New Orleans at Portland
Time: 9:30 PM CST (ESPN)
Spread: NOP -6.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The New Orleans Pelicans have won six of its last 10 SU and are 23-32, trailing No. 8 Memphis by five games. Portland is No. 9 in the West and trails Memphis by 3.5 games. The Trail Blazers host New Orleans in the second half of an ESPN Friday night doubleheader. New Orleans is 6.5-point favorites with the over/under set at 240 points according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes.
At 23-32, 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.
PORTLAND news & notes:
Portland has gone 5-5 SU over its last 10 games, and at 25-31 it trails the No.8 seeded Memphis Grizzlies by 3.5 games for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.
Carmelo Anthony has been the headliner for news in Portland, and the free-agent acquisition seems to be nothing but good for the Blazers’ rotation. Melo is averaging 16.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game in 32 minutes a night through his first 23 games (all of which he has started). It has pushed Mario Hezonja back out of the starting lineup, where he was having his struggles. The Blazers also seemed to legitimately have added a true No. 3 option behind Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who combine to average 48.8 points and 11.4 assists per game in the backcourt.
The Blazers are arguably a better team on paper this year than last, but injuries have prevented it all from fully translating. Hassan Whiteside is something of an upgrade over the injured Jusef Nurkic, but losing Zach Collins to injury was a bit of a blow to a team thin on frontcourt depth. Rodney Hood has been a pleasant surprise as a second-unit scorer, though, with his 50.6 percent shooting and 11 points per game. The Blazers simply need a healthy roster before it can build the chemistry and momentum that it really should.