After missing roughly half the season due to a torn lateral meniscus suffered during the preseason, Zion Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, will make his NBA debut for the New Orleans Pelicans on Jan. 22 against the San Antonio Spurs.
Pelicans No. 1 pick Zion Williamson is expected to make his season debut on Jan. 22 against San Antonio, David Griffin says.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 15, 2020
"Our anticipation is that he'll play his first game on the 22nd at home vs. San Antonio"
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 15, 2020
Williamson, who averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game in his lone season with Duke, picked up in the preseason right where he left off in the collegiate ranks, as he put up 23.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per contest on a healthy 71.4% from the field.
He’s been one of the most hyped prospects the NBA has seen in quite some time, and the league front-loaded the Pelicans’ schedule with a ton of nationally televised games in hopes of showcasing one of the league’s most exhilarating young stars.
New Orleans is currently 15-26 on the season and sits at No. 14 in the West. Vying for one of the conference’s final playoff spots seems unlikely as they’re four games behind the current eight-seeded Memphis Grizzlies, with teams such as the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs parked in front of them.
With the playoffs seeming like a longshot, it’ll be interesting to see how involved the Pelicans are at the trade deadline as they continue to parse through the roster to see which of their current pieces will fit with both Williamson and Brandon Ingram, who after being traded from the Los Angeles Lakers to New Orleans as apart of the Anthony Davis deal, has played All-Star level basketball in Williamson’s absence.
Ingram is averaging 25.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game on 47% shooting and 40% from downtown. He’s assumed the role of the Pelicans’ best player and closer through the first portion of the season, and one has to wonder if he’ll be forced to scale back his game as New Orleans integrates Williamson.
Currently, we often see Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry deploy Ingram at the four, which maximizes the space he has to operate.
How will Ingram respond to Williamson infiltrating the starting lineup and soaking up a ton of the power forward minutes he’s been thriving in? Can Ingram bend his game accordingly to mesh with Williamson, and can he maintain consistent output with decreased usage? Can he feast on more traditionally sized wings the way he has on mismatched power forwards?
There’s a lot to learn about how this entire team will fit together as David Griffin and Co. look to continue their rebuild.
Jrue Holiday and JJ Redick are both names that have been mentioned in trade chatter and don’t be surprised if several teams are vying for the services of Derrick Favors with the deadline on the horizon. Some have gone as far as to suggest that only Williamson and Ingram are the only “untouchables” on the roster.
However things play out in the Big Easy, one thing is for sure: having Zion Williamson back in the fold will make the Pelicans one of the must-watch teams on the backend of the season as their prized prospect begins his journey to what he and the City of New Orleans hopes is NBA superstardom.