New Orleans Pelicans 2021 NBA Win Total Odds & Pick: Zion Williamson’s Durability Creates Question Mark
Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans.
Pelicans Win Total Odds
The Case for the Over
Stan Van Gundy is a professional head coach by every definition. His teams have gone 7-5 to the over on win totals in his career, including the over in two of his three first seasons with a team.
His teams play solid defense. Even the Pistons, with a mess of a roster, saw improvement. Detroit was 25th in defensive rating the year before SVG took over, 20th in his first year and in the top 10 in his final two seasons in Detroit. For all their issues, he got the teams to defend.
Any improvement from the Pelicans defensively, with the firepower they have, and this projects as a playoff team.
Zion Williamson’s numbers were outstanding before the bubble on both ends of the floor. He’s a flawed and technically poor defender who still rattles opponents with his raw physicality. Offensively, he just overwhelms teams.
New Orleans lost Jrue Holiday, but Eric Bledsoe is a decent replacement. He’s as good, or nearly as good, defensively and more athletic, even if he’s not as good of a shooter or creator. Steven Adams is a quality starting center and combined with Williamson, teams are going to feel like they were hit by a truck after playing New Orleans.
Adams is also extremely reliable, he’s seldom injured or misses games. Derrick Favors’ injuries last season were devastating because of how much it meant an inexperienced (but talented) Jaxson Hayes played and how often they had to go small. Adams’ availability helps here.
Bledsoe-JJ Redick-Adams is a veteran core with a fairly high floor on its own before you get to all the young talent.
Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram never had time to acclimate to playing with Williamson last year, and it showed. More time together can only help things.
The Pelicans were on track to secure a playoff spot before the shutdown last year. They had played the toughest part of their schedule all without Williamson all before the shutdown.
It wasn’t so much how many tough teams they’d played, but that they didn’t have a chance like other teams to fatten up on weaker teams. A more balanced schedule this year will surely help.
The Case for the Under
I can’t stop thinking about the bubble.
The Pelicans had it lined up in front of them. They were the odds-on favorite to snag the No. 8 seed even after the restart. To even things out from them losing the easiest remaining schedule, they got an easier bubble schedule. New Orleans played Memphis, Washington, San Antonio and Sacramento twice.
The Pelicans beat Memphis and Washington, but those were their only wins in the bubble. They fell completely apart.
It wasn’t just that New Orleans lost. It was the way it lost. The Pelicans completely fell apart and while watching them, the word “quit” came to mind. Maybe that was coaching. Maybe that was just the bubble, but that hangs over things.
Bear in mind that when he was drafted, Brandon Ingram, who just got a max extension, believed he was going to be a top-tier superstar. Lonzo Ball, when he was drafted, felt the same. And Zion is already thought of as that.
If there’s a chemistry issue on the team, Van Gundy is not the coach I want to handle it. He’s all business and a total pro, but he’s also not a rah-rah coach.
Adams slipped defensively the past two seasons. He has so many miles on him from the many playoff runs he experienced in Oklahoma City that there’s some wear on those tires. Williamson might be better defensively but will still be young and mistake-prone.
Ball goes from awful to brilliant and back again, sometimes all within a single possession. Ball’s defensive capacity is immense, but there were times last year when astute Pelicans watchers knew that perimeter containment was the problem.
Much of what made the Pelicans great offensively last year was their transition, up-tempo play. Will they adopt that this season? If they play any slower and are any worse offensively, will their defense jump enough to offset that? And doesn’t that just mean they’ll be mediocre in both respects?
Finally, the biggest concern from league personnel about Williamson is durability. There’s a broad fear that he simply won’t be able to manage a full season. The Pelicans have six back-to-backs, on the low-end for teams in the first half of the schedule. But those six games may all be situations where Williamson misses one of the two. That drastically reduces their chances of going over their win total.
New Orleans plays in a strong division that sent all five teams to the bubble in Orlando and three to the playoffs, including the play-in. New Orleans went 9-29 last season vs. teams over .500, the third-fewest wins in the West against good teams.
The Pelicans are absolutely in a “prove it to me” situation.
New Orleans Pelicans Win Total Bet
This line is sharp. Much of this comes down to simply, “How much do you expect Williamson to play?” If you’re willing to bet that he stays healthy, this is an easy over play. If you build in some missed time for Williamson, it’s an easy under.
If you don’t want to tie your money to the most explosive player in the league with massive injury concerns, it’s a stay away, even more so than other teams. That’s what it comes down to.
For me, I’m willing to fade the Pelicans a bit in an improved Western Conference.