• One of my favorite things to do is to predict changes in players’ shots/points per game. For as much as scoring is often overrated, it is unequivocally still a primary consideration when constructing an offense.  You aren’t getting many offensive rebounds if you have an offense devoid of anyone who can bend a defense, nor do passes mean much when the players receiving them aren’t threats to score.

    With this in mind, I wanted to identify who will be the guys looking for theirs as Pelicans, and in what order they’ll be receiving these looks.

    1. Jrue Holiday

    It has been mentioned ad-nauseam this summer: Jrue Holiday is THE GUY on this team, and you better believe that he’ll get the touches to back this up.  I talked about this last article, as Jrue’s usage was understandably different when Anthony Davis was not playing.  If I had to guess, Jrue Holiday will generate 18-plus shots a game this year, which would easily eclipse any other season in his career.

    Whether Jrue plays “point guard” is a more difficult question, as the Pelicans believe he is best while not assuming a full-time distribution load.  How much he plays with Lonzo Ball will undoubtedly factor into this analysis, as Lonzo can alleviate this burden.  The Pelicans really don’t have a guy capable of running point outside of Lonzo and Jrue (I am anticipating a learning curve for Nickeil Alexander-Walker), so it’s safe to assume that Holiday will shoulder at least some of this responsibility.

    In short, Jrue will both get his shots and his time to initiate offensive actions, whether he’s labelled a point guard or not.

    2. Brandon Ingram

    Ingram projects to be the second-highest Pelican in terms of usage.  As Michael McNamara pointed out this summer, we really should evaluate hierarchy in terms of who gets looks in halfcourt situations, and that is why I have Ingram over Zion.

    It will come as no shock to anyone that Ingram generated more shots while LeBron James was off the court last year, as LeBron tends to have the ball in his hands a whole lot each possession.  Without LeBron on the court, Ingram basically got an extra two shots per 36 minutes.

    Whether Ingram starts or not is up to debate in my mind, but I don’t have much doubt that he’s going to get his looks.  Aside from Holiday, Ingram is easily the second-best Pelican in terms of creating his own shot.

    3. Zion Williamson

    This one was a bit harder, as I was between Zion and Derrick Favors for this spot.  I gave Zion the edge for this reason: I think he’ll get opportunities to handle the ball in pick/roll situations to take advantage of mismatches, and what’s more, I think he’s going to be absolute dynamite in transition, much like Blake Griffin was when he came out of Oklahoma.

    I think Zion is also going to create a lot of his own opportunities, as there really aren’t many guys I can think of who can absolutely punish switches quite like Zion projects to do.  He’ll have adjustments to make of course, like finding a way to finish against NBA length when he can’t get the launching pad, but his athleticism translates excellently to the NBA and I fully expect him to find ways to generate volume even if plays aren’t drawn up for him.

    4. Derrick Favors

    This is also a difficult choice, as it will heavily rely upon how many minutes Favors gets.  When I had Ben Dowsett of Utah on my podcast, he mentioned what unbelievable shape Favors is in, and now Favors gets a chance to run slower fives out of the gym as he transitions into a full-time role at center.  Shamit Dua has also been screaming from the rooftops that Favors should get run in an uptempo offense.

    It is somewhat hidden because he only played 23 minutes per game last year, but Favors was scoring at an 18 points per-36-minute clip, which is very solid.  Normally, I would expect a player in Favors’ position to generate fewer shots per minute in a full-time role, but I think that number will actually go up since he will be in closer proximity to the basket.  Favors has no business shooting from the perimeter and should no longer be asked to do that since he isn’t paired with Rudy Gobert, and I would expect Favors to gobble more shots and rebounds as a result.

    5. JJ Redick

    Redick was the obvious choice here, and really could be as high as third depending on how many minutes he gets.  Redick is an absolute gunner, and if anything, registers FGA/possession in the neighborhood of Jrue Holiday and Brandon Ingram.  Redick will serve a very particular purpose for a team that doesn’t have a lot of outside shooting and could be seeing close to 30 minutes per game if the team feels it needs someone to unclog lanes for its primary options.

    However the minutes shake out this season, fantasy fans should fully expect several of the guys on this team to have career seasons.  The Pelicans took over 90 shots per game last season and there is a huge usage void where Anthony Davis was last year.  The team’s clear advantage in games is going to be its depth and athleticism, and I would guess that they’ll actually register a higher pace than they did last season.  That makes for big numbers and excellent fantasy basketball prospects.

Fantasy News

  • RJ Barrett
    SF, New York Knicks

    RJ Barrett had a rough shooting night in the Knicks' 96-100 loss to the Hawks finishing with 12 points (4-of-14 shooting), seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block in 39 minutes.

