NBA on ESPN Picks: New Orleans Pelicans at Sacramento Kings

New Orleans at Sacramento

Time: 9:30 PM CST (ESPN)

Spread: NOP -3

Total: 233.5

Odds c/o 5dimes

The Sacramento Kings have won seven of its last 10 overall SU, and it is within just 3.5 games of No.8 seeded Memphis. The Kings host Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans as 3-point underdogs in the second half of an ESPN Wednesday night doubleheader. The over/under is set at 233.5 total points according to pro basketball oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.

NOP

At 28-36, 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 23.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.3 blocks/steals while posting a PER of 24.33. 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.

SACRAMENTO

The Sacramento Kings are just 28-36 on the season, but the team has dealt with some injuries, and as usual, plenty of underachievement. Sacramento is again probably going to miss the postseason, which has been the case for the past decade-plus for a team that never manages to achieve the potential it seems to have on paper. The Kings have lost two of its last three and trail the No. 8 seeded Memphis Grizzlies by a 3.5 games. The No. 8 spot in the West will be between Memphis, Portland, New Orleans, and the Kings. All three teams trail Memphis by the same 3.5 game margin.

Credit injuries to its starting point guard DeAaron Fox and starting center Marvin Bagley for a lot of this failure. Fox has played in just half the games, and Bagley had missed all but one, through the first 20, but he is back albeit not quite in full-form.

That duo really is supposed to represent the cornerstone talents, along with Buddy Hield, and Sacto cannot manage to get all even on the court together this season. Hield has certainly thrived and is a borderline emerging star at shooting guard, though probably still a tier away from being an All-Star, particularly since he starts on a sub-.500 team.

Richaun Holmes has looked nice after not showing a ton his first five NBA seasons, and his emergence forced the Kings into an awkward situation of starting two true bigs at the 4/5 positions. While Holmes has continued to break out, the result has still been more consistent losing. Holmes is averaging 13.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game in just under 30 minutes a night. Holmes then went down with an injury too, and he has been out for several weeks. Nothing manages to go right in Sacramento. Holmes is listed as questionable for tonight, so his return seems imminent.

Harrison Barnes is having a solid season as a King, and Bodgan Bogdanovic is a solid shooter, but the Kings are lacking the transcendental talents that would make Fox really succeed as the team’s leader in the backcourt. Fox averages seven assists per game, and one can only sense that figure as deflated on a team that is managing to muster just 44 percent shooting.

The Kings are attempting 35.4 threes per game and knocking down a solid 33.9 percent, but the scoring issues persist on a team managing just 105.9 points per game. The Kings need health first, but even a healthy roster this year still sees the Kings strike out on a postseason appearance once again.

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