New Orleans Pelicans power forward Zion Williamson sustained a right hamstring injury against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday, which sent a ripple through the NBA futures market because he will miss at least three weeks of action.
The short-handed Pelicans were already down a starter. Small forward Brandon Ingram missed the last 18 games with a big left toe injury, and now the Pelicans face a tough schedule in January without two-thirds of their frontline.
The Pelicans host the last-place Houston Rockets on Wednesday, before a surging Brooklyn Nets visit the Big Easy on Friday. The Nets won 12 games in a row and the Pelicans have to figure out how to slow down superstar Kevin Durant without Williamson in the lineup.
On Saturday, the Pelicans hit the road to play seven away games during an eight-game stretch. They complete the month with two games against the Denver Nuggets, and a road game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
If the Pelicans expect to go deep in the playoffs, they’ll need a healthy Williamson and Ingram. The Pelicans currently lack depth, especially with backup power forward Larry Nance Jr. sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Herbert Jones filled in for Ingram at small forward over the last month, but he could move over to power forward to replace Williamson in the starting five. The Pelicans will rely on rookie Dyson Daniels (4.5 points, 3.3 rebounds), and second-year player Naji Marshall (8.8 points, 3.4 rebounds) to soak up significant minutes subbing in for Ingram at the #3 spot.
Betting Markets Impacted by Williamson’s Hamstring
The news about Williamson is a huge blow to the Pelicans (23-14), who were in a four-way battle royale for the #1 seed in the Western Conference. The Denver Nuggets, led by two-time MVP Nikola Jokić, are the first-place team in the Western Conference with a 24-13 record. The Nuggets hold a one-game edge over Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies (23-13) in second place. The Pelicans currently occupy the #3 seed, but trail the Nuggets by only one game.
A scorching Luka Dončić and the Dallas Mavericks are now 22-16 after they extended their winning streak to seven games in a row. The Mavs hold down the #4 seed, yet just 2.5 games behind the top-seeded Nuggets.
In a three-team race to win the Southwest Division, the first-place Grizzlies lead the Pelicans by a half-game, but the red-hot Mavs narrowed their deficit to two games. The Grizzlies are the consensus favorite to win the Southwest Division at -230 odds, followed by the Pelicans at +330 odds, and the Mavs at +425 odds. On Monday morning, you could’ve backed the Pelicans to win the Southwest at +165 odds before Williamson strained his hamstring on Monday night.
The Pelicans were +1800 odds to win the 2022-23 NBA championship at DraftKings on New Year’s Eve. However, their title odds jumped to +2200 when the Pelicans announced that Williamson will miss at least three weeks with a hamstring injury.
Only a Matter of Time Before Zion Hurt… Something
Williamson, the Pelicans leading scorer, averages 26 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 4.6 assist per game. He’s shooting an impressive 60.8% from the floor, and a career-best 71.4% from the free-throw line.
There’s very little disagreement that Williamson is one of the premier power forwards in the NBA when he’s healthy. The former #1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, out of Duke, dominates the competition every time he steps onto the court. Williamson is still only 22-years old, but has yet to peak as a professional.
“You guys are starting to see what you thought you would see with Zion,” said teammate CJ McCollum. “I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like it. The way he plays, the efficiency, strength, the power. The finesse to handle and touch around the basket.”
Zion”s playing football, we’re playing basketball,” Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell told The Athletic. “We can’t touch him or guard him.”
Williamson’s entire NBA career has been plagued with injuries. His pro debut was delayed while he recovered from knee surgery, which set the tone for his career. He’s now missed more games (149) than he’s played (114).
Williamson missed 48 games during his rookie season while recovering from a knee injury. He was somewhat healthy in his second season and missed only 11 games, but sat out the last two weeks with a fractured finger. Last season, Williamson missed all 82 games while recovering from a fractured foot.
Williamson was sidelined for eight games this season with a couple different maladies, including a hip injury and recent bout with COVID-19. However, the hamstring injury is something that could linger the remainder of the year, and slow down Williamson in the second half of the season.
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