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NBA Preview: Pelicans injuries empty the bench coffers as they waltz into Atlanta

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New Orleans will face off against Trae Young and the 22-win Hawks without all of their opening day starters.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans are following suit to the Los Angeles Lakers and embracing the tank with just 14 games left to play.

The Pelicans hold on the NBA’s ninth position in the lottery odds is tenuous at best. While the Pelicans have a three game lead in the loss column over teams 10-13, a single victory separates the four. A defeat of the Atlanta Hawks could plummet the Pelicans’ chances of acquiring a top-four pick from 20.3% to 4.8%.

It’s in the Pelicans best interests to lose every game for the remainder of the season. And the NBA’s fifth-worst Atlanta Hawks should be willing to oblige them.

Over the past three weeks, the Hawks have won four of their previous ten contests, and Trae Young’s steady improvement has the team on a bit of a roll towards a promising future.

Pelicans’ fans tuning into this one may get to see a show from the former Oklahoman.

His post All-Star game PER (23.2) trails just Mitchell Robinson and Luka Doncic among rookies according to Real GM. Since the All-Star break, Young is averaging 28.5 points, eight assists, four rebounds, and all of it on 43.5% shooting from three-point range.

Almost as impressive, his front court friend (and my summer league bestie) John Collins is averaging 19.4 points and 9.6 rebound on the season on a tidy 56.9% touch.

But these Hawks are fifth-to-last for a reason, and that reason is defense. The Hawks maintain the league’s second-fastest pace and the league’s third worst Defensive Rating (113.7). They allow more points than anyone at 118.8 ppg.

So the goods news is, we should see a lot of points in this one!

The Hawks are the league’s worst in defending fast break points, ball movement and fifth-worst in rebounding. But, like the Pels, they excel on the other end finishing top ten in fast break, assists, points in the paint and three pointers.

But the Pelicans won’t take chances with a number of dinged up players. In addition to resting Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore, the Pelicans may just shelve Anthony Davis and Jahlil Okafor along with them.

So, who is ready for a lineup of Payton, Jackson, K-Rich, Randle and Diallo?! Honestly, it’s not too bad considering the Pelicans’ priorities need to continue developing their young talent and coming to decisions on the futures of Payton, Randle and Diallo this offseason.

Add the Pelicans’ quest for a top-five pick to the table, and it seems as if Holiday, Davis and Moore all could and probably should be shut down for the remainder of the season.

Let’s (not) geaux, Pels?!

Starting lineups:

Pelicans: Payton - Jackson - Kenrich - Randle - Okafor

Hawks: Young - Huerter - Prince - Collins - Len

Where To Watch/Listen

What: New Orleans Pelicans (30-38) at Atlanta Hawks (22-

Where: State Farm Arena, Atlanta, GA

When: Sunday, March 10th, 2019. 5:00 PM CST

How: FSNO, 99.5 FM WRNO