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What’s to Come From Zion Williamson

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Last Wednesday night, the first overall pick Zion Williamson made his NBA debut. Williamson who injured his knee during the preseason missed the first half of the season. Originally the injury was only supposed to take up to 6-8 weeks. However, the front office and medical team decided to take a longer approach for rehab. 

The reasoning behind this was not due to the seriousness of the injury. But the team wanted to make sure that Williamson had a complete recovery. David Griffith mentioned in an interview that they are being cautious with the young forward. Saying that his long term health is more important than rushing him back to the court.

In Williamson’s first NBA game, he scored 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field and an impressive 4-of-4 from three. Williamson also grabbed seven boards and fished out three assists. The most electric part about Williamson’s debut was that during the fourth quarter, he was the reason that the Pelicans were competitive. 

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In the first half of the game, Williamson was very passive. Seemingly never looking at the basket, and looking for the extra pass. This could have been due to head coach Alvin Gentry who wanted Williamson to come slowly into the game flow allowing guys such as Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram who have been on fire the past games to set the tone for the team.

But once the fourth quarter came around, Williamson looked like the first overall pick. Going 3-of-3 from three, while also trimming down the double-digit deficit against the San Antonio Spurs. Although Williamson was taken out with four minutes left in the game due to a minutes restriction the team had placed on Williamson, the New Orleans Pelicans took a close loss to the Spurs. 

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What’s next for Zion Williamson? The minute restriction will definitely place a weight on his stats for the next few weeks. But, if Williamson plays like he did in the fourth quarter against the Spurs for the time that he’s on the court, there will be a new superstar in New Orleans. 

It is hard to predict the exact stats to which Williamson will produce. But using the remainder of this year to experiment with lineups that involve the athletic forward is the best option Gentry can conjure up. Williamson should put up big numbers from time to time. The biggest question that comes up is how he’ll fit with the surging Lonzo Ball and ball dominate Brandon Ingram. 

Ball of recent has been extremely effective, having multiple games where he is getting a triple-double or close to flirting with one. Ball has been very efficient shooting the ball from the field, and with this surge, he has been getting more opportunities that revolve around him. Which in turn with Williamson returning could hinder Williamson’s shot attempts per game. 

The same can be said with Brandon Ingram. Ingram is a candidate for Most Improved Player, as Ingram has been the leader of this Pelicans team. In his career, Ingram has been averaging 15 points per game, but this year he is averaging 25 points per game. A 10-point jump on shooting percentages of 47 percent from the field and 39 percent from three. 

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Ingrams numbers should not change this season with Williamson’s return. However, Williamson will have to adjust to being the second or third option when on the court. Meaning that he will not be taking the most shots a game or that very few plays will involve him scoring. Unlike his time at Duke, where the ball was played through him, Williamson will have to learn to play off the ball. 

With half the season left, the Pelicans have a lot to think about. Figuring out which lineups work well together, how to incorporate your first overall pick, and trying to continue Ball’s and Ingram’s recent play with the addition of a potential star coming into the lineup. 

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Tyronn Lue, NBA
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