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Background

The New Orleans Pelicans are not in a good place right now. After so much excitement with the arrival of Zion Williamson and a slew of talented former Lakers players, the optimism surrounding team president David Griffin has worn off. This summer, the front office hired another new coach (Willie Green), and the team's cornerstone (Williamson) suffered another serious injury. Without Williamson in the lineup, the team has hobbled to a 1-3 start to the season.

2020 Most Improved Player, Brandon Ingram, leads the team with 27 points per game, while Devonte' Graham, Jonas Valanciunas, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker average approximately 17 points per game each. But, after that, the team's offensive production falls off a cliff. The Pelicans average 101.3 points per game and a 99.3 offensive rating.

While the Hawks haven't been perfect, they are still living up to the lofty expectations which they placed upon themselves after last season. The Hawks are 2-1 despite not fully finding their groove yet. They have a top-12 offensive rating (108.2) and a top-three defensive rating (96.1). That sort of well-balanced attack is what championship contenders look like on paper.

After three games, Trae Young leads the Hawks with a clean 25 points and 10 assists per game. While the rest of the starters have been inconsistent on offense, Cam Reddish has provided a huge spark off the bench. So far, Reddish is averaging 18.7 points on a 58.5 TS% (True Shooting Percentage).

Outlook

In addition to Williamson being ruled out for tonight's game (right foot fracture), combo guard Josh Hart (right quadriceps tendinosis) is questionable. Meanwhile. the Hawks injury report is much longer.

De'Andre Hunter (non-covid illness) is probable. Lou Williams (right ankle soreness) and Danilo Gallinari (left shoulder soreness) are questionable. Of course, Onyeka Okongwu (right shoulder surgery rehabilitation) remains out until December or January.

According to SI Sportsbook, the Hawks are 6-point favorites. If the Hawks are going to lock down home-court advantage, they need to take care of business in all winnable games. Last Saturday they were too passive against the underdog Cavaliers but were able to correct those mistakes on Monday against the Pistons. I doubt they drop this game at the beginning of a long road trip.

Final Thoughts

It's a shame that Pelicans fans have not been able to enjoy a fully healthy Williamson since he arrived in New Orleans. Even with the injuries, the Pelicans are more talented than their record. They have the sort of gritty post players that gave the Hawks problems in their last two games. 

With all that said, the Hawks are much deeper and playing better. Not to mention, they are laser-focused on improving each game in order to reach their lofty goals. I expect a narrow Hawks win tonight. Stay locked into AllHawks.com for all of your gameday coverage.

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