Championship Odds: +8000
Brandon Ingram: 24.3 PTS, 6.3 REB, 4.3 AST, 1.0 STL
Zion Williamson: 23.6 PTS, 6.8 REB, 2.2 AST, 0.8 STL
Jrue Holiday: 19.6 PTS, 4.9 REB, 6.9 AST, 1.7 STL
Lonzo Ball: 12.4 PTS, 6.2 REB, 7.0 AST, 1.4 STL
Derrick Favors: 9.2 PTS, 9.9 REB, 1.7 AST, 0.6 STL
JJ Redick: 14.9 PTS, 2.6 REB, 2.0 AST, 0.4 STL
Players Sitting Out
|7/30||Utah Jazz||6:30 PM||TNT|
|8/1||Los Angeles Clippers||6:00 PM||ESPN|
|8/3||Memphis Grizzlies||6:30 PM||ESPN|
|8/6||Sacramento Kings||1:30 PM||NBA TV|
|8/7||Washington Wizards||8:00 PM||TBD|
|8/9||San Antonio Spurs||3:00 PM||ABC|
|8/11||Sacramento Kings||9:00 PM||TNT|
The Pelicans will be going to Orlando with a lot of hype and excitement surrounding the team. Despite a subpar 28-36 record, it cannot be ignored that where they are in the standings is largely due to the fact that Zion Williamson had to sit out the first 44 games of the season due to a knee injury. The No. 1 overall pick is one of the most physically gifted basketball players ever, and the impact he’s made on the Pelicans is extraordinary. The forward is averaging 23.6 PPG and seems to be getting better and better with every game he plays. At one point, New Orleans was 6-22 and it seemed like it was going to be a disappointment of a season. Now they’re a legitimate playoff contender, sitting just 3.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Grizzlies.
While Williamson’s been a godsend to the Pelicans, he isn’t the only player who’s brought New Orleans into contention. The core of the team has done a great job of coming together and everyone is playing their role to the best of their ability.
Looking at Brandon Ingram, this is a guy who has blossomed on the Pelicans and there have been multiple games where he’s had to carry the team offensively, particularly in the beginning of the season. Ingram naturally lost some attention when Zion Williamson started playing every night, but his production didn’t diminish whatsoever. Ingram has continued to carry a bulk of the scoring load on a nightly basis on top of contributing in other areas, as he averages 6.3 REB and 4.3 AST per game. The forward tandem of Ingram and Williamson is special, and I believe the young duo is already developed enough to put up a fight against the league’s best.
Transitioning to the guard position, I think Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball have complimented each other perfectly. The two guards have very different play styles. Holiday is usually looking to score while Lonzo is more of a pass-first guard. With that said, both of them versatile and can change their style of play when needed. Holiday is a very capable passer, averaging 6.9 AST per game, and he has no problem running the point if the situation presents itself. Lonzo has multiple dimensions to his game as well: The young point guard’s shooting and finishing ability has vastly improved this season compared to his first two seasons when he was on the Lakers. Not only does he now bring much more to the table offensively, but he’s also become one of the leagues toughest on-ball defending point guards. At the end of the day, the versatility of New Orleans’s starting guards creates a matchup nightmare for their opponents.
At the center position, the Pelicans have Derrick Favors, a player who knows his role and gives New Orleans consistent production. Favors knows he isn’t in the game to score a ton of points, and by focusing on rebounding and defense, he’s been a key player for the Pelicans all year long. Playing alongside so many talented offensive players, a hardworking, defensive-minded player like Favors is the perfect guy to round out the starting five.
Let’s not forget about JJ Redick. The veteran has definitely been a key piece for the Pelicans, both on and off the court. On a team with primarily young players, Redick has taken them under his wing, connecting with them and teaching them about how to succeed in the NBA. Having an experienced leader like Redick might end up being vital with this unprecedented “bubble” format. On top of his great leadership, Redick’s contributions on the court have also helped the Pelicans a great deal. He’s averaging just under 15 PPG (14.9) and his elite shooting ability really spaces the floor New Orleans.
The New Orleans Pelicans have an underrated core that can give teams problems if they make it into the playoffs. Some might say that they’re overhyped because of how much national attention Zion gets, however I believe that the Pelicans will really open some eyes in these final regular season games, and if they get into the playoffs, I wouldn’t rule out a “Cinderella story”. When a team with this much talent has nothing to lose, it is incredibly dangerous.