Opening night preview: Magic at Pelicans

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The third game on the opening night schedule won’t be nationally televised, and features two teams that are far less appealing to a broader audience at first glance.

But for League Pass junkies that will have two screens going for the 8 p.m. ET tip-off, there are a couple of compelling reasons to watch the Magic take on the Pelicans. And Anthony Davis is at the top of that list.

Though entering just his third season, many would make the case that Davis is already the league’s third best player. His length and athleticism are both elite, and he plays at an All-Star level on both ends of the floor. In addition to being one of only five players to average more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game last season, Davis led the league in blocked shots with an average of 2.8 per contest.

Announcement: Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $200,000 Fantasy Basketball league for October 29th’s games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $20,000. Starts at 7pm ET on October 29th. Here’s the FanDuel link.

The Pelicans got him some help on the defensive end of the floor with the offseason acquisition of Omer Asik, who was unhappy with his role coming off the bench in Houston once Dwight Howard came to the Rockets. He says he just wants to defend and rebound in New Orleans, which should pay immediate dividends for a team that ranked just 25th in defensive efficiency last season.

While the Pelicans should certainly be improved, they’re not without their issues. Head coach Monty Williams has been tinkering with his starting lineup all preseason long, trying to find an answer at the four. Ryan Anderson would be ideal there, but Williams seems to want to bring him off the bench, and with good reason. Depth is the biggest problem facing this New Orleans team, which would appear to be forced to play rotational roulette once you get past its top six players.

Without a legitimate option at small forward, Williams went with a three-guard lineup in the team’s final two preseason games. It may be matchup dependent, but as long as Anderson is being used with the second unit, that would seem to be the best option.

On Orlando’s side, they will miss the playmaking of Victor Oladipo, who’s expected to miss the first month of the season after undergoing surgery for a facial fracture. That opens the door for rookie Elfrid Payton to get plenty of time at point guard, while running the offense through Tobias Harris and the recently-rich Nikola Vucevic.

The Magic are still rebuilding, and the priority is to continue to develop talent. But they added Channing Frye, Ben Gordon and Luke Ridnour to give the team some sort of veteran presence, though Frye is out with an MCL sprain and the other two will likely be limited to contributing off the bench — if not on opening night, then almost certainly as the season progresses.

The oddsmakers like New Orleans by double digits in this one, and it’s difficult to disagree. With the improved defense on the Pelicans side and many more weapons offensively, this one feels like it could get ugly for the Magic before it’s ultimately finished.

ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Orlando Magic

ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: New Orleans Pelicans

Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma trolling now in ad for Wish shopping app

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The Lakers asked Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma to back off on their social media trolling battle.

However, they made an exception for this new Wish.com app ad (Wish is the Lakers’ jersey ad sponsor).

Well played guys.

Miami bringing Briante Weber into camp with chance to make roster

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For three seasons, Briante Weber has bounced around the fringes of the NBA. The defensive-minded point guard has played in short stints (often 10-day contracts) for the Grizzlies, Heat, Warriors, Hornets, and last season he got in 13 games for the Rockets (plus five in Memphis). He’s spent most of his career in the G-League, working for his chance to get in the door.

Miami is bringing him into training camp, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

This is apparently camp invite.

There is roster space in Miami if Webber blows them away. Miami has 12 fully guaranteed roster spots and, with Webber, two partially-guaranteed deals (Malik Newman, who was undrafted out of Kansas, is the other).

The problem for Webber is Miami is deep at the point guard spot: Goran Dragic will start, and if Tyler Johnson is healthy (as expected) he will get a lot of minutes behind him, and then there is Newman. The Heat also have in the guard rotation Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder, and possibly Dwyane Wade if he returns (all of those guys are more two guards).

That’s a lot of guys for Webber to beat out and find a spot. On the other hand, his defensive style is something different from what the Heat have on the roster.

Webber is a longshot, but he’s at least going to camp.

Russell Westbrook “very, very excited” Paul George re-signed with Thunder

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What did you expect him to say?

Rather than a potential rebuild — or another “Russell Westbrook vs. The World” season — the Oklahoma City Thunder were one of the big winners of the off-season when Paul George agreed to re-sign with the team. They also moved on from Carmelo Anthony, will get Andre Roberson back from injury, and added Dennis Schroder to give them a shot creator off the bench.

Needless to say, Westbrook is a happy man. We could kind of tell that from the party he threw the night George agreed to re-sign, but he said it directly in an ESPN interview while in China on his Jordan Brand Tour.

“I’m very, very excited. Paul has been an unbelievable teammate, obviously a great friend. I’m very, very excited that he is back and we’re ready to make some noise. We are just going to take it one day at a time. I think our team has a lot of great, young talent. We have one goal now and that is winning a championship.”

While it’s hard to envision the Thunder reaching that goal (as constructed), the Thunder could well be the three or four seed in the West and have home court in the first round of the playoffs. While the margin for error in the West will be minuscule (with 12 teams having a shot at the eight playoff spots), with the Thunder’s strong top-10 defense and two stars who can take over games nightly, they should be one of the more consistent regular season teams in the West.

Either way, the Thunder are a lot more interesting with George than without. It’s going to be a good season for the Thunder.

PBT Extra: Carmelo Anthony officially a Houston Rocket now — this can work

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Did the Houston Rockets get better this summer? The conventional wisdom is no, they will miss the switchable defense and versatility of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute against the NBA’s other elite teams.

But with Carmelo Anthony officially signing with the Rockets on Monday, don’t expect a big step back, something I cover in this latest PBT Extra.

The Rockets had the second-best offense in the NBA last season (almost tied with the Warriors) and ‘Melo can enhance that — he can still punish switches in the post, he has a catch-and-shoot game, and while he may not be as efficient as he once was, the man can get buckets. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, expect Mike D’Antoni to find him minutes while Chris Paul and James Harden rest where he can be an offensive focal point.

This all could work out in Houston.