Heat vs Pelicans Picks and Predictions: JV Brings the Pain

Jonas Valanciunas has been dependable scoring for the Pelicans with their stars out, and his points market may not have adjusted enough yet. See why our NBA picks like him to have a big game against the Heat.

Last Updated: Jan 17, 2023 4:49 PM ET Read Time: 4 min
Jonas Valanciunas NBA
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Some call these the dog days of the NBA season, but with so many teams bunched up in the standings in both conferences, how teams play between now and the All-Star break might well determine their playoff future. One team poised to make a run is the Miami Heat, who are finally (mostly) healthy. 

Their opponents for Wednesday, January 16 are the decidedly not-healthy New Orleans Pelicans, who will do their best to hold off the surging Heat without the services of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

Our NBA picks and predictions for Heat vs. Pelicans casts our eye over the play of Jonas Valanciunas, who has come up huge with New Orleans’ star players out.

Heat vs Pelicans best odds

Heat vs Pelicans picks and predictions

Outside of the Boston Celtics, the New Orleans Pelicans are arguably the deepest team in the NBA. And they’ve been forced to prove it over the course of this season, with both Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, the team’s two best players and top scorers, missing substantial stretches. Being able to turn to veteran leaders in CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas with their top two dogs out is a luxury that most teams do not have, and CJ and Valanciunas have both answered the call.

Zion has missed the last seven straight and Valanciunas has turned up his production and efficiency.  While he’s averaging less than 15 points per game on the season, the Lithuanian big man is up to 24 ppg in his last five games. He’s also seen his minutes and usage rate soar as one of the team’s primary offensive threats, and the Pelicans' most consistent form of offense at the moment is a keyed by an early post touch for Valanciunas.

The fit between Valanciunas and Zion when both are playing isn’t ideal, as both players like to work from similar spots inside the arc. But all the talk about those fit issues can sometimes overlook just how skilled Valanciunas is as an offensive player. Valanciunas is 7-foot tall and 265 lbs but moves as nimbly as a ballet dancer. And unlike many teams’ fourth-best players, he’s fully capable of moving into a starring role on offense when the moment calls for it.

The reason this line remains so low despite Valanciunas' recent production is that the Heat are one of the league’s best defenses, and Bam Adebayo is one of the NBA’s best defensive bigs. But Valanciunas is three inches taller, and stronger, than Bam. When the Pels feed Valanciunas in the post he should have success turning his shoulder and going to hit a short-range hook shot.

My best bet: Jonas Valanciunas Over 16.5 points (+100)

Best NBA bonuses

Looking to do some NBA betting? Here are two of the best bonuses* available:

A) New users at FanDuel can bet $5 and get $150 in bonus bets! Sign Up Now

B) New users at DraftKings can bet $5 and get $200 in bonus bets! Sign Up Now

*Eligible USA locations only. Also, check out our full list of best sportsbook promotions for 2023.
21+. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER

Heat vs Pelicans spread analysis

Heat fans took umbrage last season with Kirk Goldsberry of ESPN’s assessment that Miami wasn’t a true contender but was rather a “dangerous loomer” threatening a potential upset down the line. Well, after a rocky start beset by innumerable injuries, the Heat’s top three players of Jimmy Butler, Adebayo, and Tyler Herro are healthy, humming, and dangerously looming once more.

The Heat are still a defense-first team and being annoying to play is always going to be their calling card, but Bam Adebayo has also made strides as an individual scorer. He’s dropping 21.4 points per game while also shooting north of 80% from the foul line, which is by far a career-high. Miami’s issue remains that its role players are still struggling with consistency from the perimeter.

The Pelicans have done an admirable job without Zion and BI in the lineup. They’re 3-4 since Williamson’s latest absence and have outperformed the spread by an average of 2.9 points per game in that same span per Cleaning the Glass. 

But that success has largely come against weaker outfits than this Heat squad. The Pels are 0-6 against the spread in their last six games against winning teams. The Heat are 6-1 ATS in the last seven meetings in New Orleans, at -1, I’d favor them to cover against this depleted Pelicans team.

Heat vs Pelicans Over/Under analysis

In this modern offensive environment, tonight’s 221.5-point total is relatively modest. It might not be modest enough though. Even if they’re better than most team's third and fourth options, trading Zion and Ingram for Valanciunas and McCollum as New Orleans’ go-to scorers is a downgrade. It also leaves more minutes in the rotation for noted defensive pest Jose Alvarado, whose physicality might wear on Herro. The Under is also 7-1 in the last eight meetings between these two teams.

The real story is the Heat. They’ve strung together a strong series of Unders recently, in equal parts due to their shooting woes and their own defensive excellence. The Under is 6-2 in the Heat's last eight overall and 10-3 in their last 13 games playing on one day's rest. Given that this is a road game, I’d bank on their role players’ shooting struggles to continue to drag down Miami’s offense. 

These are well-coached teams with good guiding philosophies and overall chemistry, so they both bounce back from poor performances. They just each do it in their own way. The Heat do it with defense, leading to the Under going 5-1 in their last six after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game. The Pels do it by a renewed commitment to moving the ball and playing efficient offense, contributing to the Over going 7-2 in their last nine games following a loss.

Heat vs Pelicans betting trend to know

Pelicans are 0-6 ATS in their last six games vs. a team with a winning straight-up record. Find more NBA betting trends for Heat vs. Pelicans.

Heat vs Pelicans game info

Location: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
Date: Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Tip-off: 8:00 p.m. ET
TV: Bally Sports Sun, Bally Sports New Orleans

Heat vs Pelicans key injuries

Pages related to this topic

Popular Content

Legal Canadian sports betting

Best Canadian betting sites Ontario sports betting
Covers 25 Years Logo Established in 1995,
Covers is the world
leader in sports
betting information.
Covers is verified safe by: Evalon Logo GPWA Logo GDPR Logo GeoTrust Logo Evalon Logo