Winner: New Orleans Pelicans
Offense (Pelicans): The New Orleans Pelicans have an extremely underrated offense. They are t4th in points per game with 116.2, t3rd in 3 point field goal percentage with 37.2, t2nd in assists per game with 27.0. This is because they run their offense at the fastest pace in the league with 108.3 possessions per game. One area the Pelicans need to work on is their free-throw shooting as they were the 2nd worst team from the line last year with a percentage of 72.9.
The New Orleans Pelicans get most of their scoring from 3 players. Those players are Jrue Holiday (19.6 ppg), Brandon Ingram (24.3 ppg), and Zion Williamson (23.6 ppg). Jrue Holiday is a do it all guard for the Pelicans as he is shooting 36% from 3 and 63% inside the restricted area. Brandon Ingram is one of the most underrated 3-level scorers in the league and can score from anywhere. Ingram is shooting 39% from 3, 39% from 16 feet out to the three-point line, 44% from 10-16 feet, 37% from 3-10 feet, and 67% in the restricted area. Zion Williamson is one of if not the strongest player in the NBA. His game is outmuscling people in the post and making you pay when you leave him open for 3. Lonzo Ball is a great facilitator and is perfect for players like Zion and JJ Redick because he is such a good passer. I would expect the Pelicans to use Ingram and Williamson a lot against Joe Ingles and Royce O'Neale.
Defense (Pelicans): The Pelicans have one of the best defensive backcourts in the league with Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday. Holiday is averaging 1.7 steals per game and Ball is averaging 1.4. Derrick Favors and Jaxson Hayes do a good job of locking down the paint with 1.5 and 2.0 blocks per 36 minutes, but that is pretty much it for a defense that did not rank in the top 10 in a single defensive category. The Jazz are without one of their top scorers for the entire restart, so the defense won't face as big of a burden.
Offense (Jazz): The Jazz are without their second-leading scorer Bojan Bogdanovic for the restart (20.2 ppg). This means someone else is going to have to step up and take the scoring burden off of Donovan Mitchell. The Utah Jazz are top 10 in the league in FG%, 3's made, 3P%, and 2P%. The Utah Jazz averaged 111 points per game, despite having the 26th ranked pace of play in the NBA with 101.5. The Pelicans have almost 7 more possessions per game than the Jazz, but it is balanced by their high field goal percentage.
2 players that should take on a bigger offensive role against the Pelicans are Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert. The latter was averaging 15 points per game this year and should be looked for a lot more due to a 4-inch height advantage over Derrick Favors. Joe Ingles should take on a bigger role because Brandon Ingram will likely be guarding him. While he is a good defender, he is nowhere near the likes of Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday.
Defense (Jazz): The Utah Jazz are one of the best defensive teams in the league. They rank in the top 10 in 3's allowed, 3's attempted, 2P%, FTM, FTA, ORB allowed, DRB allowed, AST allowed, and PTS allowed. This is mainly because of the defensive play of Rudy Gobert. He is ranked 4th in the league in rebounds per game with 13.7 and 6th in the league in blocks per game with 2.0. Everyone else chips in and does their part defensively with Jordan Clarkson, Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Royce O'Neale, and Mike Conley all averaging 0.7 or higher steals per game.
X-Factor: Nickeil Alexander-Walker
I know this one might be a bit deep, but in the second scrimmage of the restart, Alexander-Walker played in 31 minutes and had 21 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Before the restart, he showed that when he plays over 30 minutes, he will put up big-time stats. He did it twice before the restart and averaged 23.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Look for Alexander-Walker's name to appear in the box score if he gets big minutes as he did in the scrimmage.
Who do you think will win this game? Let me know in the comments!