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Game Thread: Pelicans rank highly in average tv viewership, confirming NBA’s decision to schedule plenty of national broadcasts

It’s a star-driven league and Zion Williamson is box office material!

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NBA: Houston Rockets at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans are tipping off against the Suns at the top of the next hour, and while Phoenix sports the better record, New Orleans is considered the must-watch team of the two.

Ethan Strauss of The Athletic took a look at NBA viewership, and while the Lakers and Warriors sat one and two, the Pelicans were not that far behind, ranking as the 7th-most watched team in the league by his metrics. Honestly, that’s a really good placement on his list because New Orleans’ opponents that qualified for his research do not carry the biggest legions of fans.

7. Pelicans: 1,116,778

Don’t be fooled, this is an impressive number. Not only does it include an aforementioned Zion absence, but the draw was insanely TV-unfriendly. We’re talking about games against the Grizzlies, Rockets, Jazz, Hornets and the Suns (twice). Basically, the league gave the Pelicans a bunch of national games but made them prove themselves. In my opinion, they’ve markedly exceeded expectations, especially when you consider that New Orleans is the league’s smallest (and perhaps least engaged) market. The upshot: Zion Williamson is a box office star. It was true at Duke and it’s true in the NBA.

Looks like the NBA was smart to schedule the Pelicans for a lot of national broadcasts this season despite the fact that the team failed to make the most recent playoffs in the bubble — Zion Williamson is genuinely must-watch television!

With the league expected to announce the 2nd half of the 2020-21 schedule very soon, one has to believe New Orleans will continue to be prominently featured on the next slate of TNT and ESPN television schedules.

For a look at tonight’s matchup against the Suns, please give Tom’s preview a read.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (12-16) vs Phoenix Suns (17-10)

When: February 19, 7:00 p.m. Central

Where to watch: Fox Sports New Orleans

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

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.