Jonas Valanciunas could be the odd man out in Pelicans’ opener

New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Orleans Pelicans will open their season against Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets.

Durant’s decision to stay in Brooklyn will make this one of the most hyped games of the early season, with several interesting subplots.

We can talk about the Durant and Kyrie Irving situation, the matchup between KD and BI, the return of Zion Williamson and Ben Simmons, but the most interesting thing to me is how the Pelicans are going to match up with this particular Brooklyn team.

There have been rumblings that the Nets are going to try using Ben Simmons at center, which many believe is his best position since he can defend anyone, it creates mismatches and will potentially keep Simmons from having to think about shooting 3-point shots.

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If the Nets do decide to go with Simmons at center, we may not see much of Jonas Valanciunas in the first game.

New Orleans Pelicans: Matching up with small-ball teams

The Nets don’t really have a traditional center, which is something the Pelicans are going to see plenty of in the Western Conference, as teams like the Warriors and Suns often go small.

The Pels can do that as well, as they have guys like Herb Jones and Larry Nance Jr. who can defend up, allowing the Pelicans to put a powerful offensive lineup on the floor that doesn’t have a real center.

I assume that Herb Jones will be defending either Kevin Durant or Ben Simmons and that Brandon Ingram will get the other one, but it’s hard to see how Jonas fits into this particular game, as he is not quick enough to stay in front of either one of these guys.

Of course, Simmons would have a handful trying to stop Jonas in the post, so there could be mismatches on the other end as well, but it’s more likely we get a heavy dose of Larry Nance Jr. in that first game, as it would allow the Pels to put him on Simmons, Herb on KD and Ingram to take on a less challenging assignment on the perimeter, where his length is often disruptive.

We will learn a lot from this first game, particularly how the Pelicans try to match up with teams like the Nets that don’t have a traditional big.

It will be an early test for coach Willie Green, who has a unique roster to try and sort out. There will probably be nights when we see less of Jonas Valanciunas, and more of Larry Nance Jr. especially against teams that don’t have a real post threat.

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