    Barrett has continues his streak of playing heavy starters minutes and at this point, it's starting to look like Fizdale is just going to let him do whatever he wants. This is Fiz we're talking about though, so consistant rotation decisions aren't exactly on brand with this administration. Still, it can't be ignored that Barrett is averaging 37.7 minutes per game so far. He'll murder your percentages, but is likely to end up on some rosters with big counting stat lines like these.

  • Julius Randle
    PF, New York Knicks

    Julius Randle lead the scoring charge for the Knicks in their loss to Atlanta on Wednesday, finishing with 20 points, eight rebounds, two assists, a steal and two blocks.

    Randle has proven himself to be the most reliable player on New York's roster and it doesn't seem to be particularly close. He's as safe a bet to produce where he's being taken in drafts as any player on the Knicks' roster.

  • De'Andre Hunter
    SF, Atlanta Hawks

    De'Andre Hunter was productive in Wednesday's win over the Knicks, scoring 15 points to go with two rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers.

    Regarded as more of a defensive stopper than producer on offense, Hunter has shown a more developed offensive game than people have given him credit for so far through the preseason. Chances are he doesn't end up averaging over 10 points, but his play through the preseason suggests there is potential for him to. He's a fin flier pick at the end of your draft.

  • Alex Len
    C, Atlanta Hawks

    Alex Len went scoreless in the Hawks' 100-96 win over the Knicks, posting nine rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal in 23 minutes.

    Len managed to somewhat salvage this line with the defensive stats and handful of assists, but the 0-7 shooting night from a starting center is still a tough pill to swallow. He's usually better than this as a scorer, and should still hold low-end fantasy value towards the end of your draft.

  • John Collins
    PF, Atlanta Hawks

    John Collins struggled with his shot in an otherwse productive game in Wednesday's win over the Knicks, fiishing with 12 points (5-of-13 shooting), 14 rebounds, two assists and a steal in 30 minutes.

    Collins hasn't shot the ball all that well so far in the preseason, part of which is due to spotty 3-point shooting (3-of-12 through four games). Most NBA players are taking advantage of the exhibition games to launch 3's at will, so this volume of poor shooting from deep shouldn't follow him too much heading into the regular season.

  • Trae Young
    PG, Atlanta Hawks

    Trae Young was up to his old tricks on Wednesday, finishing with 23 points (7-of-19 from the field, 8-of-10 from the line), nine assists, a steal, a block, a 3-pointer and no turnovers in 35 minutes of action.

    Its worth noting that the Hawks want to get Young up to 35 minutes per game this season, making this line a very attainable benchmark for him to hit on a night-to-night basis. There likely won't be too many games where he has zero turnovers, but it's nice to see after his rough stretch holding onto the ball to start the preseason.

  • Darius Bazley
    PF, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Darius Bazley played a team-high 31 minutes in Wednesday's 119-124 preseason loss to the Grizzlies, posting seven points, nine rebounds, six assists and a steal.

    Bazley shot 2-of-8 but the playing time is worth noting considering the Thunder's depth, or lack thereof, on the wings. The rookie remains a bit of an enigma considering he opted to train privately and work at an internship with New Balance, but he certainly looks like a potential contributor. Deep-league managers should remember the name.

  • Hassan Whiteside
    C, Portland Trail Blazers

    Hassan Whiteside has been diagnosed with a left ankle sprain and will not return to the Blazers' game against the Jazz.

    The second injury of the night for Whiteside proved to be too much to play through, and he will likely be reevaluated in the next couple of days. There is mild cause for concern considering that he was already dealing with a sprain to this ankle. If he misses extended time, Zach Collins will soak up a ton of minutes in the middle while Mario Hezonja and Skal Labissiere could see extended run as well. Whiteside finished his night with 11 rebounds and five points in 16 minutes.

    Source: Portland Trail Blazers PR

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
    SG, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander put up 17 points, five rebounds, three assists and a block in Wednesday's preseason loss to the Grizzlies.

    Gilgeous-Alexander will share the backcourt with Chris Paul, at least at the start of the season, but figures to take on a larger role over the course of the year. He's gaining steam in fantasy leagues and as his ADP rises there's less room for profit, but we're down with SGA as a middle-round selection with upside.

  • Russell Westbrook
    PG, Houston Rockets

    Russell Westbrook just couldn't get it going in Wednesday's loss to San Antonio, scoring 14 points (5-of-13 shooting from the field, 1-4 from the line) to go with four assists, four rebounds and eight turnovers.

    Ouch. Westbrook's bad games look a lot worse when his volume scoring and playmaking is taken away, which is exactly what James Harden did tonight. He's a confounding player for fantasy managers to consider around the second round where he is being taken. No, he won't be this bad every night, but when he is, you will not have a good time.