The Toronto Raptors will play host to the New Orleans Pelicans as both teams experienced a bit of an offseason shakeup. Now they’ll show off their new-look rosters for the first time in the regular season as these two teams tipoff in their season openers on Tuesday evening. Can a deeper Pelicans’ team find success without Anthony Davis? Will the Raptors be able to dominate the Eastern Conference again even without Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green? Both teams will look to start answering those questions on Tuesday.
Tipoff for the game between the Pelicans and Raptors is scheduled for Tuesday, October 22, 2019, 8:05 at p.m. ET at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. The matchup will be shown on TNT.
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This game represents Zion Williamson’s debut in the NBA. That comes with quite a bit of fanfare as rookie garnered quite a bit of attention in college and during the draft. He’s the cornerstone piece of the Pelicans now that Davis is in Los Angeles, but he’s not the only interesting piece on that team.
Zion is just a piece of the Pelicans’ remade roster as New Orleans got a haul back for Davis from the Lakers including key pieces like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart. Meanwhile the team added some others via free agency, giving them a nice rotation of high-upside role players along with some stable veterans to add to the mix of Williamson and the perpetually underrated Jrue Holiday.
This Pelicans team is sneaky good and could compete this year despite the number of quality teams in the West.
They’re kicking their season off with a tough matchup in the Eastern Conference, however, against the reigning champion Raptors.
Toronto will host, giving them home court advantage, though they’re a bit short handed compared to last year with the departures of Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green. Leonard, of course, is the biggest new addition in L.A. for the Clippers while Green is joining Davis and company with the Lakers.
Still, even without those two the Raptors have a nice team. They have been a top four team in the Eastern Conference six seasons in a row and Leonard was only a member of the team for one of them. Marc Gasol, Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam form a nice core and while the additions of Stanley Johnson and Rondea Hollis-Jefferson don’t replace Leonard and Green in terms of talent, it does give the Raptors more options in rotation inside the paint.
Lowry had a career high 8.7 APG last season with a chunk of them going to Leonard. Without Leonard, the Raptors will need Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam to step up to fill in the gaps, but Lowry will also be asked to be a bigger scoring threat this season. How he adapts to that will be key on Tuesday as well as the rest of the season.
The veteran Raptor had 14.2 PPG from the floor last season but will shift and play some time at shooting guard this season and take on a bigger role shooting the ball with Fred VanVleet sharing the floor from the port guard position. That’s a bit of a shift for a player that saw a career high in assist last year and thrived in that point guard role. How he handles that will play a big part in the success for the Raptors this season, including Tuesday.
As for New Orleans, it’s easy to point to Williamson as the key, he’s the new face of the franchise, but its really on Jrue Holiday to be a stabilizing force. He saw career highs in scoring, rebounds and blocks last year and will need to build off of that as he takes on a larger, more prominent role on this team, stepping out of Davis’s shadow.
Toronto was 17-5 without Leonard in the lineup last season, giving the Raptors hope for the 2019-2020 season, including the series opener on Tuesday, but that record did come largely against non-playoff teams and with Danny Green still on the team.
Of course, the Raptors replaced Leonard and Green with some defensive-first options, but it’ll be up to the rest of the Toronto roster including Lowry, as the team’s longest-tenured player, to help make up for the loss.
On the other side of the court, the key stat for the Pelicans may be Williamson’s 23.2 PPG in the preseason. It’s a small sample size and one that doesn’t count when the real games begin, but he’s shooting 71.4-percent from the floor, offering rebounds, and a strong overall presence as he is dominating on the court and putting up historic numbers.
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This is a truly interesting matchup of a couple of remade teams in the offseason as they battle it out on national television ahead of the teams’ the stars went to out in Los Angeles.
The Raptors are the defending champions and have been a consistent Eastern Conference powerhouse for a while now but could be on the verge of a rebuild with a roster that’s going to rely on a pair of aging players in Gasol and Lowry. For now, however, they’re still quality players and have the supporting cast around them to get the job done.
The Pelicans, however, have been rolling through the preseason and while that only means so much, it’s encouraging going into the regular season. New Orleans should be a confident team going into Toronto and could come out victorious in what should be a close, well played game.
Look for a big debut game for Williamson as he and the rest of the new-look Pelicans prove that they are going to be a force in the NBA this season.
NBA ATS Pick: Pelicans 109, Raptors 101
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