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Pelicans planning to start Zion Williamson vs. Spurs

Zion Williamson, Pelicans

The much-anticipated debut of New Orleans Pelicans rookie forward Zion Williamson is expected to come Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs. Despite not yet having suited up this season as he recovers from a torn meniscus, the Pelicans are expected to thrust Williamson into the starting five.

Per Andrew Lopez of ESPN:

The Pelicans’ plan is to start Williamson against the Spurs on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) while monitoring his minutes. Last week, Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said the team won’t have a “hard minutes restriction” on Williamson but will play him in short “bursts” in order to keep him fresh.

While the Pelicans have not yet announced a specific minutes restriction, it seems apparent that the team will not allow Williamson to go full bore out of the gate.

Who falls out of the team’s now-traditional starting rotation with Williamson back in the mix remains to be seen, but it appears that the Pelicans are going to make a serious push at the postseason.

New Orleans nabbed the preternaturally talented Williamson with the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft after he played just one electric season at Duke. From there, however, injuries beset his debut and pushed the franchise into the unenviable position of wanting to win in the present, while planning for its future.

Without Williamson, the Pelicans have gotten off to a 17-27 start to the year. Fortunately, thanks to a fortuitously sullen bottom of the Western Conference, they remain just 3.5 games out of a playoff spot.

The only professional game action that fans can hope to glean information from about Zion comes back from the preseason. Zion Williamson dominated in the four contests that he played, leading the team with an average of 23.2 points across 27.2 minutes on a nightly basis.

Whether or not that production can be carried over to the regular season remains to be seen, but it will all begin Wednesday.