The Miami Heat will be welcoming the New Orleans Pelicans to South Beach for their home opener, but be sure to set your alarms for this one, because it’s kicking off the NBA’s Christmas Day festivities at noon. In this matchup we have possibly the biggest overachievers of the NBA’s bubble (the Heat) going up against arguably the biggest disappointment of the bubble (the Pelicans). Will these two teams continue down these diverging paths on Christmas, or will they swap roles like Freaky Friday?
Free Picks: Miami Heat vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Trust Erik Spoelstra And The Eastern Conference Champs
The Pelicans are without a doubt one of the most exciting young teams in the NBA this season. Zion Williamson. Jaxson Hayes. Brandon Ingram. Lonzo Ball. There’s a lot to like about them, but one worry is their inexperience. At 25.3, the average age of the roster is tied for fifth-youngest in the league. Sure, they have veterans like Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, and JJ Redick, but apart from Redick, none of them played with the Pels last season.
That’s where the effects of an extremely shortened offseason come into play. New Orleans hired a very qualified new head coach in Stan Van Gundy, but he hasn’t coached in over two years, and with all of the Pels’ roster turnover, achieving any semblance of chemistry and rhythm with this team will be no small feat. Their first round pick last season, Williamson, is their longest-tenured player for crying out loud.
The Heat obviously had the same shortened offseason, but most of their moves were centered around maintaining their core. They re-signed Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, Meyers Leonard, and Kelly Olynyk while also bolstering an already scary defensive unit with wily wing defenders Mo Harkless and Avery Bradley. The Heat are a veteran team, and the great continuity they’ve maintained with their roster this offseason will surely be a big plus, especially early on in the season before other teams like the Pels have had time to gel.
Another point to mention is the fact that they’re being led by one of the best coaches in the game in Erik Spoelstra. Spoelstra has been on the job for a dozen years now, and there’s no doubt that he will have the Heat looking every bit as good as they were in the bubble to start this new campaign. Did I mention that the 50-year-old has gone 10-2 in home openers since becoming the bench boss back in 2008?
Sports betting site 22Bet is offering early odds for this one, and considering the expected disparity in preparation and chemistry, we think the Heat’s -6.5 point spread is offering great value with +105 odds. The Pelicans obviously have some great offensive weapons, but we wager that Spoelstra’s well-drilled and high-skilled defensive unit will frustrate the youngsters at the helm of New Orleans’ attack. The favorite in this matchup won both meetings last season, and Miami has covered the spread against the Pelicans in four of their last five contests.
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The Los Angeles Clippers will renew hostilities with the Dallas Mavericks, who they dispatched in the first round of last season’s playoffs.
The Denver Nuggets and the league’s presumptive NBA MVP will look to get off to a strong start against the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1.
The Golden State Warriors will host the Memphis Grizzlies in the final play-in game, which will determine the Western Conference’s eighth seed.
The Washington Wizards will host the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night with the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference on the line.
Alex is an alumnus of Ryerson University's RTA Sport Media program, a contributing NHL, NBA, and MLB writer in the BetPicks.ca team. He has been writing on sports, betting, and fantasy contests for several years, including pitstops as an NFL Editor for theScore and as one of the lead NBA news writers for fantasy sports site FantasyPros. As a lifelong athlete, bettor, and sports fan, Alex is uniquely qualified to help you reach the sports betting success that you've always dreamed of and your wife never believed you could achieve.