NBA Betting Preview: Philadelphia 76ers at New Orleans Pelicans Picks & Predictions

Anthony Davis: Philadelphia 76ers vs New Orleans Pelicans PredictionsToday’s game between the 38-22 Philadelphia 76ers and 27-34 New Orleans Pelicans could have been a marquee matchup between the 76ers’ Joel Embiid and the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis. However, Embiid is currently sidelined with a knee injury and won’t play in the contest (8 p.m. ET on NBATV).

There are still compelling reasons to get interested in this game. Philadelphia is integrating new pieces Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott, James Ennis and Jonathon Simmons into a roster that is angling for a championship run this season. The Pelicans have been surprisingly plucky even with all the drama surrounding Davis’ trade quest and a rather limited roster.

We’ll pinpoint the X-factors in this contest and attempt to nail down the best bets you can make on the game’s spread and over/under with our Philadelphia 76ers at New Orleans Pelicans predictions and picks.

Will Anthony Davis Play Focused and Aggressive (and Not Be a Distraction)?

The whole Anthony Davis fiasco is still going on. Davis requested a trade before the deadline, but the Pelicans opted not to wait on granting his request. Now, he is back playing for the team, but he’s playing through a minor shoulder injury and the squad is resting him frequently (including Saturday’s 128-115 win over the Los Angeles Lakers).

New Orleans would prefer to sit Davis out for the rest of the year and improve its lottery odds while preserving his trade value. However, league rules prohibit the team from doing that.

In the Pelicans’ matchup here against the 76ers, Davis has every opportunity to dominate the 76ers without Embiid. The combination of Boban Marjanovic, Jonah Bolden and Amir Johnson at center is very underwhelming, and they allowed a combined 40 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists to Jusuf Nurkic and Enes Kanter in the Sixers’ 130-115 loss to the Trail Blazers on Saturday.

However, Davis hasn’t been playing super aggressively since his trade request, and his motivation is understandably affected by his strained relationship with the team. Will he play well and mesh with his teammates or will he check out mentally?

Can the Sixers Free-Throw Game Stay Strong Without Embiid?

The 76ers are second in the NBA in free-throw rate. They thrive on cashing in at the stripe and forcing opposing players into foul trouble. Philly has a 17-3 record when attempting 32 or more free-throws. Additionally, the Pelicans are just 1-7 when their opponents have 31 or more free-throw attempts.

Without Embiid, a lot of that foul-drawing prowess is gone. Guys like Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris will need to be extra aggressive in this game to make sure the team’s normal strength is preserved.

The good news for Philadelphia is that New Orleans is one of the league’s weaker teams at avoiding fouls. The Pelicans’ big men, such as Julius Randle, Jahlil Okafor and Cheick Diallo, frequently have their minutes limited because of foul trouble.

Has Cheick Diallo Turned a Corner?

The average NBA fan has no idea who Diallo is. The athletic 22-year-old big man was selected early in the second round of the 2016 draft as a very raw prospect out of Kansas. For the most part, he’s had a very limited role in the NBA with only brief flashes of his potential.

However, in February, that has changed. He has had six games with at least 15 minutes of playing time this month, and his averages in those games are as follows: 13.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in 21.5 minutes per game with an 81.7 true-shooting percentage.

Like we’ve mentioned before, the Sixers’ big-man combination in this game is quite lackluster. Diallo seems to be in position for another strong game if he gets the minutes.

Our Preview’s Philadelphia 76ers vs New Orleans Pelicans Predictions & Betting Picks

I like Philadelphia’s chances at winning here, even without Embiid. I think Davis’ impact will be somewhat muted by the lack of chemistry he has with his teammates, as well as the shoulder injury he is working through.

The Sixers’ length on the perimeter with Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris will also cause problems for the Pelicans and their lack of punch on the wing. Also, without Embiid, Philadelphia will push the pace even more than normal to utilize its length and speed on the fast break. So the Philadelphia 76ers at New Orleans Pelicans predictions for this NBA game preview are: