit as he continues to recover from offseason surgery. In addition, the Pelicans lost backup center Kendrick Perkins for up to three months with a pectoral injury, reports Adrian Wojonarowski of Yahoo Sports.
As a result of the injuries, New Orleans was granted a hardship waiver by the NBA this morning and has used it to re-sign guard Jimmer Fredette to a non-guaranteed contract, per ESPN. Fredette was with the Westchester Knicks after being cut by the San Antonio Spurs in training camp. Westchester selected the former BYU Cougar with the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s D-League draft.
Fredette has struggled since coming into the league as the No. 10 overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Sacramento Kings. The 26-year-old spent three seasons with the Kings before appearing in eight games for the Chicago Bulls in 2013-14. He then played in 50 games for the Pelicans last year, compiling 3.6 points and 1.2 assists while shooting 38.0 percent from the field and just 18.8 percent from the three-point line.
Fredette was brought in to provide depth to both guard positions as he can play on and off the ball. Despite struggling with his shot, being a threat and a shooter is all Fredette brings to the table as he is awful on the defensive end. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Fredette’s career accuracy rate ranks 34th among active NBA players at 38.1 percent.
Per the hardship waiver rules, Fredette can remain with the Pelicans until one of the injured players return. If New Orleans prefers to keep Fredette after that, they would have to waive a player to make room for him. Fredette’s rights still belong to Westchester if/when he is released by New Orleans.
While injuries have ravaged the Pelicans, it isn’t their only issue. New Orleans is giving up a league-high 114.7 points and allows opponents to shoot 48.9 percent (No. 29) from the floor as well as a league worst 40.6 percent from beyond the arc. The Pelicans have surrendered 100-points in each of their six games, including two games over 120-points.
John Reid of the Times-Picayune elaborated on the Pelicans’ defensive woes.
“The Pelicans’ biggest flaw continues to be their defensive play. They continue to struggled to close out on shooters on the perimeter or keep the lane clogged with defenders. The Pelicans players appear to get lost covering shooters when teams use back screens, move the ball and spread the floor.”
New Orleans also doesn’t rebound the ball well, averaging 40.0 rebounds a game (No. 29), particularly on the offensive end — 8.7 caroms a game which ranks 25th. And the Pelicans aren’t getting a lot of production from their bench.
It is early in the season; can the Pelicans overcome the slow start and make a run at a playoff berth?
If the Pelicans were healthy, there would be a slight chance that they could secure the No. 8 seed as they are currently four games in-back of the final playoff spot. Assuming the minimum number of wins to make the playoffs is 45, it would mean New Orleans would have to go 45-31. The Pelicans play eight of their next 13 games on the road, and only two of their next seven are against teams with losing records – New York and Denver.
The truth be told, the Pelicans aren’t that talented at this point. Sure, they have Anthony Davis, and if Holiday was completely healthy the Pelicans would have a very good backup point guard. Evans is the next thing to a star New Orleans has, and Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and Omer Asik are good role players.
In other words, as SB Nation mentioned, the only way the Pelicans maybe able to get out of the hole they are in is to deal future draft picks. New Orleans has its own first round draft pick in this year’s draft as well as future first round selections. However, the Pelicans may want to have some sort of lottery protection if they deal their draft pick this year.
[Image via Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]