Suns vs. Pelicans Preview: Is This Line Too Short?

Action Network analyst Joe Dellera breaks down Tuesday's game between the Suns and shorthanded Pelicans.

Suns vs. Pelicans Odds

Suns Odds -6
Pelicans Odds +6
Over/Under 226
Time 8 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Phoenix Suns have been without Chris Paul since the All-Star Break when he was diagnosed with an avulsion fracture in his hand. The Pelicans have flourished in terms of their advanced metrics after the acquisition of CJ McCollum; however, they’ve struggled to turn that into wins.

Can the Suns continue their warpath through the West or will the Pelicans mount a fight? Let’s break it down.

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Suns Holding Their Own Without Paul

While the Suns will remain without Chris Paul, they’ll also be without Cameron Johnson (quad) for this game which impacts their depth on the wing. However, they should be able to manage this injury.

The Suns have been relentless this season. They have the league’s best Adjusted Net Rating (+7.2), the fourth-best Adjusted Offensive Rating (114.1), and the third-best Adjusted Defensive Rating (106.9). They’ve handled business regardless of their opponent and this has led them to by far the best record in the NBA.

It’s a testament to their coaching and their depth that they have managed so well without Chris Paul. They’re 6-4 without Paul, and still have the third-best point differential since he went down with an injury (+7.9), per Cleaning the Glass. The team is so solid from top to bottom and Devin Booker has truly stepped up into the increased role.

He averages 8.3 assists per game compared to 4.5 with Paul on the floor. Additionally, Deandre Ayton has been incredible. He’s efficient while shooting 69.3% from the field without Paul and has been a key piece of their offense and defensive attack.

Pelicans Missing Key Pieces

The Pelicans may be without their newly-acquired guard CJ McCollum as he works to clear the league’s COVID protocols. Additionally, Brandon Ingram will miss this contest after straining his right hamstring last week.

Without McCollum and Ingram, the Pelicans’ offense obviously takes a hit. Ingram is a +7.0 on offense while McCollum is +1.9, per Cleaning the Glass.  Without them, they need to move further down the depth chart for offense and their issue is who can create in their absence?

They’ve leaned on Devonte’ Graham, Jose Alvarado, and Herb Jones, but none of them are nearly as effective on offense as McCollum or Ingram.

Although New Orleans has played better since acquiring McCollum, better is a relative term. On the season, the Pelicans have a point differential of -2.8. Over the last two weeks, they are 3-4 with a +0.4 point differential, which is still below the league average on the season, per Cleaning the Glass. So, while this team is making a push for the Play-in Tournament, they likely will not make waves in the Western Conference.

Suns-Pelicans Pick

Both of these teams are missing key players for this matchup; however, one of them is much more capable of dealing with those injuries to secure a victory and a cover. That team is the Phoenix Suns.

Even without Chris Paul, the Suns have the depth and the talent throughout their roster to give the Pelicans problems. Additionally, the Suns still have a more than capable halfcourt offense and score the third-most points per 100 plays in the halfcourt (99.8).

I fully expect Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Cameron Payne to attack this Pelicans’ halfcourt defense that allows the fifth-most points in the halfcourt. This edge alone is significant, but because the Pelicans’ strong suit is their transition play which is another area where the Suns excel, it could be a long day for the Pelicans as they are punished in the halfcourt.

This spread is around -5.5/6, and this is just too narrow of a line considering the talent gap between these two teams. I would not be surprised to see this line balloon to 7 points or greater.

Pick: Suns at -6 or better