• The NBA schedule was released last week, which means NBA season is upon us.  The Pelicans’ opener was announced some time ago, and it will be the NBA Champion Toronto Raptors.

    The schedule is unsurprisingly difficult, as the West is still the beast that it has been for years, and the Pelicans have the 52 games against this conference.  And the start of the season is so hard as the Pelicans play, in order, the Raptors, Mavericks, Rockets, Warriors, Denver, Thunder, and Nets.  The Raptors and Warriors aren’t what they were last year, but none of these teams are easy opponents.

    Luckily, people like Ed Küpfer do such great visualizations that we can rely upon them to give us a good idea of how hard each team’s schedule is.  Ed uses the Vegas over/under for opponent strength.

    The results for the Pelicans are very clear: the start of the season is going to be pretty brutal, as they will be facing an October schedule of teams expected to be averaging somewhere between 45 and 50 wins.

    The schedule does get progressively easier throughout the season, with the Pelicans facing a very soft last two months of teams.  What’s extremely nice about that is cupcake teams begin giving their younger, less talented players more minutes as the season comes to a close and they fight for lottery position.  Because the Pelicans will be facing many of these teams towards the end of the season, they will effectively be playing a lot of teams who aren’t trying to win.

    Here is another consideration that helps the Pelicans: New Orleans has the 3rd best rest advantage in the league.

    As said before, the Pelicans’ greatest asset this year is depth.  They sport 10-12 players capable of contributing on any given night, and the team is very, very athletic.  Transition play will almost surely be an emphasis, as the team does have some awkward halfcourt combinations of players that could limit its offensive ceiling.  My guess is that the Pelicans will find a way to focus on generating quick transition play via an aggressive defense and the fact that they have several grab/go ball-handlers who can take a defensive rebound and push up the floor quickly.

    The Pelicans are going to have to survive a very tough opening, but if they can tread the .500 line while their lineup jells and their schedule gets considerably easier throughout the year, they have a real shot of making a run for the playoffs.

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