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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans will get first look at Jimmy Butler and Philadelphia 76ers

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Joel Embiid remains Philly’s biggest threat to stop.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

After another successful home stand — which included wins over the Nuggets and Spurs, the New Orleans Pelicans (10-7) are back on the road, and their three-game trip through the Eastern Conference begins in Philadelphia against the 76ers (12-7).

Prior to trading for Jimmy Butler, the 76ers were in a bit of a spiral, losing five straight games. Since freeing him from Tom Thibodeau’s grasp, Philly has gone 4-1 (3-1 with Butler in the lineup). Granted, it doesn’t appear they’ve flipped the switch to world-beater status though, as the victories came against below average teams (Jazz, Suns, Hornets), with none of the wins reaching double digits.

Despite the addition of an All-Star in Butler, the 76ers offense continues to run through Joel Embiid. Anthony Davis, Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic will have their hands full as he’s averaging 27.9 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.1 blocks. Embiid gets to the free throw line about 10 times a game and he’s a mild threat from long range (31.0 3PT% on 4.4 attempts).

As for the new guy, Butler has posted a somewhat quiet line of 18.3 points (on just 11.8 field goal attempts), 3.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals through four contests. However, this should probably be viewed as a good thing for Philly’s organization as Butler appears to be trying to fit in rather than attempting to exert his dominance. For instance, Ben Simmons numbers have practically stayed the same and J.J. Redick is averaging 19.5 points per game.

As for the rest of Philly’s rotation, expect Mike Muscala to spot-up from three, Wilson Chandler to get decent run as he continues to come back from a hamstring injury and Landry Shamet to get some backup minutes at point guard. One name conspicuously absent: Markelle Fultz.

Poor Fultz. He’s shooting 41.9% from the field, 28.6% from three and 56.8% from the line on the season and has done nothing to change the notion that certain people within the 76er organization were right for wanting to go in a different direction despite Bryan Colangelo’s insistence that Fultz was their guy.

As for New Orleans, the Pelicans are flying high, winners of six of their last seven games. While it’s key to remember the road has not been friendly — where they’ve won just twice in eight tries, fans can take some solace in the facts that Anthony Davis appears fully healthy again and the upcoming road trip does not contain any foes from the West. New Orleans sits a perfect 4-0 against the Eastern Conference, this after posting a record of 21-9 against them last season.

The biggest key to success for the Pelicans against the 76ers will be forcing their role players to beat them. Don’t let Embiid dominate the paint and get to the line, Redick to get looks from the outside and Simmons to find driving lanes. While it’s easier said than done, Philly’s depth is suspect on paper so throwing the kitchen sink at their core guys seems like a well-intentioned plan.

Geaux Pels!

What: New Orleans Pelicans at Philadelphia 76ers

Where: Wells Fargo Center

When: Wednesday, November 21, 2018, 6:00 p.m. Central

How: FSNO, 99.5 FM WRNO