Pelicans & NBA Basketball

Are the New Orleans Pelicans about to join the rest of the tanking teams in the NBA?

New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry gestures to his team during the second half of a game against the Chicago Bulls on Feb. 6 in Chicago. ,
New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry gestures to his team during the second half of a game against the Chicago Bulls on Feb. 6 in Chicago. , AP

Unfortunately, the New Orleans Pelicans have been in the headlines for depressing reasons in recent days. Front and center, the reality that the NBA future of Anthony Davis will be with another franchise.

Oddsmakers and bettors have been dealing with the challenge of properly pricing a shorthanded Pelicans team that may or may not be all that enthusiastic about taking the floor on a nightly basis moving forward. Is New Orleans about to become an “expansion caliber” disaster that deserves to be rated down at the bottom of the ladder with draft position “tankers?” Or, is there still enough team-wide enthusiasm that the Pellies can provide betting value against a skeptical market?

Since Davis first left the lineup (he hasn’t played since January 18), it’s been the latter. New Orleans covered six of its first eight games without Davis, almost upsetting Indiana at home Monday night in a 109-107 loss as four-point home underdogs.

Effort is of paramount importance to seasoned NBA handicappers. It’s not uncommon to see good teams coasting through the regular season…to see mediocre teams take nights off completely for “rest” … and to see the true dregs virtually bend over backwards to NOT get results.

Finding teams who TRY against any of those categories can mean big money makers for bettors. The Brooklyn Nets are a great recent example. Brooklyn stormed into the Eastern Conference playoff picture behind a 19-5 straight up run that went 17-7 against the spread. The Nets did cool off in recent days, running into some quality opposition as the market finally started catching up.

It might be a stretch to ask New Orleans to surge into the Western Conference playoff picture. It’s the stronger conference. But, as Brent Musburger likes to say, “cashing tickets is what it’s all about!”

Keep an eye on both the Pelicans effort and the market response in coming days. New Orleans still has four games before the All-Star Break (Friday vs. Minnesota on ESPN, Saturday at Memphis, Tuesday vs. Orlando, and next Thursday vs. Oklahoma City).

The personnel moves continued for the Pelicans on Thursday as they traded forward Nikola Mirotic to the Bucks for Jason Smith and Stanley Johnson.

Other notes

Golden State is still the odds-on favorite to win the NBA Championship this summer. The Warriors are comfortably coasting through the regular season, with an extra gear everybody knows is idling for the time being.

Here’s a composite look at current global futures prices in the NBA for teams at 25/1 or below. Percentage equivalents are in parenthesis: Golden State +200 (67%), Toronto 8/1 (11%), Boston 10/1 (9%), Houston 12/1 (8%), Milwaukee 13/1 (7%), Philadelphia 16/1 (6%), LA Lakers 16/1 (6%), Oklahoma City 25/1 (4%), Denver 25/1 (4%).

Those of you who are fast at addition will notice that those win equivalents add up to 122%. And, we left out any teams at 3% or worse. Sports books build a universe larger than 100% to create a house edge. You may find shops with worse prices that have an even larger universe.

VSiN generally discourages betting futures prices. You’ll find that it’s almost always more profitable to just wait for the playoffs to start, then set up a rolling parlay using series prices. Take whatever you had planned to invest on a futures option…risk that to win the first series…then put your return and profit all at risk in the next series…and so on. The same initial stake grows larger that way. If you lose…that futures bet would obviously have been a loser too. Same risk, bigger reward.

If you’re wondering about the Pelicans, New Orleans is typically around 150/1 at global outlets. Currently, the Pellies aren’t even expected to reach the playoffs. Should they rally to join the brackets, a rolling parlay would pay MUCH higher unless New Orleans somehow dodged Golden State to win the West AND a true longshot from the East.

NBA TV highlights the next few days for your betting pleasure…in a battle of teams also making trade deadline headlines, the Los Angeles Lakers visit the Boston Celtics Thursday (TNT, 7:05 p.m.). Before Timberwolves/Pelicans Friday (ESPN, 8:35 p.m.), Denver visits Philadelphia (ESPN, 6 p.m.). Saturday’s prime time network showcase is Oklahoma City at Houston (ABC, 7:35 p.m.)

With the football season coming to an end, many of you may just now be thinking of betting the NBA. Consider watching and researching marquee matchups before jumping in. Plus, it can’t hurt your postseason handicapping come April if you’re checking out playoff caliber teams going head to head when the opportunity arises.

VSiN returns Saturday to catch up with Mississippi State and Ole Miss in college basketball. The Kentucky Wildcats will be in Starkville Saturday to face the Bulldogs in a game that will be nationally televised by CBS. You can be sure we’ll be talking about THAT!

Jeff Fogle writes the daily VSiN newsletter. Sign up at