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New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers Game Preview

The struggling Pelicans face the Trail Blazers in Portland to finish the regular season.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Pelicans (33-48) at Portland Trail Blazers (41-40)

April 12, 2017, 7:00 PST
Watch: ESPN, KGW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Allen Crabbe (day-to-day), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Ed Davis (out), Festus Ezeli (out)
Pelicans injuries: DeMarcus Cousins (out), Anthony Davis (out), E’Twaun Moore (questionable), Omer Asik (out), Quincy Pondexter (out)
SBN Affiliate: The Bird Writes

The Trail Blazers will complete their regular season schedule by hosting the Pelicans on Wednesday night. The fate of each team is mostly decided entering tonight’s contest, as New Orleans is in the midst of a five-game slide that is bolstering their odds of retaining the draft pick that was sent to Sacramento in the DeMarcus Cousins trade.

While this game has little consequence for each team in the standings, several players will be competing for their NBA futures tonight. Portland has three draft selections this summer, which will make for some intense competition at the bottom-end of the roster before the start of next season. The Blazers will likely continue to rest their regular rotation players, giving the players at the end of the bench another opportunity to prove themselves.

Pat Connaughton made the most of his 35 minutes of playing time against the Spurs on Monday night, which might make Portland’s President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey think twice about backing out of the former Notre Dame star’s un-guaranteed contract next season. NBA teams can never have enough shooting, and Connaughton put himself in a solid position with his performance against San Antonio by connecting on three out of his four 3-point attempts.

Tim Quarterman and Jake Layman represented the opposite end of the spectrum, as both rookies struggled with their increase in minutes. The duo combined for a paltry six points on 20 attempts from the field earlier this week, but they should be able to redeem themselves tonight against a far less talented Pelicans squad.

The Pelicans are facing much tougher decisions in the months ahead, as they will be forced to find a way to build a roster around their star-studded frontcourt. Jrue Holiday is headed towards a massive payday, and they will also have to make a decision on Jordan Crawford’s un-guaranteed contract.

It is easy to dismiss Crawford’s potential future in New Orleans at first glance, but the crafty guard has scored in the double-digits in all but two of his 18 games with the Pelicans. Now on his fifth team in six years, the former Xavier standout has reduced his turnovers and increased his shooting percentages since joining coach Alvin Gentry’s squad.

Outside of draft positioning and future roster decisions, Noah Vonleh’s continued growth will be the biggest thing to watch in this contest. The young big man has made some big strides since the All-Star break, and that trend will have to continue if the Blazers hope to avoid being swept by the Warriors. Regardless of the final score, Portland will finish the season with at least a .500 record, which is a welcome sight after some of the lulls this year produced.