The Pelicans and Thunder were trade partners this offseason, and now they’ll meet in the early going. Both of these teams have played some decent basketball to open the year, with one of them having high expectations and the other expected to lose most nights and get a better draft pick to continue with the rebuild.
The spread for this New Year’s Eve showdown favors the Pelicans by 5.5 points. The over/under is set at 215.5.
Pelicans Yet to Soar
When you have Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson on your team, the chances are that you’ll have the opportunity to win almost every night. This young Duke duo has been able to energize the team, as they have played very well early on. They failed to reach the playoffs last year but did some great things after making headlines for a 6-21 start pre-Zion.
After beating the Raptors to open the year, the Pelicans fell to the Heat on Christmas. They have split their last two games, finding themselves at .500, but New Orleans should be able to find their way to winning around 40 games this season.
The issue with this team, though, is a lack of depth. Very rarely does a new coach use an 8-9 man rotation from the start of the year. Essentially, the Pelicans only play eight guys and then use a little of Nicolo Melli. There was no process of figuring it out. The bench is almost entirely relegated to Jaxson Hayes, J.J. Redick, and Josh Hart.
New Orleans will win or lose off the merit of their starters. Eric Bledsoe is averaging only six points per game in their last three games and will need to step up for the Pelicans to succeed.
Thunder Trying to Get Rolling
Every time the Thunder lose this year, chances are slim that fans would be mad. The loyal fans will root for wins every night, but it is all about the draft. They have stockpiled picks from several other teams in the last few years, however, so their own pick isn’t everything.
On paper, this is easily the worst lineup in the NBA. But George Hill and Al Horford play critical roles in an offense for the first time in several years. For Hill, perhaps the first time since his Utah days. And for Horford, when he was in Boston.
Oklahoma City is led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, with several other guys making some contributions every night. Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 23 points and eight assists per game. He continues to prove that he can be a leader, taking that role over after Chris Paul was traded to Phoenix.
The Thunder have been competitive thus far, with young guys across the board making contributions. Hamidou Diallo is finally getting an opportunity at minutes. The team will seek its second win in four games. We’ll see what they have in store to finish the 2020 portion of the season.
Pelicans Earn Their Stripes
In three of their first four games, Zion has scored 20 or fewer points. Expect him to have an offensive breakout in this one, as the Pelicans pick up the win and move to 3-2.