New Orleans Pelicans Predictions for Zion Williamson Debut
Duke's Zion Williamson was the highest-profile first overall pick since at least Anthony Davis. You might even have to go back as far as Greg Oden to see a guy who had so many people so excited. Oden's career didn't turn out as anyone hoped, and so far Williamson hasn't made any impact at all - unless you call a little bit of Summer League action an impact. It has been a long road back for the wildly exciting player. But the time for his debut seems to be drawing near. He has been practicing, and the rumors are flying that he could make his debut as early as Thursday against the Utah Jazz. The team isn't committing to anything yet, and they likely won't until after the team practices today. Even if he doesn't come back then, though, we know that we will see him soon. And he's going to make a big splash when he does arrive.
As bettors, we need to be as prepared as we can be for his return. Here are five things to keep in mind as we get ready for his return to action:
The Pelicans will be extremely cautious: The Pelicans know that they could have a massive asset on their hands - one that could make them forget that Anthony Davis existed. But the guy needed surgery before he even made it to camp this year. And last year he blew a hole in his shoe and almost broke himself then. The sample size is small, and it could be a coincidence, but I wouldn't blame you for thinking that he isn't the most durable guy in the world. And if you have watched him play at all, then you know that he doesn't exactly play in a way that makes it easy on himself. That puts the team in a tough spot. They can't try to make him something he's not, or they shouldn't even bother having him on the team. But they need to make sure that he is fully ready before they let him return and that they don't increase his workload too quickly. It's not like this team is going anywhere this year anyway, so it's not about the now. Fans will want all they can get of him, but the team isn't going to give it to them until he's ready. And because the incentive to go slow is so high, bettors will have to show more patience than they surely want to as well. He will be a difference-maker at some point - that seems highly likely. But we will have to wait to see how quickly that happens or what it looks like in the short term. It's a process, not a final product.
New Orleans is better than their record - maybe: Don't look now, but the Pelicans are playing some pretty darned good basketball right now. Since Christmas day, they have won seven of 10 and have gone 8-1-1 ATS over that stretch. Brandon Ingram has been fantastic - and that will cost the team a fortune because they didn't extend him before the season and he will be an RFA this summer. And the Frankenstein of a roster behind him is working surprisingly well lately, even if they can't stay healthy. There are good reasons to believe that Ingram could work well with Williamson - he's shooting the lights out from outside, which will create all sorts of room. But when something is working - and when it is fragile, as it is here because this team still is second worst in the conference despite the wins - you can never tell what a roster change as significant as this one will do to things. And, as special as Williamson is, he's also a young guy who hasn't played a game in most of a year and who has never played at this level. As I said before, it is much easier to know that he will be great over the longer term than over the shorter term. And if whatever has come together to let them win these games, including wins over the Rockets and Nuggets, is disrupted, they could easily be back to being the loveable losers they were earlier in the season. If we know one thing about bad teams, it's that the most talented roster isn't always the most successful one.
A unicorn is a unicorn: Anytime something happens like this, there are going to be experts out there that say they know exactly how things are going to turn out. They are, of course, idiots. The challenge with Williamson is also what is so exciting about him - there has never been another guy like him. Guys his size don't do what he does. He makes the rules for himself. He's a unicorn. And because we haven't seen a guy like him, we can only speculate about what it will look like in live action until we see it. We can only guess how he will respond, how much his injury will be in his head, how his coaches will utilize him, how opposing coaches will deal with him, how he responds to the inevitable physicality he is going to encounter, and on and on. The impulse in a case like this is to want to bet on him early - to be part of the excitement. And while I won't get in the way of your fun, just remember that bets are better with knowledge, and when something is completely unique, we can't have any true advanced knowledge of it.
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