The New Orleans Pelicans 7-7 record carries an apt representation for their performance thus far in 2018-19. Thrilling and dominating victories over the Rockets, Kings and Raptors are met with equally dismal performances against the Jazz, Thunder and Wolves. But they will have every chance — and should expect to crawl back above .500 — against a New York Knicks squad that should be anything but intimidating without their star player, Kristaps Porzingis.
With a 4-11 record, the Knickerbockers sit fourth from the bottom in the NBA standings and have to be considered a possible landing spot for any of Duke’s highly coveted big three. At 25th and 26th in offensive and defensive rating, respectively, there’s nothing the Knicks do especially well, but they do possess players capable of performing well on any given night.
Enes Kanter, for example, is a player mocked for defensive shortcomings. Against the Thunder on Wednesday night, Steven Adams was caught on camera telling newly hired head coach David Fizdale to pull the plug.
Steven Adams to David Fizdale during a stoppage: "Sub him (him being Enes Kanter) out. He can't play defense."— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) November 15, 2018
Jokes aside, Kanter can be a bully in the post and on the offensive glass. Averages of 16 points and 12 rebounds (4.4 on the offensive end) make him a sore for opposing big men. Anthony Davis has struggled against the more physical big men of late, and it’ll be interesting to see if he meets the challenge.
Tim Hardaway Jr. could make for another mantle on Jrue Holiday’s wall of shooting guards. The highly prized free agent acquisition from the Hawks last year leads the Knicks in both volume and scoring, with 22 points on 17 shots per game, including 36% from three-point range. He’s a player who can get going early and stay supernova late as evidenced by his 37-point explosion against Victor Oladipo and the Pacers on October 31st.
The ninth overall pick and summer league sensation, Kevin Knox, carries the athleticism of a would-be star but lacks the execution. At nine points, two rebounds and just over 32% shooting from the field, he may carry attention, but likely won’t bring production.
So too, last season’s lottery selection Frank Ntilikina. At seven points, three assists, and two rebounds, the offensive end will not shine his brightest skills. Those lie on the defensive end, where Pelicans’ fans must hope Elfrid Payton lies the foe in waiting. Fellow former top ten selections Emmanuel Mudiay and Trey Burke will share backcourt duties, as well as undrafted scoring prodigy Allonzo Trier. They will have their hands full with Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore should Payton be forced to sit his 11th consecutive game with the long-lasting ankle injury. Trier has suprisingly looked comfortable in early action, as the Knicks third-leading scorer at 11.3 points per game on 47% shooting.
A lot of savvy New Orleans basketball fans should get a kick out of summer league breakout star Mitchell Robinson, who carries length and mind-numbing athleticism in his 7’1 frame. Robinson has been granted the start in recent matchups and may face off against Davis at the opening tip. If you miss him this time, don’t worry, you’ll likely score a second look at this February’s Dunk Contest.
Solid, if unspectacular, Noah Vonleh is an under the radar quiet and steady producer. At eight points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes per game, fans always expect more from yet another former top ten selection, but it’s time to let go of the dream.
New Orleans will look to attack the paint early and often — something they should attempt to do in every game, but especially against New York. Allowing 51.2 points per game (27th), the Knicks big men resemble more of a bullfighter waving a red cape then a brick wall. The Knicks also allow the 29th worst eFG percentage to opposing teams (54%), and give up nearly 113 points per game (22nd).
The Pelicans seem to go only as far as their offensive execution goes, and this matchup should pose little to no threat to a team desperate to climb back above .500. Should they get caught looking ahead to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night though, the Knicks undeveloped youth may rise to the occasion and knock the Pelicans’ back down to the hardwood.
But I’d bet on the former to the latter.
Let’s geaux Pels!
What: New Orleans Pelicans vs New York Knicks
Where: Smoothie King Center
When: Wednesday November 16, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Central
How: FSNO, MSG, 99.5 FM WRNO