3 Teams standing in the way of the Spurs returning to the playoffs this season

Kyrie Irving, Keldon Johnson
Kyrie Irving, Keldon Johnson / Tim Heitman/GettyImages
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3.) New Orleans Pelicans

At their best, the New Orleans Pelicans were 23-12 through the first 35 games of last season before the wheels fell off. They went just 19-28 the rest of the way, with their superstar Zion Williamson playing just one game after New Year's. With better health, the Pelicans could be back near the top of the West next season, but few expect them to go through all of next season unscathed.

Even with a poor finish to the year, they still managed to make the play-in tournament, thanks in large part to their depth. The Spurs will play the Pelicans a total of four times next season, and if the Spurs luck out and face them without Zion and/or Brandon Ingram, then they absolutely need to take advantage. With packed standings that saw the 4th seed and 10th seed separated by 3 games, tiebreakers played a big role in the Western Conference's playoff race last year.

That is sure to be the case next season, and while the Pelicans have big injury concerns, they have play-in experience, including having actually made the playoffs in the 2021-2022 postseason. The Spurs have Keldon Johnson and Devn Vassell, but some of the others that do may notbe on the team to start the season, let alone to end it. That gives the Pels a bit of an advantage, but hopefully not enough to negatively impact the Spurs.

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