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Pelicans shootaround update: New Orleans guard depth tested with Tomas Satoransky out vs. 76ers

It seems like nearly every NBA team is in lineup-improvisation mode right now, with injuries and health and safety protocols decimating rosters around the league, forcing rotation changes. New Orleans hasn’t dealt with the latter of those two issues in 2021-22 – knock on wood – but the Pelicans’ list of players who are “out” has continued to increase nonetheless.

New Orleans announced Sunday morning that reserve point guard Tomas Satoransky (personal reasons) will miss tonight’s 6 p.m. Central game at Philadelphia, meaning that the Pelicans will be without multiple backups at the “1” position. Starting point guard Devonte’ Graham logged 36 minutes in Friday’s overtime win vs. Milwaukee, his third-most playing time in a game this season, and may need to take on a similar workload against the 76ers. Among NOLA’s other players who are primarily point guards, Satoransky, Kira Lewis Jr. (knee) and Jose Alvarado (G League assignment) are all officially listed as out.

Other notes Sunday:

The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported this morning that Sunday’s game “appears in jeopardy” after Philadelphia’s Andre Drummond and Shake Milton entered health and safety protocols, joining Georges Niang. The 76ers also listed Joel Embiid (ankle), Danny Green (hip) and Tyrese Maxey (quad) as questionable to play. Furkan Korkmaz (illness) is out. …

Graham has shot 40 percent on three-pointers and 92 percent on free throws during nine New Orleans victories this season, compared to 36 and 74 percent in those categories in 19 losses (the Pelicans are 1-2 in three games Graham missed due to injury). His ability to knock down treys and foul shots was perhaps never more valuable than Friday’s fourth quarter and overtime, when he sank five trifectas and converted two game-sealing free throws.

“We have the utmost and extreme confidence in Devonte’, to playmake and shoot the ball for us,” Pelicans head coach Willie Green said when asked about Graham’s recent hot shooting. “I just like the fact that he’s being more aggressive. Those are shots that he can make and we want him taking them with confidence.” …

PHILADELPHIA SCOUTING REPORT

Offensive efficiency rank: 18 (109.1)

Defensive efficiency rank: 21 (109.9)

Net rating: 21 (-0.9)

Pace: 30 (95.93)

Streak: Lost 3

Go-to guy: Embiid has only played in 19 of Philadelphia’s 30 games, but he’s been in the lineup for 10 of the last 11 since Nov. 27. During that stretch, the 76ers are 5-6, facing one of the NBA’s more difficult schedules, including meeting Utah and Golden State in consecutive games last week, beating the Warriors. Like many of the league’s top scorers, Embiid’s stats are down a bit from his career norms, but he’s averaging 24.3 points and making a career-best 1.3 three-pointers per game, at a 37 percent rate. The four-time All-Star has two games of 40-plus points this season.

On the rise: The younger brother of Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Philadelphia guard Seth Curry has established himself as one of the NBA’s elite shooters. Among active players, Curry has the second-best career three-point percentage (43.89), trailing only Brooklyn’s Joe Harris (43.90). By his lofty standards, Curry’s 2021-22 rate of 39.0 is actually below par, but he has a chance to shoot 40 percent of better from beyond the arc for a sixth straight season, which he’s previously done in recent years with Sacramento, Dallas (twice), Portland and Philadelphia.

PREVIOUS GAME STARTING LINEUPS

NEW ORLEANS (10-21)

Friday win vs. Milwaukee

Devonte’ Graham, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Herbert Jones, Jonas Valanciunas

Notes: This group is 6-3, now with victories over Washington, Utah, the Clippers, Detroit, Oklahoma City and Milwaukee. … After a 3-16 start, New Orleans was too far out of play-in tournament contention to discuss that race, but following a 7-5 stretch, the Pelicans are 2.5 games behind a trio of 10th-place teams (technically Sacramento is in the No. 10 slot at 12-18). New Orleans must win Sunday to remain 2.5 games back, because the Kings hosting San Antonio (11-17) means one of the 10th-place squads is guaranteed to win tonight. Portland (12-18) also plays Sunday, visiting Memphis.

PHILADELPHIA (15-15)

Thursday loss at Brooklyn

Seth Curry, Shake Milton, Danny Green, Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid

Notes: This group is 1-1, winning at Charlotte in overtime Dec. 6 prior to Thursday’s defeat in Barclays Center, which was prior to the Nets being ravaged by health and safety protocols. … The 76ers were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference in 2021, but are currently in ninth place. A hot or cold streak would likely push Philadelphia immediately up or down the standings, however, because the Sixers are only a half game behind sixth-place Charlotte (16-15), while also only a half game ahead of 11th-place Atlanta (14-15). 

FANDUEL KEYS TO THE GAME

TE’ TREYS

The New Orleans offense looks much different when Graham is hitting shots from long distance, as was the case in consecutive Week 9 wins over Oklahoma City and Milwaukee. He went a combined 13/22 from three-point range against the Thunder and Bucks and probably needs another quality performance for the Pelicans to notch their first unbeaten week of 2021-22.

(THIS TIME) NOT ON HERB

The New Orleans defense looks much different with Jones in the lineup, as Philadelphia will witness first-hand Sunday. When the 76ers posted a 117-97 victory Oct. 20 over the Pelicans in the Big Easy, Jones was not part of the rotation and only logged three late-game minutes. He’s now an every-night starter and major defensive factor.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Jones was not a starter Oct. 20 vs. Philadelphia. Elsewhere in the New Orleans frontcourt, Valanciunas’ performance was a major anomaly, with him shooting 3/19 from the field and scoring just nine points. His second potential matchup Sunday vs. Embiid (22 points, six rebounds, five assists Oct. 20) would pit two of the NBA’s top 10 rebounders and highly-skilled centers, but Embiid is questionable to play). Valanciunas ranks fourth in the league at 11.9 boards per game; Embiid has not played enough games to officially qualify but pulls down 10.9 boards a night.