The Pelicans look to win their season-high fourth straight game on Monday night when they host the 76ers. New Orleans opened as a 13.5-point favorite on NBA odds with a total of 189.5 points.
Philadelphia (8-36) has lost five straight, which the front office likely is thankful for because it wants the top overall pick in the 2015 draft. Currently the 76ers are a one game "behind" of Minnesota for the worst record in the NBA, with the Knicks having one more loss than the Sixers for the most defeats in the East. It would be interesting to see who the Sixers would pick if they won the lottery because they have two young big men on the roster in Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid. The clear top prospect in the draft is Duke big man Jahlil Okafor, but he wouldn't seem to fit a need if Philly had the chance to pick first. Although reports are Embiid has ballooned to 300 pounds as he recovers from a broken foot. He won't play this season.
Philadelphia remains without leading scorer Tony Wroten (16.9 ppg). He would have been a trade candidate but has a partially torn ACL and likely will miss the rest of the season. Wroten hasn't played since Jan. 13.
This will feature an interesting matchup between Noel and Anthony Davis. Noel was Davis' replacement at Kentucky as each just stayed at UK one season. They are somewhat similar players defensively but Davis is miles ahead on offense. I'm sure Kentucky coach John Calipari will be tuned in for this.
Philadelphia is 20-23-1 against the NBA betting spread this season and 15-29 'over/under.'
Pelicans 9th in Deep West
New Orleans (23-21) has won three straight to match its season high of two games over .500. The first two wins weren't all that impressive as they came against the terrible Lakers and Timberwolves. However, Sunday's 109-106 victory over Dallas certainly was quality. Davis was up to his MVP form with 28 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and three assists in that one. He also hit the go-ahead free throws in the final seconds. Davis will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game and that's highly deserved. I project he finishes third in the NBA MVP voting this season behind Steph Curry and James Harden. Yes, ahead of LeBron James. Davis' player efficiency rating of 31.34 is the best in the NBA by a wide margin. Although that stat seems a bit dubious to me right now because Miami's Hassan Whiteside is third.
Tyreke Evans had 24 points and a season-high 12 assists against the Wolves. Evans' fantasy basketball stock has gone up because the Pelicans will be without starting point guard Jrue Holiday for 2-4 weeks, so that means more shots for Evans. Holiday has a stress reaction in his right lower leg. In 37 games this season, Holiday averaged 15.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 7.1 assists in 33.7 minutes per game. Of course Holiday was acquired in a 2013 draft day trade from Philadelphia for what turned out to be Noel and a 2014 first-round pick (which the Sixers used in a trade to take Dario Saric, who remains in Europe). You probably have to call that a win for Philly because Holiday has had trouble staying healthy in New Orleans.
The Pelicans are 26-18 against the spread and 22-22 'over/under' on NBA odds.
On Jan. 16, the 76ers were 6.5-point underdogs on NBA odds and won -- their last win -- 96-81. Noel had arguably his best game with 17 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. Michael Carter-Williams had 22 points as the Sixers never trailed, making 10 of their first 14 shots. The Pelicans played without Davis and Holiday. Alexis Ajinca led New Orleans with 16 points and 13 rebounds. He usually doesn't play much when everyone is healthy. Thus Philadelphia is looking to sweep a two-game season series vs. New Orleans for first time since 2009-10
NBA Free Picks: Take the points and go 'under.' Certainly the Pelicans should win, but those are too many points to give so we suggest to bet the total for this NBA pick. Pelicans also are 0-6 ATS in their past six Monday games. The 'under' is 8-0 in Philly's past eight after a loss. It is 6-1 in New Orleans' past seven overall.