The Toronto Raptors and New Orleans Pelicans kick off their seasons with a cross-conference matchup in Tampa Bay Times Forum. That means it’s time to continue our NBA odds series and make a Pelicans-Raptors prediction.
Both teams made some major roster changes in the offseason, and they will be looking to prove they changed for the better. Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe will make their Pelicans debut, while Aron Baynes, Malachi Flynn, and Alex Len will don the Raptors jersey for the first time.
Here’s how sportsbooks have set the opening lines.
NBA Odds: Pelicans vs. Raptors Odds
Toronto Raptors -3.5 (-112)
New Orleans Pelicans +3.5 (-108)
Over 228 PTS (-110)
Under 228 PTS (-110)
Why The Pelicans Could Cover The Spread
In 2019-’20, the Pelicans finished outside of playoff contention for the second straight year.
Zion Williamson’s rookie year didn’t really live up to expectations, only because the phenom couldn’t take the floor as much as Pelicans fans hoped. Thankfully, Zion is healthy and ready to go to start the new campaign.
To beef up the frontcourt, New Orleans pulled off a swap for Steven Adams, one of the best rebounders in the game. Adams is also one of the most durable players in the game, playing in 70 or more games in six out of his seven seasons.
He will be a key addition against the undersized Raptors, who lost both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in the offseason.
The Raptors will likely start either Alex Len, a player of far less quality than Adams, or Baynes, who is solid defensively but could struggle on the boards with Adams on the floor.
The rest of the Pelicans roster matches up nicely with the Raptors players. Eric Bledsoe, the Pelicans’ other major offseason addition, is a two-time member of the NBA All-Defensive Team.
For all of Lonzo Ball’s offensive streakiness, his defense is much more consistent.
The Raptors will derive most of their offense from their two star guards, Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry.
Brandon Ingram and Pascal Siakam will be an intriguing matchup, and one that Ingram has the potential to win.
If the Pelicans can stifle Toronto’s backcourt duo and Ingram can pick up from where he left off last season, they have a shot at winning this game outright.
Why The Raptors Could Cover The Spread
The Raptors begin the season with a new-look roster after losing two mainstays in their lineup.
Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka have been replaced by Aron Baynes and Alex Len, and Toronto drafted two guards in the 2020 NBA Draft.
All signs point to the Raptors playing significantly smaller this season. The good news is that Toronto has the roster to pull it off.
Lowry and VanVleet have been knocked for being undersized their whole careers, and they have proved the league wrong again and again. OG Anunoby, Siakam, and Baynes will all stretch the floor and open up driving lanes for their crafty guards.
Despite the frontcourt changes, the biggest advantage the Raptors have in this matchup is their solid team identity. Gasol and Ibaka might be gone, but Lowry was the heart and soul of this team all of last season. Going slightly smaller should be a change the Raptors pull off seamlessly.
On the other hand, the Pelicans are still finding their way and just added a new head coach. They ranged wildly last season, toppling serious contenders (Clippers, Nuggets, and Celtics) while also falling to cellar dwellers (Pistons and Warriors).
The Raptors were a more consistent, readable team all last season. If they can continue the trend, they should cover.
Final Pelicans-Raptors Prediction
For me, Steven Adams and a healthy Zion Williamson are the keys to this matchup. The Raptors could struggle mightily on the boards as they did last year, and the Pels will take advantage in devastating effect if they do. I expect the Pelicans to take a step forward this season, and it starts tonight in Tampa Bay.
FINAL SCORE PELICANS-RAPTORS PREDICTION: NOP 123, TOR 118