Out of playoff contention and depleted by injuries, the New Orleans Pelicans have hope for a brighter future. The Brooklyn Nets are still trying to sort out theirs.
The Pelicans' makeshift lineup attempts to build on their latest effort and match the franchise's longest winning streak over the lowly Nets on Sunday.
New Orleans (28-47) has been decimated by injuries with star forward Anthony Davis out for the season due to his knee. The injured list also includes the rest of the Pelicans' top five scorers; Ryan Anderson (groin), Jrue Holiday (eye), Eric Gordon (finger) and Tyreke Evans (knee) while Norris Cole (back), Alonzo Gee (quadriceps), Bryce Dejean-Jones (wrist) and Quincy Pondexter (knee) are also lost for the season.
While the injuries are piling up and New Orleans has already clinched a last-place finish in the Southwest Division, there's hope for improvement in 2016-17 with Davis as the face of the franchise and another lottery pick coming this summer.
Brooklyn hosts the draft, but the Nets (21-55) don't currently have a first-round pick after trading it to Boston three years ago. That pick will at least be in the top five since Brooklyn's record is only ahead of league-worst Philadelphia, Phoenix and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Pelicans, meanwhile, have won two of three while dipping into the D-League to fill out their roster. Tim Frazier, James Ennis and Jordan Hamilton combined for 42 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists in Thursday's 101-95 win over Denver, as coach Alvin Gentry extended the franchise record with a 38th different lineup.
Frazier was signed to a 10-day contract on March 16 before being re-signed for the rest of the season, while Hamilton and Ennis are still on 10-day deals.
"It's been really impressive," said forward Luke Babbitt, who had 22 points and 10 boards. "Tim's done a good job, and the two new guys (Hamilton and Ennis) have done a great job just playing hard, knocking down shots and defending. It's not always going to be pretty, but we're going to fight and that means a lot in the NBA."
It could also mean a fifth straight win over the Nets, tying the club record set from 2007-10. However, six of the nine players New Orleans used in a 105-103 win Jan. 30 are out. The only healthy starter from that meeting is Omer Asik, who had six points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.
The center has averaged 11.1 points and 13.6 boards over his last seven meetings with Brooklyn.
The Nets are in the midst of their seventh losing streak of at least four games in length. They fell 105-91 at New York on Friday, shooting 35.6 percent from the floor and 4 for 24 from 3-point range.
"It's a little tough finding a rhythm out there but there's no real good reason," center Brook Lopez said. "We just haven't been playing up to our standards."
That's certainly true for Lopez, who has totaled 21 points and 11 rebounds while playing two of the last three games. He was averaging 25.0 points and 7.3 boards over the previous four games, and he had 33 and 10 at New Orleans in January.