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BBALLBREAKDOWN

Is Anthony Davis the best player on the planet? He’ll have to be for Pelicans playoff hopes

Anthony Davis, Pelicans

In a make-or-break season for the New Orleans Pelicans, an injury to DeMarcus Cousins robbed the world of seeing what the NBA’s latest overpowering front court could do at full strength.

But necessity being the mother of invention, it has brought forth the full potential of Anthony Davis.

Heading into this season, the Pelicans had two pressing stories. First, they’d finally have enough talent to claim a spot in the Western Conference playoff race. Second, there was a chance Cousins was unlikely to be playing on the Pelicans past the trade deadline.

With 21 games remaining in the season, both have come true, albeit in unpredictable ways.

The Pelicans are currently fifth in the West with a record of 35-26. However, they are just two games ahead of the ninth-place Los Angeles Clippers. They are also only a game behind the Portland Trail Blazers, who currently hold the third seed in the conference.

Cousins is no longer playing, but that’s not because the Louisiana cajun style Twin Tower pairing of Anthony Davis and Cousins wasn’t working. Instead, a torn Achilles shut Cousins down for the year right as the Pelicans were rounding themselves into a team few wanted to face in the playoffs.

With Boogie out, Davis has gone on a Russell Westbrook-like tear of destruction. In the month of February, Anthony Davis averaged 35 points, 13 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 2.2 blocks, and 1.5 assists.

He’s launched himself headfirst into MVP consideration. New Orleans is also getting stellar play from Jrue Holiday while their hodgepodge of wings are doing just enough to remain competitive.

Things are not getting any easier for this team. Of their final 21 games, 11 come against teams currently in the top 10 of the Western Conference standings. Two others come against contending teams in the East (Boston and Cleveland).

This is a gift and a curse for New Orleans. They hold their postseason fate directly in their own hands. If they can beat the right teams, they cement themselves in the playoffs. Yet, one losing streak against playoff caliber opponents could spell the end of their impressive season.

It’s been three years since the New Orleans Pelicans made the playoffs. Then, all signs pointed to Anthony Davis claiming his spot as the best player on the planet. A few injury-plagued seasons later, that Davis has returned and, with him, the Pelicans playoff hopes.

A 12-9 stretch is a reasonable expectation. Which should be enough to keep New Orleans at least in the seventh spot. Fittingly, with a rematch against the very Golden State Warriors who met Davis in his first playoff appearance.