Game Preview: Pelicans vs. Suns - November 5, 2013

Pelicans vs. Suns Game Preview

Two clubs that finished near the bottom of the Western Conference standings a season ago meet for the first time in 2013-14 on Tuesday, as the Pelicans host the Suns. During rebuilding years for both franchises in 2012-13, historically competitive Phoenix went just 25-57, representing last place in the West. New Orleans was slightly better at 27-55, but both teams subsequently ended up with high-lottery picks in the June draft. While the Pelicans turned their No. 6 choice into the trade acquisition of Jrue Holiday from Philadelphia, the Suns opted to select University of Maryland 7-foot center Alex Len with the fourth pick.

Those contrasting decisions neatly summarize the teams’ approaches entering this season. While New Orleans added an All-Star point guard who could immediately help make the Pelicans a playoff contender, Phoenix landed a player many believe is a long-term project in Len.

After ridding their roster of nearly all of its veteran players this summer, the Suns were projected by virtually every NBA analyst to repeat as the worst team in the West, but have started 2-1. Phoenix opened the regular season with victories over Portland and Utah, before losing at Oklahoma City in Russell Westbrook’s season debut.

Phoenix’s long-term future may be tied to the development of combo guard Eric Bledsoe, as well as several other early-20s youngsters. Bledsoe joins Goran Dragic in a backcourt that will likely be the Suns’ biggest strength this season.

After facing Indiana, Orlando and Charlotte last week, the Pelicans (1-2) face their first Western Conference opponent of the young season. New Orleans hopes to be much more successful on its home floor in 2013-14, after going just 16-25 in the Crescent City last season.

Pelicans Eric Gordon
Intriguing matchup: Shooting guard
Eric Gordon vs. Eric Bledsoe

The battle of Erics – who both began their NBA careers with the Los Angeles Clippers – could be a key to determining which club prevails Tuesday. Gordon and Bledsoe were teammates on the 2010-11 Clippers, the latter’s rookie season. After missing 40 games last season, Gordon started quickly with a team-best 25-point game for the Pelicans on Opening Night. The 6-1 Bledsoe is getting his first opportunity to play an expanded role, after backing up Chris Paul in Los Angeles. Bledsoe drilled the game-winning basket of Phoenix’s win Friday over Utah.
Suns Eric Bledsoe