There’s no debate about what the most-competitive division is in the NBA right now. The Southwest Division in the Western Conference currently features the number two, four, six and seven playoff seeds. And the only team in the Southwest Division that’s not currently qualified for postseason? The New Orleans Pelicans at 33-28.
Assuming New Orleans were in the East, they’d be the number-six seed and comfortably ahead of seventh-seeded Miami (27-33). But they’re not and so they’re going to have to scrape to surpass Oklahoma City (34-8) for the West’s final spot. And if they do accomplish this feat, the team owes a huge debt to Anthony Davis.
The 21-year-old is currently averaging 24.2 PPG, 10.3 RPG and 2.8 BPG while shooting 54.5% from the field. People can debate back and forth about whether James Harden, Steph Curry or LeBron James are the league’s MVP right now. However, nobody is more important to their team than Davis.
Take last night for instance, where the 6’10” forward led his team past the Detroit Pistons by a score of 88-85. He played 42 minutes, scored 39 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked eight shots. The end of the game was just as significant as the numbers, where he scored two of New Orleans’ final three baskets and disrupted Reggie Jackson’s potential game-tying three. It’s pretty easy to do the math here; without Davis on the court, the Pelicans were definitely losers.
“He had one of the most well-rounded games I have ever seen, defensively, offensively, hitting shots, (and) affecting the game in multiple ways,” Pistons veteran forward Anthony Tolliver said after the game. “He is a special player.”
The only chink in this special player’s armor right now is a recent injury that kept him sidelined for five games. In fact, Wednesday night’s contest against the Pistons was just his first game back since the injury. And it was obvious that rust wasn’t an issue as Davis completely dominated all facets of the game. If only he could shoot three-pointers too…
It’s doubtful that the Pelicans will also be expecting Davis to fill this duty too. However, they are certainly going to need all of his contributions down the stretch as the race for the eighth playoff seed heats up. There’s honestly not a player in the league who can impact the game on both ends of the floor as much as Davis. And at 21 with just two years of experience in the league, it’s hard to fathom how good he’ll eventually be.
But first thing’s first, and that will be guiding New Orleans to their first playoff appearance in years. The team’s next six contests are all winnable, with a tough home game against Memphis mixed in there. Then things really get tough with games @Phoenix, @Golden State, @LA Clippers and vs Houston. Obviously this stretch won’t be easy, but with Davis back and healthy again, the Pelicans shouldn’t fear their ability to compete with any team.