Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: New Orleans Pelicans guards Rajon Rondo (9) and Jrue Holiday (11) and forwards Nikola Mirotic (3) and Anthony Davis (23) in the second half against the Phoenix Suns at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans won, 125-116.
New Orleans Pelicans
- The pick: Under 46
- Confidence: 3 out of 10
The case for the under: That’s just a lot of wins. Jrue Holiday’s been fully healthy for almost three full seasons, but his leg injury was bad enough for long enough to always be something in the background. Anthony Davis played in back to back 70-plus games for the first time in his career, but any fantasy player will tell you how common “Anthony Davis left the game and is questionable to return” was.
The Pelicans were also up and down all season defensively. Their shooters are not elite, ranking 17th in spot-up offensively per Synergy Sports, and the additions of Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton won’t help matters. The Pelicans are good, but needing a 47 for the over assumes a lot of things go their way in a brutal conference.
The case for the over: New Orleans seems to have really found itself. Assistant coach Chris Finch helped take the offense to a new level, and it showed. While we tried to decipher the difference between how the team performed with DeMarcus Cousins on the floor vs. off, before his injury.
The fact that the team was just as good without him as with him seemed like a dismissal of Cousins, but that was the wrong way to think about it.
The better way to think about it is that New Orleans managed to find a way to maximize all its players and lineups.
Finch was part of the reason Denver’s offense flourished the way it did in 2016-17, building off what Chris Fleming had installed earlier under Michael Malone. He took a lot of the same mechanisms, using cutters and shooters around gravity drawing bigs, to New Orleans.
The result was a first-round annihilation of the Blazers, Davis’ first playoff series win.
The Pelicans added Julius Randle to replace the departing Cousins who may honestly make them better, and the bench has slowly gone from one of the worst in the league a few years ago to a solid unit.
Throw in a division in flux (Grizzlies, Mavericks, Spurs) and this could be the year Anthony Davis is on an elite team in the West.
They won 48 last year, and even adjusted for expected Pythagorean, they were at 45, just two shy of their over for this season, despite the Cousins injury.
The Pelicans should be really good and this season they may have the highest ceiling of the sub-contenders in the West.
But that number assumes things going right for the Pelicans, which hasn’t been their jam. With injuries and how narrow this might be, I can’t feel good on it.
I enjoy watching the Pelicans very much. I am unimpressed by this number either way.