Pelicans vs. Thunder Predictions, Picks and Odds

OKC’s only glaring weakness in this opening round matchup with New Orleans will be down low and in the paint. And with Zion Williamson sidelined, Jonas Valanciunas will be the one to benefit.

April 21, 2024 • 12:21 ET

• 4 minutes reading

The New Orleans Pelicans earned a win in the Play-In Tournament despite Zion Williamson’s absence, but they enter Sunday as huge NBA underdogs against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder enter the playoffs as the youngest No. 1 seed in NBA history, but while they are unproven, they are talented and mature beyond their years.

My NBA picks and Pelicans vs. Thunder forecasters believe Jonas Valanciunas will play a key role in New Orleans’ Game 1 offensive plan.

Pelicans vs. Thunder Predictions

My best choice
Jonas Valanciunas Over 11.5 points (-112 at FanDuel)

Best odds available in your region

My analysis
The New Orleans Pelicans are at a huge disadvantage in this series. Without Zion Williamson in the lineup, they don’t have many lineup advantages or clear pressure points over the Oklahoma City Thunder. They do have one more: Jonas Valanciunas.

Jonas is a consummate role player, a big, burly center who feels like he’s fallen out of basketball from a century ago. Because he is not an elite rim protector nor does he shoot threes, he often loses time in the Pelicans lineup to a combination of Larry Nance Jr. and Zion playing small ball five.

He is still a gifted scorer and rebounder and when he does get real minutes, he has consistently given the Pelicans solid production. I think he’ll probably play a major role against the Thunder on Sunday.

While the Thunder have skill and can shoot at any position, they are severely lacking in size and strength. That’s why they’ve been one of the NBA’s worse rebounding teams this season, and why Jonas has had consistent success celebrating against their smaller frontcourt in limited minutes.

Chet Holmgren is an impressive rookie and already one of the league’s best interior defenders, but he is painfully thin. He has to give up more than 50 pounds to Valanciunas, who can take him out of the way or draw fouls inside with relative ease.

Jonas sometimes doesn’t play as much because the combination between Zion and Jonas on the court is difficult, especially because Brandon Ingram also prefers to attack inside rather than from behind the arc. However, with Zion not playing, the Pels will turn to Jonas to spark their interior attack.

In three games against the Thunder this season, Jonas scored 19, 14 and six points. That six-point outing came because he played just 11 minutes while Zion played 39 minutes.

Zion’s absence means Jonas will get much more consistent opportunities, especially since offensive rebounding is one of the few ways New Orleans has any chance of keeping up with the Thunder’s hyper-efficient offense.

The Pelicans have also experimented with guarding Josh Giddey with Valanciunas this year. If Giddey falters or starts missing threes, the Pels will have all the more reason to keep Jonas in the action, clogging the paint and gobbling up rebounds.

In my opinion, these chances for Jonas Valanciunas are based solely on his recent production and do not take into account his role shift in Zion’s absence.

Pelicans vs Thunder same-game parlay (SGP)

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Jonas Valanciunas More than 11.5 points

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Less than 28.5 points

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Over 5.5 assists

The Thunder have a lot of ways they can attack New Orleans, but ironically, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – their leading scorer and a leading candidate for MVP – isn’t one of their best.

That’s because the Pels are starting Herb Jones, a lock for one of the NBA All-Defensive teams and one of the most disciplined and gifted fullbacks in the NBA.

Jones has done better defensively against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander than almost any other player. SGA’s scoring average drops by about five points against Jones, but his assists have increased to seven per game as a result.

Shai’s teammates will almost always have a more advantageous matchup, so I see SGA playing more of a facilitating role on Sunday.

Learn how to parlay on the same game with these helpful tips and strategies.

Pelicans vs. Thunder Odds

Pelicans vs Thunder live odds

Pelicans vs Thunder opening odds

  • Scatter: New Orleans +7.5 | Oklahoma City -7.5
  • Moneyline: New Orleans +260 | Oklahoma City -345
  • Top/Bottom: Over 214.5 | Below 214.5

Pelicans vs. Thunder Spread and Over/Under Analysis

  • OKC opened as -7.5-point favorites over New Orleans, which has risen to -8.5 as of Sunday night.
  • The Thunder were 27-14 against the spread at home in the regular season, the third-best mark in the NBA.
  • The total for Game 1 of Pelican vs. Thunder opened between 214.5 and 215.5 and is still available at both numbers.
  • The Under is 24-16-1 in Pelicans road games.

Pelicans vs. Thunder trend

The Thunder are 27-14 ATS at home. Find more NBA betting odds for Pelicans vs. Thunder.

Pelicans vs. Thunder game information

Place: Paycom Center, Oklahoma City, OK
Date: Sunday 21-4-2024
Tip: 9:30 PM ET

Pelicans vs Thunder latest injuries

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