NBA on ESPN Picks: Miami Heat at New Orleans Pelicans

Miami at New Orleans

Time: 7 PM CST (ESPN)

Spread: MIA -1

Total: 233.5

Odds c/o 5dimes

The Miami Heat have won its last four overall and are currently seeded No. 4 in the Eastern Conference. It visits the rising New Orleans Pelicans in the first half of an ESPN Friday night doubleheader. The Heat is 1-point favorites over the Pelicans, in a game with the over/under set at 233.5 total points according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes.

NOP

At 26-36, 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 16 games, Williamson is averaging 24.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.3 blocks/steals while posting a PER of 25.66. The scary part is this is merely scratching the surface for the physical freak that is Zion…The Pelicans are confident Williamson will keep them in the postseason conversation. Williamson has scored 30 points per game over the last two, including his 35 points, seven-rebound performance in the 114-122 loss to the Lakers on Mar. 1.

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.

HEAT NEWS:

The Miami Heat lead the Southeast division as one of the NBA’s early surprise teams. Miami has won its last two and is 40-22 thus far. Miami has won six of its last 10 overall SU.

The Heat seems to be really adapting to having Jimmy Butler as its leader. He has increased the defensive intensity, and Miami’s offense ranks No. 13 at 112.1 points per game while holding opponents to 108.4, a win differential of +3.7 points.

Miami has moved past the play of Hassan Whiteside and instead promoted Bam Adebayo as the premier big man of the team. He has fully responded. Adebayo is averaging 15.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game while functioning as a post playmaker. Butler is the key cog, though, at 20.3 points and 7 assists per game. That is not to ignore the great play of undrafted rookie Kendrick Nunn, the No.2 scorer behind Butler at 16.2 points and 3.5 assists per game. For a team that was expected to have offensive issues, it has been far from the case. Miami is shooting 47.3 percent from the floor and 37.9 percent on threes (33.7 attempts per game). Rounding out the rotation is veteran point guard Goran Dragic and rookie Tyler Herro. Both have been essential.

While Dragic’s role has declined, he is still seeing 28.4 minutes per game and averaging just under 16 points per game. Herro is already a key rotation player, playing 27.7 minutes per game and averaging 13.2 points per game while shooting 39.2 percent from three. All in all, the Heat are both a deep and talented team and far better than expected. Credit some of that to Erik Spoelstra, but the rest of the credit falls on a team of players that are all outperforming preseason expectations. The Heat should be able to contend in the East. It poses a formidable threat to all of the contending teams, including the No. 1 seeded Milwaukee Bucks.

The Heat is wired for playoff success, and its acquisition of Andre Iguodala seems to be a move in that direction, towards better playoff success.

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