Williamson Set To Make NBA Debut Against Spurs
Williamson Recovering From Knee Surgery
After being selected first overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, Zion Williamson has been recovering from surgery on his right knee for the past three months.
In just under a week, the most highly-anticipated rookie since LeBron James will finally see the floor when the New Orleans Pelicans host the San Antonio Spurs.
Williamson’s return to the court, while nothing but exciting for fans of the sport, has been a topic of discussion for analysts and pundits around the league.
Return To The Court Has Been Under Discussion
While some believe Williamson should sit out the remainder of the season to avoid the risk of further injury, others think the former Duke forward should play as soon as he’s able.
According to reports, New Orleans executive David Griffin is in the latter camp, as he’s noted as saying he anticipates Williamson’s first game to come against San Antonio on Jan. 22.
The 15-26 Pelicans are 18 games back of the Western Conference-leading Lakers, and four games back of the Grizzlies, who currently hold the eighth and final playoff position.
So, should New Orleans be risking the health of Williamson on a team with no shot to contend?
Why The Pelicans Should Play Zion
The 6-6, 284-pound Williamson looks more like an NFL defensive lineman than an NBA forward, so there’s really no precedent for the recovery of a player of that size and build on the hardwood.
However, there’s only one way for this combination of explosiveness, power, and quickness to acclimate his body to the rigors of the NBA, and that’s by playing meaningful basketball.
Now, the Pelicans will have to toe the line between putting the health of their franchise player at risk and setting him on a path towards success. It will start Wednesday against the Spurs when Williamson gets his first taste of NBA regular-season action.
What Will The Team Look Like With Williamson On The Floor?
Yet Williamson’s development as an NBA talent isn’t the only reason to play the young star at a time when the team could potentially tank for another high draft pick.
New Orleans should also take this opportunity to see what their collective roster looks like when Williamson is on the floor.
How will Williamson gel with the likes of Brandon Ingram, who’s averaging a team-high 25.1 points per game? How will the Pelicans share the ball between Williamson, Ingram, and Jrue Holiday, who’s adding another 19.6 points per game?
How should head coach Alvin Gentry rotate the likes of Williamson, Derrick Favors, Ingram, and others?
These are the questions New Orleans can find answers to by playing Williamson rather than having him sit out the season, all while Williamson begins to grow his own game.
Zion’s Shot At Rookie Of The Year
Despite having yet to play an NBA regular-season game, Williamson still has a fairly good shot at earning the NBA Rookie of the Year award.
Williamson is currently sandwiched between the two other players taken in the top three of the NBA Draft when it comes to odds for Rookie of the Year honors.
Ja Morant, who’s the current favorite to win the award with odds of -250, is averaging 18 points and 6.9 assists per game to lead the Grizzlies. RJ Barrett, who holds the third-best odds of +850, is averaging 14.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for the Knicks.
Right in the middle of those two is Williamson, who’s sitting on odds of +800 to be named Rookie of the Year.
So, while the Pelicans should be playing Williamson to assess their team as a whole and to begin developing the former Duke forward as an NBA talent, a tertiary reason to play the 19-year-old is to give him a shot to win an individual award.