After tearing his meniscus in the pre-season on Oct. 13, the New Orleans Pelicans’ rookie and first overall pick, Zion Williamson, made his regular-season debut against the San Antonio Spurs. After having a historic year of college basketball with Duke, Pelicans fans have been eager to see what he can do on an NBA court.
Williamson weighs in at 285 pounds and stands at 6-foot-7-inches tall, giving him the length and size to compete on the edge against smaller defenders while also being able to beat centers in the paint. This has led him to be labeled as the top prospect coming into the NBA since LeBron James rose to stardom back in 2003. During his debut, the Pelicans were limiting Williamson’s minutes on the court to ease him into the intensity and speed of real NBA action. Though it took some time, Williamson eventually eased into his rhythm and caught fire from beyond the arc in the third quarter. Williamson drilled four shots on four attempts from beyond the arc, in addition to making a few impressive moves to the basket on his way to scoring 17 straight points. During Williamson’s limited 18 minutes of play, he scored 22 points, collected seven rebounds and notched three assists. With the Pelicans four spots back from the last playoff spot, fans are excited to see if Williamson can supercharge this young core of players to help push them into the playoff picture.
Over in Los Angeles, the Clippers and Lakers continue to battle for not just the top spot in the Western Conference but for the label as the best team in the league. Swiss army knife forward James and center Anthony Davis have led the Lakers to keep the first seed for the entirety of the first half of the season. Sitting at 36-9 and dominating most matchups, the Lakers have been one of the major talking points of the league. Meanwhile, their neighbors across the locker room have begun to heat up after a near dormant start. Reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and All-Star Paul George have led the team to 31-14 record and are favored by many to be the team to beat in the playoffs.
On Tuesday, Jan. 28, the Lakers and Clippers will square off for the third time this season. During their first two games, the Clippers controlled the game and won by ten in the first contest and won by five in the second. As many predict these to be the two biggest contenders in the league, fans are waiting to see if James, Davis and the Lakers can finally pull out a win in the third battle of Los Angeles.
Over in the Eastern Conference, with Leonard gone, forward Giannis Anetokounmpo and his Milwaukee Bucks are steamrolling their way to the first seed. Led by the former MVP Anetokounmpo and former All-Star Khris Middleton, the Bucks sit at the best record in the league at 39-6. Though many had hoped for the Boston Celtics and their infusion of Kemba Walker to reignite the spark in that locker room, the spark has seemingly not gathered fast enough. Without a true contender to oppose them, the Bucks stepped into the first spot and have held it all season. With the season halfway over, Anetokounmpo is in the conversation for getting back to back MVPs as he has averaged 30 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.6 assists in less than 30 minutes a game. With Middleton continuously stepping up and every player following their role, the Bucks have been a force to be reckoned with.
With Anetokounmpo dominating alone in the East, and so many other superstars fighting it out in the West, it’ll be interesting to see how free agents shift in the offseason based on their desire to make it to the Finals.