The New Orleans Pelicans are expected to get a boost with the return of CJ McCollum.
At 9-9 through the first 18 games of the season, the New Orleans Pelicans have been one of the more frustrating teams in the Western Conference. However, they've shown enough promise to suggest that they should be better than ranked outside the top 8 in the conference.
One of the bigger reasons for the team's inconsistency has been due to the absence of CJ McCollum from the team's lineup.
McCollum suffered a collapsed lung in a game on November 4. He's missed 12 games over the course of the last 3-plus weeks. However, the hope is that his return is on the horizon.
According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, the Pelicans are anticipating the return of McCollum some time later this week. Per Shams, a return is likely coming either Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers or Friday when the team faces off against the San Antonio Spurs.
The New Orleans Pelicans have missed CJ McCollum
Before McCollum's injury, the Pelicans were actually playing quite well. With McCollum in the lineup, the Pelicans are 4-2. Without him, New Orleans is 5-7. It may not seem like a huge difference, but there's no question that the Pelicans are better with McCollum. New Orleans has had a huge hole in terms of production from the backcourt in the absence of McCollum.
The hope is that when McCollum does return, he'll give a boost to a Pelicans team that needs some stabilizing in the backcourt. Through the first six games of the season, McCollum was averaging 22 points, six assists, and five rebounds per game on 44 percent shooting from the field and 38 percent shooting from 3-point range.
If the Pelicans are going to turn the corner with this core, they're going to need to remain healthy. So far, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson have been relatively healthy and, instead, it's been McCollum who had to deal with an early-season injury.
But as the Pelicans get healthy, the next few weeks could be increasingly important for this team's future. If New Orleans doesn't make a move up the Western Conference standings and they miss the playoffs, it could spark some big changes for this team.
The good news is that McCollum is set to return and give the Pelicans a boost as we head into the thick of the season.