In what will be Zion Williamson’s debut in San Antonio, the New Orleans Pelicans will visit the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday for a preseason matchup. After losing their first two preseason games by an average of 27 points, the Spurs will need a much more inspired effort to get back on track against a thriving 3-0 Pelicans squad.
To say Gregg Popovich’s squad has been underwhelming so far this October would be an understatement. Offensively, the Silver and Black have often looked stagnant, going on long scoring droughts that have led to both games getting out of hand. San Antonio has managed to score just 89 points in each of their efforts against the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat.
Defensively, the Spurs gave up 125 and 107 points to the Magic and Heat respectively and have been considerably outshot, outhustled and outrebounded so far. To right the ship, these bad habits will have to change quickly, as the Pelicans already seem to be in rhythm (if there’s such a thing as being in rhythm in the preseason).
Zion Williamson and the New-look Pelicans
In the most anticipated rookie season since LeBron James in 2003, Zion Williamson is expected to make an immediate splash in the league after a monster season at Duke.
In just one year as a Blue Devil, Williamson averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds while shooting a remarkable 68% from the field. While Duke ultimately lost to Michigan State in the Elite 8, it was hardly due to Williamson’s efforts. In seven postseason games that included an ACC championship, he averaged 26.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
Standing at 6-foot-7, Williamson is an absolute athletic marvel on the court. In the Pelicans’ three games so far, he has proven to be an unstoppable terror, using his 285-pound frame to bully defenses inside. Just as was the case at Duke, every game of the power forward’s young career eventually seems to turn into its own highlight reel:
While the number-one overall pick is certainly the main attraction for New Orleans, his supporting cast also has plenty to offer. It’s not every day you can trade away a franchise talent like Anthony Davis and arguably have a brighter future as an organization. On top of acquiring three first-round picks in the deal, the Pelicans received three promising young talents in Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart.
On top of the new blood, known Spurs-killer Jrue Holiday returns for his seventh season with the Pelicans. Last season, the veteran lit up San Antonio, scoring 29 points on two separate occasions and averaging 23.5 points in four matchups.
How the Spurs Can Get Their First Win
While San Antonio enjoyed a 3-1 series edge last season, both teams are vastly different today. The Pelicans’ active roster only includes six players from last year while the Spurs now have an elite defender at the point guard position to help contain Holiday.
Having Dejounte Murray back to pair with an improved Derrick White should help the Spurs immensely. Both young guards have the speed to keep up with above-average backcourts, and though it’s still the preseason, Sunday should be a good test for the duo.
The Spurs will also need to rebound as a team to avoid losing the battle on the glass for the third game in a row. LaMarcus Aldridge, Jakob Poeltl and Murray can usually be counted on to do their job in that regard. It’ll be up to others like DeMar DeRozan, White and DeMarre Carroll to keep the likes of Williamson, Derrick Favors and Jahlil Okafor off the glass.
Sunday at 3 p.m. CT will be the city of San Antonio’s only chance to see Zion Williamson and the Pelicans live until April 5th. While the Spurs are desperate for a good showing, New Orleans is looking to remain undefeated with their new star. No matter how it plays out, Spurs fans would be wise to make it out to the AT&T Center on Sunday if possible.