Uhhhh, so I wouldn't blame you if you somehow missed this Shams bomb during yesterday's festivities, but this is a pretty big update when it comes to the stretch run of the West. The last time we saw Zion on the floor was 1/2, when he had 26/6/7 on 20-12 shooting in 28 minutes
Unfortunately, he pulled his hammy and we haven't seen him since. When it happened, the Pelicans were 3rd in the West sitting at 23-14. They had found ways to survive Zion's absences before, but when you pair that with Brandon Ingram also missing time, you can guess what happened.
Since 1/3, the Pelicans are 6-14, which put them with the 26th most wins in the league. Their offense (22nd), defense (17th), and net rating (25th), have been brutal, and as a result they enter tonight as the 7th seed (for now)
With the rest of the West loading up at the trade deadline, the Pelicans did what they could and added guys like Josh Richardson who provides some good wing depth, but now without Zion for at least another month, there's no denying this is another massive blow for a team that actually looked pretty damn good when its best players were actually on the floor.
It might not be fair, but this is going to be the narrative that goes along with Zion until proven otherwise. He played 24 games as a rookie, then 61 games in Year 2, then missed an entire year, and this year has only played 29 games of their 57 games. It actually looked like Zion had maybe gotten over his injury problems before this latest hamstring issue as I think most Pelicans fans would have taken 29 games played in 37 total games.
We talk so much about the availability of AD or Kawhi or Kyrie or KD, etc……well….
I'm not really sure what the answer is considering we haven't even started Zion's extension yet
and what makes it so brutal is the fact that when Zion IS on the floor, he's the very definition of a monster. He's having arguably the best season of his career
26.0/7.0/4.6/1.1 on 60/36% splits
but what good is that production if the Pels can never have it on the floor? That was Zion's biggest concern heading into his draft and it's been really the only concern since he entered the league. Only playing in 114 games through 4 years isn't great, and we're seeing that you can have all the depth in the world but if your stars can't suit up in a competitive conference, it may not matter.
Now let's be fair to Zion, things aren't much better with Brandon Ingram (22 games played) either, and his NO tenure has been just as spotty with 62, 61, 55 and 22 games played since the AD trade. It's hard to win when both of these guys are in street clothes.
The question I have is, if Zion is about to miss another month and won't be back until around March, is there a chance we're about to see him be shut down for the season? The Pels are just 1.5 games from being in the Lottery, so is it crazy to think if they struggle over the next month that they decide to say fuck it and just shut him down? That would suck, but I wouldn't blame the Pelicans since they need to be thinking long term.
As always, injuries can go right to hell. I don't ask for much, so I would like to take this opportunity to ask the Basketball Gods to find a way to please keep everyone healthy for the next few months. Things are too wide open and the trade deadline was too crazy to have the playoffs ruined because stars are injured. Let us just see what happens with everyone at full strength, is that too much to ask?
Sadly, for Pelicans fans, it might be.