Tonight, the San Antonio Spurs will be in New Orleans when Zion Williamson makes his professional debut for the Pelicans. The much-hyped No. 1 pick of the 2019 NBA Draft will reportedly be in the starting lineup. The buzz surrounding this contest will be intense, so much so that ESPN picked up this game the moment it was announced that Williamson was ready for his debut.
Williamson has been out since preseason. Back in October, he suffered a meniscus injury that required surgery. Ironically, the Pelicans were playing the Spurs in the game that he got hurt. Williamson finished with 22 points and ten rebounds in the exhibition contest.
Pelicans Starting Lineup in Zion Williamson’s Debut
It’s been reported that Zion Williamson will start in his NBA debut. Joining him in the starting lineup will likely be Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram and Derrick Favors. New Orleans could also opt to keep JJ Redick in the starting five for more shooting. Additionally, Favors missed time recently with an injury. If he’s not able to go, expect rookie Jaxson Hayes to start at center in his place.
How Many Minutes Will Zion Williamson Play?
Rumors persist that Zion Williamson will play between 15 and 25 minutes tonight. The Pelicans insist he’s not on a minutes restriction. However, it only makes sense for New Orleans to protect their young superstar prospect.
If the game is close, Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry could be tempted to put Williamson back in the game.
How Will the San Antonio Spurs Guard Him?
In preseason, the Spurs used Jakob Poeltl against Zion Williamson. But back then, Poeltl was starting next to LaMarcus Aldridge. These days, it’s Aldridge and Trey Lyles in the frontcourt.
Don’t be surprised if Aldridge is the player Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich decides to put on Williamson. Aldridge is San Antonio’s defender against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Williamson is a similar type player. Like the Greek Freak, the rookie is an amazing athlete who you want shooting from the perimeter instead of wreaking havoc in the lane.
The chances are high that the Spurs will sag off Williamson the whole game. If he catches fire from the perimeter, San Antonio could alter their gameplan — but given their limited number of defensive tools, they will likely continue to sag no matter what Williamson does.
There’s a chance Lyles could be tasked to defend Williamson but that’d be dangerous for the Spurs. One of Lyles’ main weaknesses is his physicality. Considering one of Williamson’s strengths is his brute strength, that would probably spell trouble for Lyles.
Another possibility is Popovich goes big and brings back Poeltl to the starting lineup. If that happens, Poeltl would be the one to take on the Williamson challenge — just like he did in preseason play.