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Zion Williamson only plays 15 minutes in Pelicans’ loss to Jazz [UPDATE]

Pelicans PF was on a hard minutes restriction in the first game back, but managed to almost score a point-per-minute.

Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans wears a Black Lives Matter shirt as he is introduced before the start of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz at HP Field House at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on July 30, 2020 in Reunion, Florida.  Photo by Pool/Getty Images

UPDATE: UTA-NOP Final — Williamson ended up scoring 13 points in 15 minutes in the Pelicans’ loss to the Jazz on Thursday night in the first day back for the NBA. So the minutes restriction was pretty rough, but it was encouraging to see Zion almost score a point-per-minute. Hopefully this the only game he’ll be held back since the Pels are in more of a hole now after the loss. It’ll be tough for them to get the No. 8 seed now.

Here’s what coach Alvin Gentry had to say after the game on Zion:

UPDATE: July 30, 7:27 p.m. — Williamson looks more than fine early on against the Jazz. He’s up to 9 points early in the second quarter. He’s only played 7 minutes so far, so it’s unclear how much he’ll end up playing. Chances are it’s around 20 minutes, but that’s more than enough time to reach value for Zion.

UPDATE: July 30, 5:30 p.m. — Williamson will play, per multiple reports. Haynes said earlier that if Zion does play, he’s expected to be on a minutes restriction.

So if Williamson is limited but in the starting lineup, I don’t mind him in DFS still. He may not be as productive, but we saw early on when Zion returned that he can still provide tons of value in a small sample size. If this minutes restriction news gives us anything, it’s a little bit of leverage. Williamson was going to be incredibly chalky at the low price tag.

UPDATE: July 30, 4:52 — It only took less than 20 minutes for Gentry to come out and call Zion a game-time decision.

So there’s really no scenario I see in which Zion doesn’t play, but we’re likely getting a minutes restriction, as Haynes alluded to in his report not too long ago. Not much new here. We did get something useful in that Melli will start if Zion is out (which I doubt he will be but who knows).

If Melli starts, he’ll be chalk on DraftKings most likely. Not sure how great a chalk play Melli is, but at a low price, we can lock him in for at least 20+ minutes IF Williamson can’t go. Even if Zion plays, it looks like Melli will be the PF off the bench.

UPDATE: July 30, 4:35 p.m. — Williamson is likely to play against the Jazz, Yahoo Sports’ Chris B. Haynes reported late Thursday afternoon. Haynes mentioned that Williamson would likely be on a minutes restriction if he is going to play.

So with the latest news it looks like Zion will play but probably won’t see more than 20-25 minutes. He won’t see a full workload really, which is sort of to be expected. So with that, Zion becomes a less attractive DFS play despite his discounted price. He may still have a shot at hitting around value, but anything more than that is a reach.

So do you pivot off of Zion and onto somebody else? Does Derrick Favors become a viable play? Probably not. This could mean more usage for Brandon Ingram and Jrue Holiday. Nicolo Melli could pick up additional minutes depending on how the game plays out.

UPDATE: July 30, 10:54 a.m. — Williamson went through shootaround this morning and that’s usually a sign of a player being able to play. Granted, it was never injury related for Zion, so more conditioning at morning practice makes sense. He continues to be a GTD and we’ll see when we get word of his status.

UPDATE: July 29, 3:22 p.m. — Williamson will be a game-time decision for Thursday’s restart opener vs. the Utah Jazz, per coach Alvin Gentry.

Williamson cleared quarantine and returned to practice the other day, so this is more about conditioning and getting Zion up to speed than anything else. The Pelicans don’t have too much incentive to rush him back, but every game is important with just eight left in the season.

Fantasy and betting impact

Williamson ($7,500) being a game-time decision sort of puts a wrinkle into the classic slate. For Showdown, we’ll just have to wait and see. For classic, there are a few pivots if Zion is held out. Derrick Favors ($5,800) likely gets more rebounding opportunities. It’s unclear who would start or if the Pels would opt for small ball. Jrue Holiday and Brandon Ingram become intriguing GPP plays above $8K. If I were looking for value, Nicolo Melli ($4,000) or Jahlil Okafor ($3,000) could see more minutes. Let’s hope Williamson plays, though.

For betting, I wouldn’t worry about too much. The Pelicans are only 2.5 point favorites right now and I’d still lean New Orleans with or without Zion. The Pelicans have looked really solid in the bubble in scrimmages. They’re healthy and hungry. We could see the O/U get driven down a bit, but this game should still be high scoring.

New Orleans Pelicans PF Zion Williamson has been cleared of quarantine and will return to practice, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Tuesday. Williamson had been away from the team to attend to an urgent family matter. He has went through the proper isolation and has a shot at returning to the lineup for the Pelicans’ restart opener vs. the Utah Jazz on Thursday. A decision has yet to be made on Williamson’s status, though it is expected sometime before Thursday.

The Pelicans have been dominating in scrimmages without Williamson, so the idea of the talented rookie returning to the rotation should scare the likes of the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers. New Orleans is 3.5 games back of the Grizz for the No. 8 seed, tied with the Blazers and Sacramento Kings. The Pelicans have a loaded roster and are 100% healthy. NOLA also has a very easy schedule for the restart eight-game regular season. So there’s a scenario in which the Pelicans give Williamson a game before returning.