Zion Williamson is going to miss the first few weeks of the New Orleans Pelicans regular season with an injury to his right knee.
Williamson was already announced to miss the preseason finale against the New York Knicks. While the team dodged a major bullet in the knee injury not being serious, it is still disheartening to see his NBA career start in this fashion.
It is even worse considering he is a highly-touted first-overall pick that seemingly has everything it takes to be a superstar. Injuries are the one thing that brings these kinds of stars down to earth. The concerns around his size and weight only add fuel to the fire.
Hopefully, this ends up just being a three-week injury that the New Orleans Pelicans are simply being over precautious with. Either way, with the margin of error being slim to sneak into the playoffs, as some expected, having Zion miss weeks is a huge loss for the team.
The Pelicans are still very talented and are simply going to need certain payers to step their game up from what it would be with Zion on the court. Here are two such players.
1. Brandon Ingram
This is now Brandon Ingram‘s time to shine and he has to take over the reins for Zion and make this offense his and establish himself as the lead replacement for Zion’s scoring output.
Ingram is the furthest along of the young assets that the Pelicans brought in and is trending to average 20 points per game this season and is a sleeper all-star selection. He has shown really good flashes in the preseason but has not taken over the game as Zion has.
Ingram is going to have help in scoring with Jrue Holiday, who will also be up there in points per game, but he still needs to step up and make up for that void that Zion is leaving behind.
He does it in completely different ways and instead will be extending the floor, hopefully knocking down his three-point and mid-range shots with his length.
If we can see a 22 points-per-night Ingram during this stretch then the Pelicans might end up being alright.
2. Jahlil Okafor
Jahlil Okafor had a really good preseason opener in which he hauled in five offensive rebounds and scored 11 points. Since then, though, Okafor has not been as impressive and has played a smaller role.
He is going to have to step up as the Pelicans are losing size in the frontcourt. Derrick Favors is likely going to transition to the starting power forward, giving way for Okafor and Jaxson Hayes at center with Nicolo Melli providing depth at power forward, if he is ready to go.
Okafor is the more experienced center and is going to need to be a glass cleaner and rim protector for the Pelicans. He does not need to be a big scoring outlet, but he needs to be able to fill in seamlessly to keep from disrupting the new fast-paced offensive tempo that New Orleans has adopted.
This really could be a blessing in disguise for Okafor. Around some good teammates and with a chance for more minutes, Okafor could finally start to realize some of his potential for the New Orleans Pelicans.