In a shortened, injury-plagued season, the New Orleans Pelicans find themselves sitting in an 11th seed, trying to catch up to the Golden State Warriors for a spot in the Play-In tournament. Although fans of the Pelicans would love to see their team in the playoffs, there are some positives to missing out on them as well. In this article, I will highlight the positives of both making and missing the playoff for the Pelicans.
Making the Playoffs
Apart from the obvious benefit of overall morale increases, making the playoffs can offer some other positives for the Pelicans. First and foremost, the young talent on the team can have some real postseason experience. While coaches may try to replicate the feel of a playoff game in practice, nothing truly comes as close as the real thing. The atmosphere of the stadium, the feel of the game and the bright lights of national television bring the playoffs to a new level.
The Pelicans currently have an average age of 24.8, according to realgm.com. With an average age this low, any postseason experience can prove to be extraordinarily valuable to the young players.
Assuming the majority of the team stays together for the coming years, New Orleans has a chance to build something special around Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Also, rookie Kira Lewis Jr. and youngsters Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes can prove to be big pieces for the Pelicans for years to come. Playoff experience could boost their confidence and hunger to get back in the playoffs in the following years.
A secondary benefit would be that fans would relax their scrutiny of head coach Stan Van Gundy. In his first season as head coach, Van Gundy has faced a lot of backlash from fans claiming that he has not done anything different than former coach Alvin Gentry. It remains important to understand the circumstances in which this season has been played under. Van Gundy did not have a full offseason or training camp with his players, and the shortened schedule allows for less practices. If Van Gundy could lead the Pelicans to a playoff spot in his first year, it may be enough to hush those critics for the remainder of his tenure.
Missing the Playoffs
Although missing the playoffs is not the ideal scenario, it could offer significant upside for the Pelicans to miss the cut this season. One benefit is in reference to my recent point, Stan Van Gundy would have a full offseason to work with his players. In the shortened season alone, many of the Pelicans have shown immense growth, and a full offseason would only allow the team to benefit even more. Van Gundy would likely relish an opportunity to coach his players in an off-court scenario, and missing the playoffs would allow ample rest before the practices begin.
Missing the playoffs would also allow New Orleans to address key holes in their team via the draft, free agency or trade market. David Griffin has not been shy about going after players he wants, and this offseason could allow the Pelicans to offload a lot of salary and bring in some much needed veteran leadership. While Griffin did bring in James Johnson at the trade deadline, re-signing him and adding another veteran would give the Pelicans the final pieces they need to make a deep playoff run for years to come.