NBA Friday Night Betting Action: Memphis Grizzlies at New Orleans Pelicans

Marc Gasol is a free agent this summer, and he's averaging nearly 20 points per game this season.
Marc Gasol is a free agent this summer, and he’s averaging nearly 20 points per game this season.

Memphis Grizzlies vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Time: 8:05 PM ET
TV: NBA League Pass
Spread: OKC -11.5
Total: 198

Odds courtesy of Bovada

The Memphis Grizzlies still sit at 25-10 and are universally considered a threat to each team in the rugged Western Conference.

The New Orleans Pelicans have surprised slightly, just one game under .500, but will find itself with a very tough task in hosting the Grizz. NBA oddsmakers favor Memphis by 11.5 points in this affair.

The Grizzlies have been exceptional defensively, and that’s been a hallmark of this team dating back to Lionel Hollins’ development of the core players. Memphis holds opponents to just 97.5 points per game, and there really isn’t a weak spot defensively for Memphis.

Mike Conley is a top-notch defender and capable of leading an offense with results most seem to ignore. Marc Gasol is a former Defensive Player of the Year; and Tayshaun Prince has carved out a career as a defensive ace. That isn’t even to mention Tony Allen, whose defense ranks him in the top-3 defenders on the perimeter in the Association. Memphis may not ‘Wow’ fans with offensive explosions, but 101.4 points per game is enough when other teams are having trouble just getting into offensive sets before half the shot clock has already elapsed.

Gasol is in a contract year, and he’s playing like it. The Spaniard is having a career year, averaging nearly 20 points per game and snagging eight boards to go with it. Defensively, he’s coming up with 2.6 blocks/steals per game, and he only turns it over 1.5 times while getting 3.7 assists per game.

That renders Gasol with a PER of 23, and there are three Memphis starters with PERs above 20 (Conley and the ever-successful Zach Randolph in the post). Courtney Lee has stepped up as a great complement to Allen at the 2-guard spot, and is no slouch of a defender either. Essentially, the Grizz have answers for whatever a defense throws at them.

The Pelicans will throw Anthony Davis at them. And no teams have really had an answer for the most dominant young power forward since Tim Duncan. Davis alone can keep New Orleans in games, posting an almost absurd PER of 31.3, while averaging about 24 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Defensively is where he hurts opponents the most, changing a multitude of shots and rejecting the others. Davis averages 2.88 blocks per game, and the number would be far higher if opponents didn’t try to avoid the paint altogether while the former Kentucky Wildcat roams the paint. John Calipar said the Brow was the best shot blocker he ever coached, and in today’s era blocking nearly three shots a game qualifies him for such a title.

Tierce Evans has experienced a bit of a rebirth this season, but is still a little off from his Rookie of the Year days in Sacramento. Evans is posting a well-rounded line of 16 points, five rebounds and five assists per game, and he’s given the Pelicans another means by which the offense can be initiated if Jrue Holiday is out of the game.

Holiday is averaging 17.6 points and 7.2 assists per game, and seems to be worth the draft pick it took to acquire him from the 76ers. It essentially became the 10th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and Holiday is a one-time All-Star whose value greatly exceeds a late lottery pick, notwithstanding that the 76ers flipped it for a big payday from the Orlando Magic.

Holiday posts the second-best PER (18.3) of any Pelican and eventually should form a great tandem with Davis should the Pellies be able to retain Davis’ services when his rookie contract expires.

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