[via NOP]

The New Orleans Pelicans: 2023-24 Season in Review

07:00 May 01, 2024
By: Kaitlin Lowe

Year In Review

The New Orleans Pelicans have had a roller coaster of a season, finding success with their "Big Three" finally on the court together late into the season. The Pelicans started the season off with a clear goal in mind—to make the playoffs. And while they just hit that mark, they fell short of succeeding anywhere past that point.

Yes, the clean sweep by OKC was hard to watch, but let's take a look back at the year our New Orleans Pelicans team had from October to now.

Second Best Record in Franchise History

"The fans and players alike are ready for this team to succeed; sales are the best they've ever been," said David Griffin, vice president of operations for the Pelicans at Media Day back in October. "Everyone understands that there is a great deal riding on this season, but the great thing is we get to prove ourselves through the game."

Coach Green further explained plans to ramp up the team's capability, including working on quicker offense, confidence in making threes, and maintaining health. Coach Green had made the goal clear from the jump, "We know what our expectations are, but now we need to take the step to become a winning, playoff team."

CJ McCollum [via NBA]

Green's goals had proven themselves for the most part, as the team's record had significantly improved since years prior. Regarding offense and three-point shooting, the team has broken all-time franchise records for both this season—with 153 points and 41 total assists in one game and 25 three-pointers made in a single game. Sharp shooters and new editions Jordan Hawkins and Matt Ryan helped the number of three-pointers exponentially. Further, CJ McCollum has shattered the all time franchise record with three points made.

Concerning health, the improvements have been significant, as the "Big Three" of CJ McCollum, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram have gotten to share the court for the majority of the season after only playing a total of 10 games together last season. Early in the season, McCollum had an issue with a collapsed lung, yet bounced back shortly. However, towards the end of the season in a March 21 matchup in Orlando versus The Magic, Ingram had suffered a tough fall resulting in a left knee contusion, making him unavailable for the last three weeks of the regular season prior to his comeback in the season finale in the Smoothie King Center versus The Lakers on April 14.

Herb Jones [via NOP]

In other regards, this 2023-24 season was filled with lots of highs and lows throughout the year fans may not have seen coming. For instance, the NBA saw immense defensive power come from the works of Herb Jones throughout the season, blocking out star players like Tyrese Haliburton, who wasn't able to score a single point against New Orleans on their home floor. With industry leaders like the L.A. Clippers' Paul George saying that "nothing like that has happened in my career," in regards to Jones' defensive skill. This defensive prowess, game after game, has coined the phrase, "Not on Herb," becoming a popular slogan for the team throughout the season. Additionally, the Pelicans have come out with more road games won than any other team this season, as well as the most double digit wins, with 32 games won with over a 10 points deficit.

The last goal the Pelicans outlined prior to the season that they have to tackle is "becoming a playoff team."

When the season began, last year's play-in loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder was a hot topic. "It was tough watching the playoffs this year. I was in shock after that Thunder game; I never want to feel that way again," said Trey Murphy III, reflecting on the results of last year's play-ins. The Pelicans were looking to redeem themselves not just from the previous play-ins but from an embarrassing semifinals loss in the inaugural In Season Tournament.

Zion Williamson [via NOP]

That said, with a mainly healthy team for the majority of the season, escaping the play-ins looked very feasible for the majority of the year. The Pelicans stood at fifth place in the West, behind the L.A. Clippers, for a number of weeks. Fans were floored during the team's six-game homestand where the Ingram-less Pelicans only won one game, tanking their record. Whilst the Pelicans posted up a tremendous win against the second seed in the East Milwaukee Bucks at home, they were defeated by the Thunder, the Celtics, the Suns, the Magic, and, most surprisingly, the Spurs, who stand at last place in the West. With this losing streak, the Pelicans dropped from a comfortable fifth place spot to the seventh seed in the West whilst other teams picked up steam, such as the Dallas Mavericks, who snatched the fifth place spot in the Pelicans' place.

The Pelicans could see clearly after this homestand that the rest of the season would be an uphill battle, and their work was far from done as fans feared the team was once again destined for the play-ins. With the last few games posing great postseason implications, the Pelicans pulled through during their last road trip, winning all four games. However, this hard work was erased due to a tough loss to LeBron James and the Lakers on April 14, sending them to the seventh seed spot and therefore a rematch with the Lakers at home for the first round of the Play-In tournament. This game truly proved that every single game does count, and this one changed the trajectory of the Pelicans season.

When looking at the record, there are high expectations for what this team could have done in the playoffs. The team's record for the regular season stands at 49-33, which is the best success rate the team has achieved since the 2007-08 season, with all-star Chris Paul leading the squad to a 56-26 season, where they finished as the second seed in the Western conference. This was the only season the New Orleans franchise has finished with over 50 wins. That season was also the farthest New Orleans has made it into the playoffs, the season ending one game away from the West Conference Finals.

Postseason Struggles

Trey Murphy [via NOP]

The biggest struggle the Pelicans knew they'd have to overcome in order to find playoff success is executing their skills throughout the entire game, per Coach Green. The biggest issue for the Pelicans headed into the post season was their lack of urgency and ability to close out games, as they have failed to win a game this season while trailing behind headed into the fourth.

In a down to the wire, nail-biter play-in game against the Lakers, Zion Williamson put on his most dominant performance of the season, sinking 40 points before pulling his hamstring minutes before the game ended. The Lakers were able to pull out a win in those final minutes, sending the Pelicans into the win-or-go-home second play-in game versus the Sacramento Kings to secure the number eight seed.

The Pelicans had finally pulled through after their late in the season rut and beat the Kings to secure the playoff spot, although without Williamson. The Pelicans are now 6-0 against the Kings this season.

With an eighth seed spot, no Williamson, and only a newly returned Ingram, the Pelicans as a whole were off their game headed into the playoffs series against a young, hungry, ambitious number one seeded Oklahoma City Thunder. Long story short: although the first and fourth games were close, the Pelicans got swept by the Thunder. Ironically, OKC ended our season for the second year in a row.

While we're bummed by the loss, Where Y'at is still here to bring you all the best updates and inside scoop as to what's to come for the New Orleans Pelicans.

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