The New Orleans Pelicans made some major moves at the trade deadline to surround franchise star, Zion Williamson, with more help once he comes back from injury, despite all the recent drama. They went out and acquired a proven player in CJ McCollum from the Portland Trail Blazers while shipping off several pieces in return. Nevertheless, early on, it's paid off, with McCollum playing a key part in the Pelicans' recent run.
Click here for our Risk Free $1000 Bet!
*To claim, new users need to register, make a first deposit, and then simply place their first real-money wager on FanDuel Sportsbook up to $1000! If a user loses their first wager, we’ll refund their losses in the form of a free bet up to $1000!*
At the moment, Willie Green's squad sits in 10th spot with a 26-36 record, which means they would be in the play-in tournament. With just 20 games left in 2021/22, here are 3 bold predictions for the remainder of the Pelicans' season.
3 Bold Pelicans' Predictions For Rest of 2021-22 NBA Season
Pelicans finish below .500, but make play-in
New Orleans would have to go on quite the streak to hit .500 and unfortunately, they have numerous tough matchups ahead. The Pels face the Nuggets, Jazz, Grizzlies, Suns, Bulls, and Warriors still, while also playing a couple of teams on the brink of contention like the Hawks and Lakers. However, aside from these games, the Pelicans should be able to take care of business against teams such as the Kings, Blazers, and Thunder, especially with how NOLA is playing lately.
Since McCollum arrived, the Pels have gone 4-3 but since the All-Star break, they've won three in a row. CJ is forming a very nice partnership with Brandon Ingram and the squad has even beaten the Suns and Lakers during this span by a healthy margin. The Blazers currently trail the Pelicans by just one game in the play-in race, but New Orleans is honestly just a more complete team than Portland, who are clearly in rebuild mode until Damian Lillard returns (if he does this season) and they sign more top-notch talent this offseason.
The Pels' Big 3 of McCollum, Jonas Valanciunas, and Ingram are playing extremely well and showing they're capable of keeping the squad afloat and giving them a chance of getting into the playoffs. Depending on how the standings change between now and the play-in, the Pelicans would likely face the Lakers in the #9 vs #10 game, then if they win, the loser of the Timberwolves vs Clippers would be their next opponent for a berth in the postseason.
It's too early to even predict if NOLA could actually get into the first round or not, but booking their ticket to the play-in is a big step after so many years of losing. It will show that New Orleans has serious potential for the future once Zion is back in the mix with the current core.
McCollum finishes the season with 25 PPG
It was undoubtedly sad for McCollum to leave Portland after so many years of making the playoffs with his running mate and good friend, Dame. But, this couldn't have been a better move for CJ in terms of making a legitimate impact for a team that needs it. Since the veteran guard has donned a Pelicans jersey, he's averaging 26.6 points, six assists, and 5.9 rebounds on a 41% clip from three-point land. Those are career numbers for McCollum, although it's a small sample size of just eight games thus far.
Nevertheless, McCollum is getting the chance to be the focal point of the offense in every way imaginable. He's scoring at all three levels, getting his teammates involved, and grabbing boards. It's not like CJ wasn't doing these same types of things in Portland, but his usage rate was never this high. The 30-year-old is balling out against several very good defensive teams as well. He dropped 30+ against the Suns, Grizzlies, and Mavericks.
It's unlikely he's going to have the freedom to have the ball in his hands this much when Williamson returns, whenever that is. But, for now, McCollum is taking the bull by the horns and leading by example. Even though the Pelicans have some daunting opponents ahead, there is no reason he's going to stop showing out. Finishing the rest of the campaign with a minimum of 25 points per game is certainly not unrealistic and it will be an important factor in just how far New Orleans can go when it comes to the play-in.
There is absolutely no doubt McCollum's experience and talent have injected a shot of life into the Pelicans organization. Zion is still looked at as the franchise centerpiece, but the fact that NOLA is showing promise without him even on the floor goes to show how important this move was to trade for CJ at the February deadline.
It should be a fun ending to the 2021/22 season for the Pelicans.