NBA on ESPN Picks: San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans

San Antonio at New Orleans

Time: 8:30 PM CST (ESPN)

Spread: NOP -3.5

Total: 237

Odds c/o 5dimes

The long-awaited debut of No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson is slated for tonight, the second of an ESPN Wednesday night doubleheader that promises to attract high ratings, and bettors. The Pelicans enter as 3.5-point favorites over the visiting San Antonio Spurs, with the over/under assigned a value of 237 points by NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.

NOP

At 17-27, the New Orleans Pelicans have formed an identity and some purpose, but now it all comes together with highly-anticipated debut of one Zion Williamson. A highly vaunted pick and hailing from Duke, Williamson is expected to transform the Pelicans. He will play in his first game with no minutes restrictions.

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? Will the Spurs double him much tonight, or force him to work through some potential rust without doubling initially? Tune in to see.

SAN ANT

The San Antonio Spurs is just 19-23 on the season and just 7-13 on the road where it visits the New Orleans Pelicans tonight.

Looking at the Spurs roster, it is understandable as to why: San Antonio is led by two high-scoring veterans, but this team’s defensive outlook is nowhere near as bright, and it lacks depth unless one is to overrate the talents in it and what they have done so far.

San Antonio is giving up 114.7 points per game while scoring 113.7 itself. It has a negative point differential, a sub .500 record, and still the rough outlines of what could be a postseason team even so. It is certainly too early to write them off, at least.

The Spurs are offensively led by the two veterans DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. Both post-PERs of 20-plus, but after that, the depth really thins out on this roster. Bryn Forbes has provided a boost with 11 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game, but he is really playing right at “replacement level.” The same applies to Patty Mills, whose defense is partly to blame for teams tallying so many points on the Spurs. Rudy Gay is washed up, and Dejounte Murray has been decent but the Spurs were hoping for even more.

All of this comes together to spell a team that is almost lucky to have won one-third of its games thus far in 2019-20. Without a step-up in defensive intensity, it will not even win that many moving forward. Dejoute Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker IV were all billed as potential breakout players, but none of them have broken out really.

Murray averages 10 per game, White 10, and Walker tallies just 5.6 per night. The trio was expected to lead the Spurs after Tony Parker’s regime ended, but in the two seasons since Parker left the Spurs, none of it has come to fruition, and the team is sub .500 mostly due to a lack of depth, as its primary two veterans have continued to produce.

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