With all of the additions that the New Orleans Pelicans made this summer heading into the 2013-14 NBA season, it seemed as if the organization was putting a “playoffs or bust” sticker on their bumper.
Along with their nickname, New Orleans’ roster underwent a ton of change this offseason. They brought in All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, completed a sign-and-trade for former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans, and also sent Greivis Vasquez and Robin Lopez packing. Adding two talented pieces to a hopefully healthy Eric Gordon, an emerging Anthony Davis, and the always lethal Ryan Anderson, the playoffs didn’t seem like too far of a stretch for this team.
As the year has played out, though, the Pelicans haven’t been able to catch a break. Davis broke his hand earlier in the season, Evans has been dealing with a slew of ankle problems, and both Holiday and Anderson are currently out for a while with separate injuries.
Now the Pelicans have another detrimental injury to add to their list of problems in the form of center Jason Smith. Prior to their 97-87 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night, a report came out that an MRI on Smith’s knee revealed cartilage damage and that he would be out indefinitely going forward.
Smith has started 27 of the 31 games that he’s played in for the Pelicans, playing 26.8 minutes per game and averaging 9.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game. Though his production hasn’t been phenomenal, the loss is going to really be felt in New Orleans because of Smith’s replacements.
One of the weaknesses of this Pelicans team coming into the year was their lack of quality depth at center. On Thursday, Greg Stiemsma, Alexis Ajinca and rookie Jeff Withey split time at center, but really don’t have the ability to impact the game in ways that Smith is able to. Another unfortunate circumstance is that the Pelicans also can ill-afford to go small and move Davis to the five due to the Anderson injury.
Having lost eight straight games as of right now, the Pelicans are clearly up against it. Now nine games under .500, they seem to effectively be out of the postseason race. The expectations may have been high, but it’s hard to prepare for this amount of bad luck in one season.