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What to expect from Zion Williamson in his NBA debut

The Pelicans rookie will play his first game of the season Wednesday vs. the Spurs. We break down what to expect from the No. 1 overall pick.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson during warm ups prior to the game against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: Jan. 22, 2:31 p.m. — So Williamson is expected to play, but was listed as questionable vs. the Spurs. Now he’s probable ...

It’s been a long journey, but the wait for Zion Williamson is finally over. The New Orleans Pelicans rookie PF is expected to make his NBA Debut on Wednesday night vs. the San Antonio Spurs. Zion has been sidelined all season after undergoing knee surgery, but the plan had been for him to return to action in late January. He’s been practicing with the team for a few months now, but will be eased back into action.

Fantasy basketball analysis: New Orleans Pelicans PF Zion Williamson

As you can see, Zion will start but isn’t likely to play extended minutes. If he’s only going to see 15-20 minutes on Wednesday night, we shouldn’t expect him to go crazy. Or should we? I’d like to compare Zion’s debut to another big man’s long-awaited NBA debut: Joel Embiid. Back in 2016-17, Embiid made his debut against the Thunder on Oct. 26. He was on a minutes restriction as well, but that didn’t stop Biid from posting 20 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 22:25 of playing time. Surely you can remember how cautious the Sixers were with Embiid prior to and after his debut, yet he still had a solid fantasy basketball performance.

I don’t think we should expect the same performance from Zion as Embiid, but I also don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility. If he reaches close to 20 minutes — considering the matchup — Zion can definitely get into double-digit scoring. The Spurs have been in the bottom-half of the league in defense all season and are middle of the pack in terms of rebounding. I don’t think Trey Lyles is capable of dealing with Zion’s size and LaMarcus Aldridge would have issues with Zion’s athleticism.