Jay Williams says he believes the Pelicans can beat the Lakers in the play-in tournament without Zion Williamson - Lakers Daily

Jay Williams says he believes the Pelicans can beat the Lakers in the play-in tournament without Zion Williamson

Naji Marshall and LeBron James Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson hasn’t appeared in a game this season, and many NBA fans don’t expect to see him until the 2022-23 campaign.

As things stand now, the Los Angeles Lakers are positioned to face the Pelicans in the play-in tournament. Without Williamson in action, some Lakers fans would probably like the team’s chances in that potential matchup, but ESPN analyst Jay Williams isn’t on that boat.

“I still think the Pelicans, in a play-in scenario, could beat the Los Angeles Lakers without Zion,” Williams said. “… We’re all of a sudden expecting the Lakers just to turn it on down the stretch? I know LeBron James can turn it on. I don’t know if everybody else can turn it on around him to beat the Pelicans.”

There’s a very real chance that the Lakers and Pelicans will indeed end up facing each other in the play-in tournament. The Lakers currently hold the No. 9 spot in the Western Conference with a 31-42 record, and the Pelicans hold the No. 10 spot with a 30-42 mark.

Neither team has a realistic chance of finishing any higher than ninth in the conference, meaning the goal for both squads is to simply hold off teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers, who are trying to crash the play-in party.

Even with Williamson sidelined, the Pelicans have a fair amount of talent on their roster. The Lakers probably wouldn’t have an easy time dealing with them in a potential play-in matchup.

At the end of the day, however, if the Lakers are serious about making a deep run in the playoffs, they’re eventually going to have to face some teams that are far more intimidating than the Pelicans. If L.A. is worried about New Orleans, it quietly says a lot about the team’s title hopes.

The Lakers and Pelicans are set to play each other on Sunday in New Orleans.