New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson’s return will spark a playoff push

NBA New Orleans Pelicans Zion Williamson (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
NBA New Orleans Pelicans Zion Williamson (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Zion Williamson is set to make his NBA debut this week, and it will spark a second-half playoff push for the New Orleans Pelicans

When the New Orleans Pelicans officially selected Zion Williamson with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, they quickly became one of the dark horse picks to make noise in the Western Conference this season.

And Zion’s performance during summer league and preseason only hammered down that point. He was bigger, stronger and faster than most on the floor. He looked – and, most importantly, played – like a 10-year veteran. It was clear that he was going to be a force from the opening tip.

However, roughly a week before the start of the regular season, it was reported that Zion was going to miss extended time with a knee injury.

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Fast forward three months and Zion is finally set to make his NBA debut Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs. And all those pre-season expectations will undoubtedly come back to the forefront.

At the moment, the Pelicans are 3.5 games back of the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. However, after an extremely slow start, you can make the case that Zion is coming back at an ideal time.

Over roughly the last month, the Pelicans have won 11 of their last 16 games. They have overcome a 2-8 start to the season and are sitting at 17-27, good enough for 12th in the conference. Not ideal, of course, but at the same time not out of the playoff picture entirely.

And with less than a month away from the NBA Trade Deadline, the Pelicans need to figure out if they’re going to go all-in on this season or emerge as sellers. The fact that Zion is being activated this week suggests that they want to see if he can give the team enough of a spark to make a real playoff push in the second half of the season.

And there’s no question that he’ll make it happen.

Assuming Zion is returning at 100 percent, and there’s no reason to believe that he isn’t, he’s going to elevate this team to playoff status. At the very least, they’re going to be in the running for the remainder of the year.

If there are no restrictions for Zion, he’s going to ignite this squad and catapult them to a level that we all expected them to be at the start of the year.

With Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball both playing better as of late, Zion is entering at the right time. The best part about it is that Zion doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective. He can play off-ball and wrecks havoc on the defensive end.

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He’s going to take the league by storm, and he’s going to start with the Spurs. The return of Zion is great for the league and even better for the Pelicans.