The New Orleans Pelicans are still alive in the playoffs, but if they are to advance from the Play-in Tournament phase to the postseason proper, they will have to take care of business this coming Friday at home versus the Sacramento Kings. If that doesn't sound tough enough, the Pels will also have to do it without their best player on the court in the form of Zion Williamson.

The former Duke Blue Devils star has already been ruled out of the Kings game due to a hamstring issue that also forced him to miss the final minutes of last Tuesday's 110-106 home loss to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in a Play-in tourney matchup. Before he exited that contest, Williamson impressed in his career debut in the playoffs, as he paced the Pelicans with 40 points on 17/27 shooting from the field and also racked up 11 rebounds, five assists, a steal, and a block all in just 36 minutes of floor duty.

But even if the Pelicans successfully find a way to take down De'Aaron Fox and the Kings, they are still likely to miss Williamson's services for at least the entirety of the first round, as noted by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. For one, the Oklahoma City Thunder awaits the winner of the Pelicans-Kings showdown, and it's hard to imagine New Orleans beating the top seed in the Western Conference without Williamson.

“Serious enough that we have probably seen him for the last time this season. He is out Friday against Sacramento. And he's essentially out at least a first-round series. So even if New Orleans wins and they have to go play Oklahoma City, hard to imagine them winning that series without Zion Williamson,” Wojnarowski said during an appearance on the NBA Countdown.

“His best game of his career, given the circumstances, the stakes, 40 points. The Lakers had no answer for him. Three minutes left in the game, he asks out. And now the MRI today showed that hamstring strain. And we have probably seen the last of him this year,” Wojnarowski added.

Can the Pelicans get past the Kings minus Zion Williamson?

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) gets medical attention during the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers in a play-in game of the 2024 NBA playoffs against the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center
© Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans are not thinking about the first round of the 2024 NBA Playoffs just yet. They will have to concern themselves with what is directly in front of them and what they can control. Minus Williamson, the Pelicans will still have a great set of weapons to combat his absence. That is not to mention that the Pelicans are undefeated this campaign versus the Kings, going 5-0 in the matchup back in the regular season.

Williamson played in four of those contests and averaged 23.0 points on 65.6 percent shooting from the floor. New Orleans will surely miss him, but CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram are capable of stepping up. In fact, McCollum was the Pels' leading scorer in the regular season in King games, averaging 26.0 points on 60.4 field goal percentage in three appearances opposite Sacramento. Ingram, on the other hand, averaged 24.8 points on 52.9 percent shooting from the floor in four meetings with the Kings.

It is not going to be easy for New Orleans to replace the usual production they get from Williamson as well as his overall impact on the team whenever he's on the floor, but the likes of Trey Murphy, Herb Jones, and Jonas Valanciunas can help cover the void.