New Orleans Pelicans: 3 key matchups vs. 76ers with Zion Williamson out

New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans and Philadelphia 76ers will tip off their season tonight in the Smoothie King Center with both Zion Williamson and Ben Simmons watching from the bench.

Zion will be out a few weeks with injury and Simmons (in case you just arrived from another planet) has been suspended for refusing to take part in practice.

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The Pels are hoping to take advantage of the 76ers drama and get an early win without their superstar.

With Zion Williamson out, everyone else is going to have to step up, particularly Brandon Ingram, who will be assuming the role of primary scoring option.

There are some great matchups, even with the two stars on the bench, and here are three I am looking forward to the most.

New Orleans Pelicans: Best matchups vs. the 76ers

Tobias Harris vs. Trey Murphy III

These two won’t be matched up all night, as Murphy III is likely to be moved around a lot and could play everywhere from shooting guard to power forward.

Harris is a crafty veteran scorer who doesn’t have blazing speed but knows how to get to his spots and can finish once he does. Murphy III will have to use his length to get in Harris’ face and make it difficult for him to get to his spots.

On the other end, Trey and the rest of the Pels’ young players need to try to play fast and wear the shorthanded 76ers down. Philly has a very good defense, so the Pels will try to get up shots early and keep out of stagnant half-court sets.

I am curious to see if the Pelicans try to go small and run on the slower 76ers.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker vs. Seth Curry

We don’t yet know who will start with Zion Williamson out, but even if he comes off the bench, NAW is going to play starter’s minutes.

This is a matchup he should be able to win on both ends, as he can abuse Curry on offense and hopefully shut him down defensively by playing him tight and forcing him to put the ball on the floor.

Curry is a lights-out shooter, so NAW can’t give him space and on the other end, he needs to drive to the hoop consistently and make the 76ers react when he beats Curry off the dribble, which he should be able to do.

Jonas Valanciunas vs. Joel Embiid

Embiid’s MVP bid starts tonight but Jonas Valanciunas will be up for the challenge of stopping him. Embiid doesn’t have a huge power or size advantage over Valanciunas, so he might try to pull him away from the hoop, which would be just fine with the New Orleans Pelicans, who would love to see Embiid launching jumpers and 3-point shots.

I think we’ll see JV sag way off Embiid and dare him to shoot, as he is very difficult to stop in the post and keeping him away from the hoop will reduce his offensive rebounds.

The New Orleans Pelicans don’t have an easy first game, but if they can get a few wins against good teams with Zion Williamson out, it should build the young team’s confidence for when he finally returns.

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