A full slate of season openers is on tap for the NBA on Wednesday, with one of those contests featuring the New Orleans Pelicans against the Toronto Raptors. Both teams participated in the NBA’s restart last season near Orlando, with the Raptors advancing to the postseason and ultimately falling to the Boston Celtics in the conference semifinals. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. EST, and due to coronavirus restrictions in Canada, the game will be played in Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. The Raptors are a 4.5-point favorite in the season opener, according to oddsmakers.
What to Know – New Orleans Pelicans
Shortly following the end of the Pelicans 2019-20 season, the organization announced that it was parting ways with head coach Alvin Gentry after the team failed to make the postseason for the fourth time in five seasons. New Orleans hired veteran head coach Stan Van Gundy who last coached the Detriot Pistons from 2014-2018.
The Pelicans used the offseason to go out and surround Zion Williamson, the league’s top draft pick last season and cornerstone piece of the team, with players to help boost the team’s lineup and depth. Jrue Holiday was dealt in a trade that sent Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, and Steven Adams to New Orleans along with future draft picks.
Those additions will fit in nicely with Brandon Ingram, who inked a five-year extension with the franchise. Ingram was an All-Star selection in his first season with the Pelicans after spending his first three years in the league with the Lakers.
New Orleans expected starting lineup is set to feature Lonzo Ball, Bledsoe, Ingram, Williamson, and Adams.
What to Know – Toronto Raptors
Toronto enters the 2020-21 season projected to remain one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams. The Raptors finished last season with the second-best record in the East behind the Milwaukee Bucks even after Kawhi Leonard bolted for the West Coast.
Unfortunately, Toronto will begin the season playing their home games in Tampa until travel restrictions are lifted and will do it without some familiar faces. Gone are a pair of big men, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, who, like Leonard, headed out west putting a dent in the Raptors frontcourt.
Toronto welcomes back four starters from last season in Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, who combined to average over 70 points per game. Look for Aron Baynes to step into a starting role to replace last year’s centers, Gasol and Ibaka.
The Pick is In
The two teams met twice last season, with the Raptors coming way victorious in both. The additions to the Pelicans in the offseason should boost its defense that was near the bottom of the league in points allowed (117.1 ppg). Williamson looked good in games played this preseason averaging 28.5 points in two games. A healthy Williamson paired with Ingram will provide the Pelicans with an efficient scoring duo. Toronto is stacked with a veteran starting lineup, but New Orleans’ youth will give them some fits in the season opener.
The Pick: New Orleans +4.5