New Orleans Pelicans: 3 storylines to watch against the Utah Jazz

Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /
4 of 4
New Orleans Pelicans,
New Orleans Pelicans, /

New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson versus Gobert

Generally speaking, the New Orleans Pelicans can count on Zion Williamson to deliver. He’ll give you his usual 26 points, seven rebounds, and four or five assists per game. But the first time all-star should be in for a harder night at work than usual against the Utah Jazz.

I know this seems a bit farcical given that Williamson averaged almost 30 points in his two games against the Jazz earlier this season, but Utah have a very astute team. The Jazz give up the third least points per game in the NBA and a lot of that is down to great rim protection.

We know that Zion Williamson will inflict most of his damage around the rim, which is why Monday’s duel against the Jazz and particularly Rudy Gobert is fascinating. It’s the evergreen battle between the unstoppable force and the immovable object.

In order to see how Williamson might get his, I went back to look at the tape of the Pels’ first couple of games against the Jazz. I found that Williamson got a lot of his half-court points off quick face-ups, largely against Bojan Bogdanovic like in the clip above. He also scored quite a bit in transition.

It was striking to see how Stan Van Gundy’s use of Williamson has shifted over the course of the season, even though it’s barely even been a month since those first two encounters. I’ve written about it at length, but to sum it up, Williamson’s role was much more one-dimensional than it is now. In February, we saw the best version of the Pels forward as a ballhandling, playmaking bully.

Williamson enjoyed mixed success against Gobert. It’s important to note that this isn’t a one-on-one scenario, as the Jazz don’t really have their center guarding Williamson. But this is still an interesting facet of the game since it’s where both of their biggest strengths meet—rim protection for Gobert and paint scoring for Williamson.

Looking at the footage, I would argue that Gobert gives Williamson more trouble than most centers. His length is obviously a genuine difference maker and that’s including the Pels’ all-star. In the play above, Gobert completely changes Williamson’s shot and it results in a miss.

However, I think Williamson won’t suffer as much if he continues to be used as he has been over the past few weeks. The Jazz weren’t great at stopping Williamson when he got downhill on slips or rolls. This wasn’t something that the New Orleans Pelicans really employed in January, so look out for those types of plays in tonight’s game.

Next. Could the Pelicans "buy low" for Aaron Gordon?. dark