NBA League Pass Picks: Oklahoma City Thunder at New Orleans Pelicans

Oklahoma City at New Orleans

Time: 7 PM CST (NBA LP)

Spread: NOP -3.5

Total: 234.5

Odds c/o 5dimes

The New Orleans Pelicans have won three straight enterings tonight’s Thursday night game hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder. New Orleans is 3.5-point favorites in the game, which will tip-off at 7 PM (CST) on NBA League Pass. The over/under is set at 234.5 total points according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.

OKC

The Thunder are surging, and the team has won seven of its last 10 games. OKC is better than expected, but perhaps it was just underestimated, to begin with. At 32-22 it has a four-game lead over No. 8 Memphis. The Thunder can control its own fate.

Veterans Danilo Gallinari and Dennis Schroder have come through, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is breaking out as the future leader of this team. Gilgeous-Alexander came courtesy of the Los Angeles Clippers, and he leads the team in minutes per game (35.4) and in scoring (19.8 per game).

Chris Paul is a steady influence at 16.3 points and 6.6 assists per game, which leads the Thunder. Steven Adams is averaging just shy of a double-double, and Nerlens Noel is functioning well as a post defender in the second unit. The Thunder probably has its work cut out for it to make the postseason, but it is not altogether out of the realm of possibility that this rebuilding team sneaks into the postseason.

With Schroder, Gallinari, and Paul, the Thunder have a veteran core mixed with the youth and the savvy defense of Adams to bring it together on the defensive end. OKC averages 108.8 points per game and limits its opponents to 107.5.  In the Thunders’ most recent loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, it got 24 points and 15 rebounds out of Steven Adams. He looked better than Sixers cornerstone Joel Embiid, and Adams has the potential to do that as a player whose talents are not all translatable into statistics.

With Westbrook gone the thought was that he would be a big-time rebounder, but he seems to still be adjusting to the notion that he can grab them at will without Russ’ concerns of getting triple-doubles. Few expected the Thunder to improve after shedding a triple-double monster like Westbrook, but the balance and overall team play has made the Thunder into a formidable playoff contender.

NOP

At 23-31, the New Orleans Pelicans have formed an identity and some purpose, but now it all comes together with one Zion Williamson back in the fold. A highly vaunted pick and hailing from Duke, Williamson is expected to transform the Pelicans.

Through eight games, Williamson is averaging 21 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.1 blocks/steals while posting a PER of 25.00 The scary part is this is merely scratching the surface for the physical freak that is Zion…Last outing Williamson scored 31 points, dished five assists, grabbed nine rebounds and had one steal in a 138-117 victory over Portland on Tuesday night. The victory was of importance in the playoff chase with Portland also chasing that No. 8 seed in the West which will remain a dogfight as long as Memphis continues to outplay its supposed potential.

The Pelicans are confident Williamson will keep them in the postseason conversation.

Williamson is a unique high-caliber athlete who at just 6’7” packs a lot of muscle and explosiveness onto his frame. It initially caused some knee soreness and issues, but the Pelicans helped him work through that by tinkering with his stride and running form. The result should be an even stronger Zion, and the fans around the league are eager to get a glimpse at the player being billed by many as a “generational talent.” Whether Williamson puts up big numbers in his debut or not, it is sure to be a specter of intrigue for everyone to see how he fares right out of the gate this season.

Thus far, the Pelicans have built most of its offense around the breakout talent of Brandon Ingram. While Ingram mostly languished in his first seasons in Los Angeles, he has thrived in the Bayou. Ingram is averaging 25.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists while playing 34.7 minutes per game. Team leader Jrue Holiday leads the team in minutes (35.5) and also totals over 20 points per game while dishing a team-tying-best 6.3 assists per game.

Lonzo Ball has found his stride in New Orleans as well, averaging 12 points and 6.3 assists, and 5.8 rebounds, while having started in 27 games this season. J.J. Redick, as the consummate pro he is, has seamlessly thrived in the Pelicans offense as a floor spacer.

E’Twaun Moore provides a similar role in the second unit, as 10 instant offense points in 21 minutes a night. The Pelicans also have managed to get strong play from both veteran forward Derrick Favors and rookie Jaxson Hayes. Hayes has displayed plenty of potentials to substantiate the lottery pick New Orleans spent on him, averaging 8.5 points and 4.6 boards in just 16 minutes a night.

Favors is just shy of a double-double in 24 minutes a night. The two combine to spell the 5-spot quite effectively. But how will the lineup transform with Williamson? So far, his gravity alone has suggested he will be a high-impact player, and with his first game bringing a 4 of 4 three-point shooting performance he may do it with more than just sheer power in his career. Williamson appears to be a generational multi-dimensional athlete, and if the Pelicans can really get him to gel with Brandon Ingram it could be on the verge of forming a formidable postseason team sooner than was expected perhaps.

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