Zion Williamson: 11 points, 4-of-9, 3 rebounds, 1 steal
RJ Barrett: 10 points,4-of-18, 5 rebounds, 1 assist
4th Quarter (Postponed)
It was fitting that Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett’s first NBA Summer League game was against each other. Both players got off to a bit of a slow start, but Williamson heated up towards the end of the first quarter. The Pelicans-Knicks game was postponed in the fourth quarter after an earthquake hit during the game.
Prior to the earthquake, Williamson ignited the crowd by taking the ball from Kevin Knox then throwing down an emphatic dunk.
At halftime, Williamson was ruled out for the rest of the game with a minor injury. The Pelicans big man finished with 11 points and three rebounds in his debut. ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth reported that Williamson’s injury is “not expected to be serious.
“Zion Williamson took knee to knee hit in first half. Will not return with left knee injury. It’s not expected to be serious but the Pelicans are taking a cautious approach with their #1 pick during this summer league,” Hubbarth tweeted.
RJ Barrett Was Just 4-of-18 From the Field in His Debut
It was an up-and-down first game for Barrett who shot just four-of-18 from the floor and finished with 10 points. Barret spoke with the New York Post heading into the matchup against his former teammate.
“He’s a great talent,’’ Barrett told the New York Post. “He’s going to do his thing. I’m going to do my thing. It’s about which team wins…He’s a freak. There’s nothing you can do about it. You just got to contain him.”
According to ESPN’s Malika Andrews, Williamson was initially expected to play 24 to 28 minutes in his first Summer League game, but the big man played just nine minutes. Both Williamson and Barrett are part of rebuilding efforts as their teams are hoping the rookies can play a big part in their turnaround.
The Pelicans were hoping to use Williamson as a way to convince Anthony Davis to have a change of heart and stay in New Orleans. However, the Pelicans ended up trading Davis and received quite a bit in return including Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram. Williamson understands that the NBA will be a different game than his time at Duke.
“[In NBA], everybody can shoot. You can’t really help [defensively] too much, otherwise it’s an open three,” Williamson told Pelicans writer Jim Eichenhofer. “I love the spacing. It’s almost like a dream come true for me. Because every time I attack the basket, there is space.”
The Knicks had planned to bring in All-Stars to surround Barrett, but the team struck out on Kevin Durant along with other top players in free agency. New York was able to sign Julius Randle along with several veteran players to add to their roster.
Zion’s Position in the NBA Is Fluid
It will be interesting to see how the Pelicans use Williamson in the NBA. Some are describing Williamson as a point-center meaning he would play the five while, at times, also running the offense. Williamson’s size means he is more of a small-ball center and unlikely to be able to play the position full-time.
Barrett’s position is more clear at shooting guard. He is a playmaking guard who shines by attacking the defense and creates open shots for his teammates. Barrett’s challenge at Duke was the lack of shooting on the roster. Barrett also needs to improve his jumper as he transitions to the NBA.