Predict the New Orleans Pelicans record on the upcoming five-game road trip. Which games do you favor them to win?
With Anthony Davis back in fold against another early season media darling, I expect the Pelicans to bounce back on Monday with a win in Denver. I think this team will get to a point where they are able to compete with the Warriors, but I don’t think they are there yet. After licking some wounds a boost of confidence will get them back on track against Portland — a team with something to prove, but one that has seemingly taken a step back and whose offseaon losses and additions make them even more of a favorable match up for this Pelicans team. It’s always a tough path to victory in San Antonio, and I expect the Spurs to keep riding the hot hand of DeRozan in the first meeting. Hopefully, we hit Oklahoma City before they start figuring things out. If so, that could be a blowout victory for New Orleans to cap a very tough rough trip.
Similar to the other famous professional team in New Orleans, the road games will tell you the most about the Pelicans. And from a difficultly perspective, the Pels may not face another challenging stretch as the one that starts tonight.
Unless you believe New Orleans is a fluke though, there’s no reason to think anything less than three wins is a disappointment. San Antonio, Denver, and the Thunder are the games I favor them to notch wins.
The Pels usually play the Spurs tough in San Antonio. And with the Spurs being inconsistent so far due to a roster shakeup and injury, I expect the more cohesive team in the Pelicans to come out victorious.
As for the Nuggets, Will Barton has repeatedly done bad things to the Pelicans. With him recovering from recent surgery, the Nuggets will rely on a backcourt that, while talented, doesn’t possess the size that normally causes New Orleans the most trouble. If AD is back and healthy, I expect an early road trip statement even against the super-talented Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris.
The Thunder’s current lack of spacing and shooting is a bad remedy against a New Orleans team scoring over 120 points a game. OKC currently sits at 29th in points per game. I’m just not sure at this juncture if even home cooking can help the Thunder at this time. The Pelicans will find a way to play their pace, a pace that the Thunder simply aren’t built to keep up with as of now.
That leaves Golden State and Portland as the lone losses on a road trip we may look back to a countless number of times this season.
We are going to learn an awful lot about this Pelicans team over the next handful of road games. Sure, the upcoming Western Conference road swing is tough, but really good teams can leave the comforts of home and win with regularity. The question mark is injuries and they could play a big part in the team’s performance on this trip. Elfrid Payton will likely miss at least a couple of games with an ankle injury and the status of star Anthony Davis (sprained elbow) is still unknown.
Preston: I’ll go with the obvious answer here — 3-2
With concerns as to the health of Elfrid Payton, there is a realistic chance we will see Ian Clark in the starting lineup against the Nuggets tonight — and I have not been impressed with Clark, as of late. Steph Curry seems intent on hitting five three-pointers per game for the remainder of the season, but he and the Warriors will be an interesting litmus test, nonetheless.
I do think, however, the Pelicans have enough right now to dispatch of the Blazers, Spurs and Thunder. Nurkic will be unplayable, and while Zach Collins is improving, Julius Randle will be the perfect foil to his newfound confidence. While the Spurs play at a snail’s pace, their defense has been atrocious even in the half court, and any team with a defensive rating of 119 (30th in the NBA) will have a real problem with the Pelicans, no matter how their offensive performs (7th in NBA). The Thunder can’t seem to do anything right now, as they’re struggling to score (27th) or stop opponents (14th).
Charlie: 4-1 — if Anthony Davis plays
Despite the fast start, there are clearly wrinkles that need to be ironed out and some very stiff competition coming, but that doesn’t mean our talent will wane. I think they’ll notch W’s against the Nuggets, Warriors, Spurs and Thunder.
The Nuggets are a favorable match-up for the Pels, especially without Will Barton. It will be a tough game, as any in Denver are, but I think NOLA pulls it out off the shellacking from Utah. I also like their odds on Halloween, motivated with Boogie on the sideline, against Golden State. The Warriors are so hot and cold early that I think the Pels can catch them off guard and may even finally try out their 3 Big Lineup if things are going favorably. Second night of a back-to-back off an emotional Warriors game, stepping into the Blazers revenge game feels like a trap and that’s okay. I’m fine with a loss here so let the guys get some rest. San Antonio is still tightly run and that gives me some concern, but I think the Pelicans are just the better team barring injury. OKC has been a mess, and while I fear a Paul George breakout against our depleted wings, I don’t think they can handle our speed especially when we suck Westbrook into taking 50 shots.
Unfortunately, pessimism takes the cake — be lucky I didn’t write 1-4. West Coast trips are always a bear, but with multiple core players likely out or not at 100% for a big part of the trip, it’s difficult to envision more wins than losses.
The Nuggets are beatable, but without Elfrid Payton, I don’t like the Pelicans chances of scoring enough easy points and thus keeping pace in Denver — even if Anthony Davis plays. Chalk up losses to the Warriors and Trail Blazers, too. Golden State should be pretty self-explanatory and I just think Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum circled their first date against New Orleans as soon as the 2018-19 schedule was announced.
However, the Pelicans will bounce back to salvage the road trip in style. They’ll knock off an underwhelming Spurs active roster and then the woeful perimeter shooting Thunder team will find some way to hand the game over to New Orleans.
There’s nothing wrong with this record at all coming against the upcoming teams! OKC is bound to turn it around, the Spurs will always stick in our craw, and Denver looks like a serious top-4 contender in the West. Plus, playing GSW is always rough, and you know Portland is going to be out for blood, given how the Pels dominated them in the playoffs last year. Make no doubt about it, though: all of these teams are good enough to beat New Orleans, so 0-5 is not impossible. But neither is 5-0! I’d probably only really *favor* them to win the Blazers and/or Spurs games, though. Rough trip!