New Orleans at Utah
Time: 8 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: UTA -10
Odds c/o 5dimes
New Orleans has won two straight games, but the season is basically canceled with Anthony Davis having turned off his “effort button”. Patience is wearing thin in New Orleans, a team never able to perhaps maximize the immense talents of its superstar, Anthony Davis. Davis is fated to play the remainder of the season, with a heart that is no doubt already out of New Orleans. He shot 1 of 9 from the field against the Orlando Magic in a 30-point loss, and he hardly looked engaged at all.
Davis has been fantastically dominant over his career, but while Jrue Holiday has had an outstanding season in his own right, this team seems several pieces shy of having what it takes to contend in the Western Conference. Because of that, a lot of blame has been assigned to Davis, whose eventual future may not be in the Bayou. The former Kentucky Wildcat is averaging 28.9 points, 13.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.8 steals, and 2.7 blocks per game while posting a PER of 31.3, but outside of Holiday and Randle this team just lacks some of the pieces it needs to compete with the top teams in the West.
Holiday is averaging 20.7 points and Julius Randle adds another 19.8. Nikola Mirotic has battled injuries but ideally completes a solid top-4. Where the Pelicans fall apart mostly is due to its lack of depth. After E’Twaun Moore, the rotation falls off to a number of players with glaring offensive deficiencies, from Elfrid Payton’s sheer lack of shooting to Tim Frazier’s inconsistencies, the Pelicans bench begins to relay the reasons this team cannot manage to sustain the strong play of its starting-5, bolstered, of course, by Davis.
A lot of the blame has fallen on GM Dell Demps and his numerous dubious decisions. While gambling on DeMarcus Cousins may have made enough sense at the time, the Pelicans really could use the player it dealt to obtain Cousins in Buddy Hield. New Orleans needs another premier perimeter threat, shooting, and it needs a “three and D” small forward (like Robert Covington?) in the worst way. Without adding these necessary pieces the Pels can still knock off mediocre teams like tonight’s opponent, but making any meaningful ascent will elude this roster.
The Utah Jazz is 36-26 on the season and has won four of its last six games. The Jazz has won four of it last five overall and seven of its last 10.
After Donovan Mitchell’s outstanding rookie season, many were expecting the Jazz to continue to rise in the West, but Mitchell has been mostly the same player, as the Jazz has been mostly the same team, albeit slightly worse than it was a year ago. Utah is still seeded No. 6 in the West and a serious threat, but the team has failed to take that “next step.”
Mitchell is averaging 20.7 points per game, but he has shot just 41.4 percent from the field and just 31.6 percent from behind the arc. Rudy Gobert has seemingly maximized what offensive potential he had, and the center is averaging 14.7 points per game while serving as the Jazz’s defensive anchor. Ricky Rubio is still the same player he has been over his entire career: astoundingly average. The Jazz has a deep and strong rotation, but without Mitchell making a quantum leap over his outstanding rookie season, Utah has remained in mostly the same place it has been: Good, but not good enough, in the Western Conference.
Rookie Grayson Allen has provided precious little and appeared in just 17 games. Georges Niang has done close to nothing after looking like a potential star in the developmental league. Dante Exum never has blossomed and appears to be little more than a career backup with outstanding (yet deceiving flashes). It all goes back to Mitchell, and he is the one with the chance to make an ascent to a star-level player. Will he? Or will Utah remain in the limbo it appears to be after its strong 50-plus win season a year ago?