Pelicans 2021-22 Schedule: Top Games, Championship Odds and Record Predictions

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2021

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) moves the ball up court in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors in New Orleans, Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

The New Orleans Pelicans are looking to turn things around after falling short of expectations last season.

There should have been enough talent in the team to compete in the Western Conference with emerging stars in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram leading a rotation mixed with veteran and young talent like Eric Bledsoe, Steve Adams, Lonzo Ball and others.

Things did not go according to plan, though, resulting in a 31-41 record that was far from playoff contention.

Stan Van Gundy was replaced after just one year as head coach, and the team is left to start from scratch trying to get back into the playoffs.

New head coach Willie Green still has a lot to work with heading into 2021-22, but the on-court play must be much better as the squad tries to navigate the upcoming schedule.


2021-22 Pelicans Schedule Details

Season Opener: Oct. 20 vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Championship Odds: +10000 (FanDuel)

Full Schedule: NBA.com


Top Matchups

Los Angeles Lakers (First game: Feb. 27)

Derick Hingle/Associated Press

We're now two years removed from the trade that sent Anthony Davis to the Lakers, but it's likely still fresh on the mind of many Pelicans fans. The Lakers have a championship and New Orleans has two losing seasons since then. 

The Pelicans lost Lonzo Ball this offseason, but former Lakers Ingram and Josh Hart remain to try to get revenge on the team that traded them away.

Beyond the personal feuds, this matchup could be important for New Orleans as a measuring stick against one of the top teams in the NBA

The Lakers have nearly completely rebuilt their roster this offseason, adding Russell Westbrook alongside Davis and LeBron James to potentially make them even stronger going into 2021-22. A win here could prove the Pelicans are a new team and ready to contend after a few disappointing years.

Additionally, a showdown between LeBron and Zion will always be a crowd-pleaser. 


Memphis Grizzlies (First game: Nov. 13)

Derick Hingle/Associated Press

After Ja Morant won the Rookie of the Year award in 2019-20, Williamson easily surpassed the Memphis Grizzlies point guard last season from an individual perspective. 

Zion finished last season with averages of 27.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, hitting 61.1 percent of shots from the field. The 21-year-old has proved to be a force in the paint, and he is still just scratching the surface of his potential.

Morant had another solid season while averaging 19.1 points and 7.4 assists per game, but it was a minimal jump from his first year in the league.

It's been a different story when measuring team success, though, with the Grizzlies coming off a trip to the playoffs last year. They will likely remain a top competitor for a postseason spot in 2021-22, making every game against them an important one in the standings.

Center Jonas Valanciunas can help change the tide after a trade from Memphis to New Orleans this offseason. It remains to be seen if this is enough to jump the Southwest Division foe in the standings.


Season Forecast

The tools are there for the Pelicans to have a successful season.

Williamson and Ingram could be an elite tandem, while Valanciunas gives the team another reliable scorer in the post after averaging a career-high 17.1 points per game last season. Devonte' Graham could also add some much-needed outside shooting to create even more balance offensively.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Kira Lewis and Jaxson Hayes will all look to take another step next season with more playing time, each capable of becoming difference-makers for the Pelicans.

It still won't matter if the defensive effort doesn't improve.

New Orleans finished 23rd in the NBA in defensive efficiency while allowing the second-most made threes in the league. This must be fixed in order for the team to do any damage in the Western Conference.

Perhaps a new voice in the locker room will help as Green comes over from the Phoenix Suns. It could be enough for the Pelicans to post a winning record and at least get into the playoff conversation.

Record Prediction: 44-38


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