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NBA Preview: Pelicans in search of rhythm against Jazz

It’s the final preseason game for New Orleans

New Orleans Pelicans v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans will wrap up their preseason schedule tonight against the Jazz in Utah. Regardless of the outcome, don’t concentrate on the final result but what comes before it.

There’s quite a few players struggling with their offensive rhythm individually, as well as the starting lineup as a whole. That’s not entirely surprising with Zion Williamson out and Brandon Ingram only appearing in the opener. However, you had hoped things wouldn’t be this rough considering opponents aren’t putting in nearly the same amount of effort to win games as they will in the regular season.

Only two players have connected on at least half of their field goal attempts — and neither Ingram nor Jaxson Hayes have played since the preseason opener. Only four players that figure to be in the running for rotation minutes (Kira, Trey, NAW, Jonas) have shot stronger than 30% from 3-point range.

Leading the pack of scufflers, Devonte’ Graham has looked as uncomfortable as anyone in the majority of his minutes. While his turnover rate has been amplified by teammates not catching passes or running routes as cleanly as they should, his shot is clearly off, and worse, he’s not really looking for it.

Josh Hart, Garrett Temple and Naji Marshall are a combined 4 for 28 from deep.

And nobody has run as hot and cold as Nickeil Alexander-Walker. In his first six preseason quarters, NAW totaled 41 points (on 12-22 shooting), made 7 of 13 threes, and knocked down 10-12 free throws. In his last six quarters: seven points (on 3-18 shooting), made 1 of 9 threes and zero free throw attempts.

As for the lineups that have begun each of the three games slowly, the Pelicans starters have combined for a 37.2 FG% (28th), a 25.0 3PT% (t-27th) and a -11.3 +/- (30th).

Although LeBron James flatly stated last Friday to media that he receives no personal benefits from preseason games, he did acknowledge positives can be had for those floundering.

“It means something, as far as individuals getting in rhythm, getting in game shape,” James said. “We have our practices, but being out on the floor and bumping up against another team and things of that nature, that helps.”

More than several Pelicans are desperate to find some rhythm. Let’s hope bumping up against the winless Jazz shakes a few cobwebs.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (1-2) at Utah Jazz (0-2)

When: October 11, 8:00 p.m. Central

Where to watch:, NBA League Pass

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

Pelicans Injury Report: Brandon Ingram (right knee soreness), Zion Williamson (right foot surgery) and Jaxson Hayes (left ankle sprain) are all OUT.

Jazz Injury Report: Rudy Gay (right heel surgery) is OUT.

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.