NBA Handicapping for Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans
by Trevor Whenham - 1/9/2015
The New Orleans Pelicans are one of those teams in purgatory. They are better than the hopeless cellar-dwellers but haven't yet improved enough to be a real contender. They are probably on the right path, and they are getting some attention - thanks mostly to the true superstar at their core - but the trip to greatness for the team is far from over. Heck, the trip to mere competence is still going to be underway for a while. So, can this team be trusted to keep moving forward this year? And what does it mean for bettors?
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Here are six factors to consider when looking at what is to come from the Pelicans:
Monty Williams is terrible: At the start of the year I was willing to have faith that the Pelicans head coach was decent. Not excellent, but decent. I have come off that opinion in a big way. Williams is a disaster. His scheming lacks creativity, and his usage and development of players is substandard. Most significantly, though, his game management - or total lack of it - is mystifyingly bad. He is equal parts cautious and brainless when games get tight and seems to take pleasure in turning wins into losses. He seems much more interested in trying not to lose than actually trying to win, and that pathetic attitude is seeping into the psyche of his players. Williams is, at this point, far from an asset.
Anthony Davis is so, so good: Davis is pretty much the antithesis of Williams - a truly brilliant player who just keeps getting better and better. He was a great player coming into the season, and he is much better with each passing game. Amazing player. Generational. Deserves better than Williams. What's most amazing is that Davis is still only 21 and two and a half years into his career. His prime is still years away. Scary.
Inconsistency: This team just can't maintain a streak. The good news is that they have not yet lost more than three games in a row, and they have only done that once. The bad news is that they have not yet won more than two in a row, either. Their last five wins have been immediately followed by a loss. This team just can't get out of their own way. I'll blame Williams - seems like the thing to do today.
Gordon is back: Eric Gordon has returned to action for two games after being injured on Nov. 22. His first game was not impressive, but he was much sharper in the second game and exceeded his season averages in both points and assists. He's not a perfect player by any means, but the team is better with him than without him given the alternatives at their disposal, and his return is a clear positive here.
Still in playoff hunt: As ridiculous as it seems to say given that they are a game below .500 and it's well after the start of the new year, the playoff hopes of this team are not dead - not yet, anyway. They are only three and a half games behind the Phoenix Suns. That's a big gap, but a run by one team and struggles by the other could easily turn things around. It's not like Phoenix is a great team. The biggest issue, though, is that the Thunder are just a half game behind the Pelicans and obviously have a whole lot more upside than New Orleans does. The teams above Phoenix are both better and playing better, so there are three teams in a hunt for one playoff spot, and it's hard to get excited about the Pelicans in the face of that. So, there are hopes, but they are not particularly strong ones.
Betting performance: At 20-15 ATS this team is solidly profitable on the season - something that only about a third of the league can claim. More impressively, they are 12-5 ATS in their last 17 games - a huge improvement over the 8-10 ATS they were in their first 18 games. They are only 9-8 straight up in their last 17 games, so they are performing much better from a betting perspective than they are on the scoreboard. If that trend were to continue - especially if they were to continue to fall out of contention - that could create some value down the road.
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