The New Orleans Pelicans, and the NBA as a whole, were dealt some traumatizing news on Monday as it was announced that rookie star Zion Williamson will miss six to eight weeks of action after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
Williamson's absence, of course, leaves a gaping hole in the Pels starting lineup, and head coach Alvin Gentry will be forced to make tough changes to the original rotation he had penciled in. With that in mind, let's examine a starting five that Gentry might debut for Tuesday night's opening night showdown against the Toronto Raptors. Spoiler alert: it rolls out three guards.
1. PG: Lonzo Ball
Ball was projected to be Nola's starting point guard before Zion's injury and that should obviously remain the case while the Duke product is shelved. With that being said, Lonzo and Williamson displayed an impressive rapport throughout camp and the preseason, so the former Laker will have to make some serious adjustments while his teammate recovers.
PG Reserves: Frank Jackson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker
2. SG/SF: Jrue Holiday
At 6-foot-4, Holiday will certainly stand as one of the Association's smaller wings, but let's remember that the 29-year-old has been named to two All-Defensive Teams in his career in addition to his scoring and passing acumen; he'll manage just fine. Jrue is fresh off his most prolific season in the league, logging 21.2 points, 5 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game, while shooting 47.2% from the floor.
SG Reserve: Josh Hart, E'Twaun Moore, Alexander-Walker
3. SG/SF: J.J. Redick
Ah, speaking of small wings! In Zion's absence, J.J. Redick was inserted into the Pels starting group in their final preseason clash on Friday, and we expect that to remain the case at the inception of the regular season. The 35-year-old marksman was expected to assume a bench role in his 13th year in the league, but we have no doubts that he will live up to his consummate professional billing and make a smooth transition to being asked to contribute more minutes while Williamson works his way back to the hardwood.
SF Reserves: Moore, Kenrich Williams
4. PF: Brandon Ingram
Gentry might ask Ingram to personify the role that he was previously asking of Williamson. He might get pushed off the ball on defense and while going up for rebounds, but former Laker Brandon Ingram should prove to be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses in New Orleans' smaller lineup. After all, his 18.3 points per game and 49.7 field goal percentage from last season were both career bests to date.
PF Reserve: Nicolo Melli
5. C: Derrick Favors
Jahlil Okfaor started against the Knicks on Friday, but we'll expect Favors to get the nod Tuesday night against Toronto. After all, the Pelicans invested heavily in him this summer, sending a pair of future second-round picks to the Jazz in exchange for the 28-year-old big man. In 2018-19, Favors totaled 11.8 points and 7.4 rebounds in just over 20 minutes per game playing second fiddle to stud Rudy Gobert. Expect those figures, which featured a 58.6 shooting percentage, to surge if Gentry awards him a full compliment of starter's minutes.
C Reserves: Jahlil Okafor, Jaxson Hayes