While many are happy with the advent of the Play-In Tournament, the New Orleans Pelicans may not be so pleased with this year’s edition of the competition.

The Pelicans had a shot at taking the seventh seed against the Los Angeles Lakers thanks to Zion Williamson playing the game of his life, but he left the game due to a hamstring injury with the game tied at 95. The Lakers smelled blood in the water and pounced on New Orleans, who needed to outlast the Sacramento Kings to advance to the postseason.

Everyone and their mother thought the Oklahoma City Thunder would be a better playoff matchup than the defending NBA champions Denver Nuggets, with the narrow Game 1 Pelicans loss further reinforcing that. But then, the Thunder blew past New Orleans in Games 2 and 3, putting up the proverbial 3-0 lead.

However, Game 4 seemed to initially offer some semblance of hope.

Through three quarters, Game 4 was a close affair as the quarter scores were pretty much equal, with both teams never holding a lead of more than five points. It was a back-and-forth in the truest sense; one team could be leading over the other, but blink twice and you might see the lead had already changed hands.


But then, the talent of OKC won out in the final quarter, with Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams, and MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander breaking an 80-all tie with a 13-2 run. Brandon Ingram put up his best Bradley Beal impression, while CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., and Naji Marshall were the only scorers who made more than half of their field goal attempts.

There is certainly promise for the Pelicans moving forward, especially since they got at least 64 games each from Ingram, McCollum, and Williamson. New Orleans also has at least two first-round draft picks until the 2027 NBA Draft (depending on the pick swaps and trade agreements), so they can invest in young talent for their roster or convert these assets into an established player that can provide depth at the minimum.

At the end of the day, however, it all boils down to health. Headlines surrounding Ingram, Williamson, and more recently McCollum have always been a mix of talent and health, with the latter certainly holding the former back. Moreover, poor health has prevented all three from getting the necessary reps together to be able to generate any meaningful momentum.

The New Orleans Pelicans’ future remains bright despite their first round exit in the 2024 NBA Playoffs, but the same problems continue to hound them. Health is the chief concern, and could very well remain going forward, and they will only be able to succeed despite that if they can develop consistency with whoever they can put on the court.