New Orleans at Denver
Time: 9:30 PM CST
Spread: DEN -9.5
All odds c/o 5dimes
NEW ORLEANS NEWS & NOTES:
The New Orleans Pelicans are just 8-23, New Orleans has had some injury issues, or one major one anyway: Zion Williamson, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, has yet to play this season. Even without him, and with a losing record, the Pelicans have quite a few reasons to be encouraged.
Paramount in those “encouraging aspects” is one Brandon Ingram. He has nearly doubled his scoring average as a Pelican, showing all of the promises he was initially thought to have when the L.A. Lakers selected him No. 2 overall. Ingram is averaging 24.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.7 blocks/steals, and those notions of a “Next Kevin Durant,” no longer look absurd as they did during his tenure as a Laker.
Jrue Holiday has quietly been sensational, as well. He is averaging 19.3 points per game, five rebounds and 2.7 steals/blocks, making his biggest impact on the defensive end but still (clearly) scoring the ball just fine. JJ Redick stepped up with Josh Hart out due to injury, but now that Hart has returned, expect Redick’s role to recede at least a little.
Hart has been a big threat on the boards at just 6’4”, averaging 6.2 rebounds per game to go with his 11.2 points per game.
Lonzo Ball has also been plenty of encouraging and exciting. He is averaging 10.6 points and 5.6 assists per game and his 2.4 A/TO ratio is solid. The Pelicans could be a major threat if Williamson returns healthy and clicking on all cylinders— the rookie looked great in the preseason, even if there is already a black cloud lingering over his career, in terms of health.
DEN NEWS & NOTES:
The Denver Nuggets are playing better, and as one would guess it mostly relates to a turnaround on the part of its star center Nikola Jokic. Denver is 21-8 and leads the Northwest division.
Some have criticized Jokic for his poor conditioning, but it is hard to ignore the fact that he continues to play good basketball overall while using his immense skills to more than makeup for his slow feet. Jokic is averaging 16.7 points, 10.2 rebounds and a team-leading 6.5 assists per game while posting a PER of 21.56. The Nuggets are led in scoring by Jamal Murray, who many expected to make a still-bigger leap following his outstanding postseason performances in 2019.
Instead, Murray is leading the way at 17.9 points per game, and ranking No. 2 in assists at 4.4 per. Will Barton continues to look like a poor man’s Kevin Durant, providing a lot of shooting on the wing and a fearless trigger. Barton averages 14.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game and is one of five Nuggets with a PER above the league average of 15 (15.98).
The Nuggets are a deep team on paper, but it is still really not testing out the talents of Michael Porter Jr that much, and Malik Beasley has seen his role decline this season as well. Gary Harris and Barton both see over 32 minutes per game, leaving the backups to fight over the remaining minutes, leaving some good talents to sit, naturally. Juancho Hernangomez has had his role decline, though he still averages four points per game in just 13 minutes a night.
The Nuggets will eventually likely decided on a shorter rotation, but for the time being there are 11 Nuggets who play at least 14 minutes per game. It is a team loaded with talent, but both of its top scoring options are probably not true No. 1 options on a contending team, and that includes Jokic. The Nuggets have great team chemistry, but one wonders if its lack of true star power might not hurt it. While Nikola Jokic and Murray function quite well as a tandem, it seems Denver would be better delegating more responsibility to one or the other, to develop a true 1A option, especially late in games.