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Despite Zion’s Return on January 22nd, There’s No Reason to Bet the Pelicans to Win Southwest Division

Ryan Sura

by Ryan Sura in NBA Basketball

Jan 16, 2020 · 7:11 AM PST

zion williamson looking up
Sportsbooks are listing 17 points and 8.5 rebounds as the totals for Zion Williamson among the prop wager offerings on his rookie NBA season with the New Orleans Pelicans. Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire.
  • Zion Williamson was the first overall pick by the New Orleans Pelicans in the 2019 NBA Draft
  • Williamson has been out since the NBA preseason with a torn lateral meniscus
  • Check out our predictions on how Zion’s return will have an impact on the Pelicans season

The much anticipated debut of Zion Williamson is upon us. The number one overall pick is set to return on January 22nd, 2020 against the San Antonio Spurs, according to Pelicans Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin.

Williamson tore his lateral meniscus in the NBA preseason and has missed the New Orleans Pelicans first 41 regular season games. The Pelicans are 15-26 to start the season putting them in 14th in the Western Conference and last in their division.

Will Williamson’s return have an impact on New Orleans’ playoff chances or even aspirations to make a push at the Southwest Division title? In the NBA Divisional Odds, the Pelicans are a long shot to win the Southwest at this point.

2019-20 NBA Southwest Division Odds

Team Odds
Houston Rockets -200
Dallas Mavericks +200
San Antonio Spurs +2500
Memphis Grizzlies +10000
New Orleans Pelicans +50000

Odds taken January 15th

The Current Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans unloaded Anthony Davis for a number of players from the Los Angeles Lakers including Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and Lonzo Ball. Despite the 15-26 record for the Pelicans, the trio coming from Los Angeles have played inspiring basketball in New Orleans.

Ingram is leading the team in scoring and rebounding averaging 25.1 points, and 6.8 rebounds per game. Ball and Hart have not been as dominant as Ingram, but have been solid depth additions. Ball is averaging 12.2 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.6 rebounds per game, while Hart is averaging 10.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

The Pelicans have been playing well as of late. Since their Christmas win over their Denver Nuggets, the Pelicans are 7-3.

However, they still find themselves 12 games behind the Rockets in the Southwest division and four games out of a playoff spot.

The Pelicans are scoring 113.2 points per game, however, they also have one of the worst defensive ratings in the league at 112.3. Williamson’s return will mainly impact the offensive end of the ball, but let’s take a look at what he will do with the Pelicans.

Williamson’s Impact

The number one overall pick out of Duke showed out in the four preseason games he played in. Williamson averaged 23.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game before getting injured. In fact, the Pelicans won every preseason game with Williamson healthy and on the court.

Williamson played 30 minutes per game and averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per contest in his lone season with Duke. Williamson had highlight blocks and dunks, game-winning plays, and showed unbelievable athleticism in the NCAA, but will it translate directly to the NBA?

With how well New Orleans has been playing, I think there is a very small chance they sneak into the 8th seed with Williamson’s return. However, he will be on restricted minutes at first and it will be interesting to see if he can play with the same bounce and athleticism as he did in college.

There is no chance that the Pelicans are going to win this division. With how good both the Rockets and Mavericks are starting to play, it’s a two team fight for the top of the Southwest Division. The Memphis Grizzlies and fellow rookie Ja Morant will be battling with New Orleans for last place in the division at this point.

The Pelicans will be good enough to compete for a playoff spot all year long next year. Williamson will have a handful of games from this season and an offseason under his belt and will be ready for his sophomore year in the NBA.

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