New Orleans at OKC
Time: 7 PM CST (NBA TV)
Spread: OKC -4
Odds c/o 5dimes
Oklahoma City has lost four of its last five as it enters Friday night’s showdown against the visiting New Orleans Pelicans. The Thunder is 4-point favorites in the affair, with an over/under set at 228.5 according to bookmaker 5dimes. The game will televise as the first of an NBA TV Black Friday doubleheader.
Oklahoma City is firmly in a rebuild, so a 6-11 record is not overly discouraging considering the team’s direction at this point. The Thunder acquired promising second-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander over the offseason, and he has blossomed as a member of OKC. Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging a team-best 18.8 points per game while adding five boards and three assists. He has also kept his turnovers down (2.1), though a 1.5 A/TO ratio is hardly ideal necessarily. Even so, he represents the cornerstone of this rebuilding effort.
Chris Paul has settled into a declined role as a member of the Thunder, but he is still a big playmaker, leading the Thunder at 5.6 assists per game. Dennis Schroder is the third guard off the bench, but he has been very inconsistent this season and OKC never seems to know which version of Schroder will turn up for any given game.
Steven Adams, also, was expected to make a leap with Russell Westbrook out of the picture, but the opposite has happened: Adams averages just nine points and eight boards per game, in his 26 minutes a night.
The Thunder are getting some meaningful minutes from Nerlens Noel, though he does not appear to be the type of player ever to assume a full-time starter’s role. Hamidou Diallo was another player drawing intrigue entering this season, but he has been underwhelming as well, with his below-average PER and mere 8.8 points per night.
The Thunder at this point can count itself fortunate to have Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, because its other young talents have underachieved, or simply may not be that good. The rebuild is still in its initial stages, to be sure.
The New Orleans Pelicans are just 6-12 and 2-7 on the road where it faces the Thunder tonight. 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 even with a .333 win percentage through its first 18 games.
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 25.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.8 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, 5.2 rebounds and 2.8 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 6.5 rebounds per game to go with his 12 points.
Lonzo Ball has also been plenty of encouraging and exciting. He is averaging 11 points and 5.7 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.