A massive Monday slate in the NBA left us with just a single contest on Tuesday, between the Clippers and Mavericks. Thankfully, another big batch of games awaits fans on Wednesday, including New Orleans' Zion Williamson poised to make his highly-anticipated NBA debut when the Pelicans host the Spurs at 9:30 ET on ESPN. Williamson averaged 23.3 points on 71% shooting in four preseason games this past fall, tied for the fourth-highest scoring average in the 2019 NBA preseason. Only James Harden (31.2), Giannis Antetokounmpo (27.3) and Stephen Curry (26.8) averaged more.
The performance was the highest output by a rookie in the last 20 years. The 2019 No. 1 overall pick was also an inside force in exhibition play, averaging a league-high 17 points in the paint during the preseason. The Pelicans have posted the league's eighth-best offense during the past 15 games with 113.6 points per 100 possessions, and the arrival of Williamson should help provide some interior gravity on offense and rim protection on defense.
Tim Hardaway Jr., Dallas Mavericks: 13 points (4-12 FG), 3 rebounds
Leonard delivered his sixth straight 30-point game in a close win for the Clippers. That ties for the longest such streak of his career while marking the longest by a Clippers player since World B. Free had a franchise-record 11 straight 30-point performances back in 1980. Leonard scored or assisted on 12 of the Clippers' 18 points in clutch time -- the final five minutes of a game where the lead is five points or less.
The Clippers stopped the Mavericks' four-game winning streak, but Doncic was still a statistical force. He had his fifth game this season where he finished just a single rebound or assist shy of a triple-double, the most such outings in the NBA. The performance also marked his 27th career 30-point game, the third-most before turning 21 in NBA history behind only LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
Injuries of note
The Clippers lost defensive-minded point guard Patrick Beverley to a groin injury in last night's matchup with the Mavericks. If he misses any time, we could see Landry Shamet earn more shots and minutes in the games ahead.
Dwight Powell of Dallas suffered a non-contact lower right leg injury when he attempted to drive last night and appeared to be in agony before being helped to the locker room. ESPN's Tim MacMahon reports that Powell may have suffered a season-ending Achilles injury, but further tests will be needed for confirmation. If this is unfortunately the case, Maxi Kleber figures to play a larger role going forward for Dallas.
Analytics advantage for Wednesday
With Millsap sidelined, let's explore how his absence influences the Nuggets' rotation. Jerami Grant is the clear beneficiary, as the two-way forward has averaged 30.8 MPG during the past week with Millsap out of the lineup, compared to right around 24 MPG when his frontcourt peer is active. Grant, who is rostered in roughly 17% of ESPN leagues, makes for a fun plug-and-play option ahead of a contest that has the third-highest opening point total of Wednesday's busy slate. Denver's Gary Harris is also listed doubtful for Wednesday, meaning that scoring guard Malik Beasley becomes a key streaming option in Houston tonight.
Top players to watch on Wednesday
While all eyes will naturally be on Zion this evening, I'm just as intrigued by the matchups between a surging Lonzo Ball and a revitalized Jrue Holiday of the Pelicans and the Spurs' defensive-minded backcourt tandem of Dejounte Murray and Derrick White. In a game that has the highest opening point total of Wednesday's schedule, these backcourt matchups should prove compelling.