New Orleans Pelicans: Who will start if Zion Williamson is out?

Trey Murphy III #25 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Trey Murphy III #25 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans are fresh off a lackluster preseason that they had to play without star Zion Williamson, who is still recovering from a foot surgery he had early in the offseason.

The team is trying to be optimistic, but Zion is not even running yet according to Willie Green, so I find it hard to believe he’s going to be ready to play full-speed NBA basketball in a week.

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The Pelicans’ secrecy around the injury was frustrating, and fans are starting to wonder how much credibility the team (and Zion’s camp) have when they say he’ll be ready to go for the regular season opener.

The New Orleans Pelicans have to prepare for the possibility that Zion Williamson might miss some time, in which case they are going to need to replace him in the starting lineup.

New Orleans Pelicans: Who gets Zion Williamson’s starting spot?

Based on his play in Summer League and the preseason, I’d say Trey Murphy III has the best case to be inserted in the starting lineup.

He’s been the Pels’ best shooter and most consistent player so far, and he has shown that he can defend multiple positions, including power forwards. Having Murphy III defend bigs is not ideal, but he’ll only have to do it in bursts.

Based on the lineups Willie Green has used so far, this is what we might see:

  • PG: Devonte’ Graham
  • SG: Nickeil Alexander-Walker
  • SF: Brandon Ingram
  • PF: Trey Murphy III
  • C: Jonas Valanciunas

I find it hard to believe that either Garrett Temple or Tomas Satoransky are ultimately going to be playing the kinds of minutes they did in the preseason, but I could be wrong.

Coach Green also might want to keep his bench unit intact, as he had some groups that were jelling, including several versions of small-ball lineups that were effective in bursts. That would mean potentially starting Temple and keeping NAW with the second unit.

The Pelicans are obviously still hoping that Zion Williamson can go from not playing basketball for months to being in NBA games in a week, but Coach Green is going to have to prepare for the worst and find some rotations that work.

Next. The good, bad and very ugly from preseason. dark