NBA Rumors: The New Orleans Pelicans' playoff outlook may have taken a positive twist

All of a sudden, the New Orleans Pelicans could emerge as one of the most dangerous teams in the Western Conference playoff field.

Phoenix Suns v New Orleans Pelicans
Phoenix Suns v New Orleans Pelicans / Sean Gardner/GettyImages

NBA Rumors: With the expected return of Brandon Ingram, the New Orleans Pelicans could emerge as one of the most dangerous teams in the Western Conference playoff field.

Heading into this season, it was clear that the New Orleans Pelicans needed to prove that this core could take a tangible step forward. Zion Williamson needed to prove he could remain healthy, Brandon Ingram needed to show he could continue to play at an All-Star level, and C.J. McCollum simply needed to be the exact third option that the team needed. Similarly, the coaching staff and the supporting cast just needed to be above average.

And through most of the season, each Pelicans passed their respective challenges. Especially during the second half of the season as the Pelicans looked like a team that could emerge as a headache come playoff time. However, all of that quickly changed when Ingram went down with what appeared to be a major injury.

Thankfully, that wasn't the story after the medical tests had been conducted. Instead of missing the remainder of the season with a ligament issue, Ingram would be sidelined for a couple of weeks with a bone contusion. With just a couple of weeks remaining in the regular season, it appears that Ingram is on the verge of making his return to the lineup.

Assuming that does happen before the end of the regular season, it could completely change the Pelicans' playoff outlook.

For as good as the Pelicans have been this season, I don't think anyone would believe this team had any shot to pull off a first-round upset without Ingram. In the six games Ingram has missed of late, the Pelicans have gone just 3-3. In the 21 games prior, the Pelicans were 16-5.

There's no question the Pelicans were beginning to hit their stride before the injury to Ingram. The hope now has to revolve around Ingram being able to play a few games in the regular season before the start of the playoffs. The last thing New Orleans needs is to be trying to work Ingram back into a rhythm while also trying to pull off a playoff upset.

Assuming Ingram is able to make it back, the entire playoff outlook for the Pelicans has certainly changed. If completely healthy heading into the playoffs, this is certainly a team that could make some noise and perhaps even pull off a first-round upset.

Before the start of the season, I'm not sure if anyone believed that was a real possibility for this team.

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