12. New Orleans Pelicans
On paper, you can make the argument that the New Orleans Pelicans should be one of the best teams in the NBA. With a strong, talented core of CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, and Zion Williamson, and a pretty strong supporting cast around them, there's no reason why the Pelicans shouldn't be a top 5 team in the Western Conference. While they've fallen short of expectations in the past, New Orleans has gotten off to a strong start this season.
The Pelicans haven't won a first-round playoff series since the 2017-18 season. With as much parity as exists in the Western Conference, perhaps this could finally be the year where the Pelicans break through and advance to the second round of the playoffs. If so, it would mark a huge change for the team.
New Orleans entered this season with the need to show that this core could take a step forward in the West. Merely making the playoffs isn't likely enough to showcase that ability. The Pelicans likely need to win a series in order to give confidence in this team's build with this core. Maybe this is the year.