We seem to be getting closer and closer to the NBA season being back. However, the San Antonio Spurs, who will be playing in the restarted season, announced on Monday that star forward LaMarcus Aldridge will miss the rest of the season after having shoulder surgery. This certainly affects the Spurs’ chances at making the playoffs. It could also end up benefiting Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans.
The NBA restart plan includes the Spurs and Pelicans
A restart plan for this year’s NBA season has officially been approved as the league hopes to crown a champion despite COVID-19 throwing a massive wrench into things.
The plan includes 22 teams, the top eight teams from each conference, and six other teams who still have a chance to make the playoffs. In the Western Conference, the New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs are both on the outside looking in of the playoffs, but will still get a chance to qualify.
There will be eight games played for seeding. These games will be selected from each team’s remaining regular season schedule too, according to
NBA.com. The top seven teams in each conference after those games are played will then definitely be in the playoffs. However, there could be a play-in tournament for the eighth seed.
If the team with the eighth-best record in the conference is four games ahead or fewer of the ninth-best team, then those two teams will play in a best-of-two series, according to NBA.com. The No. 9 seed will have to win two games in that series to claim the No. 8 seed.
The New Orleans Pelicans are currently tied for No. 9 in the Western Conference while the San Antonio Spurs are just a half-game behind the Pelicans.
Aldridge is out for the season after having shoulder surgery
The San Antonio Spurs announced on Monday that LaMarcus Aldridge will miss the rest of the season after he had surgery on his right shoulder, according to ESPN. He had the surgery on April 24.
ESPN reports that Aldridge originally injured the shoulder during a game against the Utah Jazz on Feb. 21. He played in the next game, but then missed the six games after that. He, however, returned in a game the day before the NBA suspended its season.
As he has been his entire career, LaMarcus Aldridge was one of the top big men in the NBA this season. He was averaging 18.9 points per game and 7.4 rebounds. This season was just the third season since 2010-11 that he averaged under 20 points per game.
Aldridge’s shoulder injury could benefit Zion Williamson
It is not always fun looking at how a person’s injury could benefit someone else. No one ever wants to wish injury on anyone. However, LaMarcus Aldridge’s shoulder injury could ultimately benefit Zion Williamson, as The Big Lead also pointed out.
In the Western Conference, the Memphis Grizzlies hold the eighth seed. The New Orleans Pelicans are tied for ninth with the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings. Those three teams are three-and-a-half games back of the Grizzlies.
The San Antonio Spurs are a half-game back of those three teams in the ninth spot, and four games back of the Grizzlies. The Phoenix Suns are two games behind of the Spurs.
Aldridge being out almost immediately knocks the Spurs out of contention. Aldridge is the team’s second-leading scorer behind DeMar Derozan. Their third-highest scorer only averages 11.2 points per game.
This also means that Williamson and the Pelicans are now essentially only battling with four teams for the eighth spot, instead of five.
Aldridge is also a top big man that Williamson will now no longer have to potentially go head-to-head against. The Pelicans still had to play the Spurs three times this year before the league suspended its season. So the Spurs and Pelicans will almost certainly play each other in the restarted season.
No Aldridge means Williamson will have a really good chance to just dominate in the post against the Spurs.
Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans still have a lot of work to do if they want to make the playoffs. However, LaMarcus Aldridge’s shoulder injury knocks out the Spurs as a contender and gives Williamson one less elite big man to potentially go head-to-head against.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference