NBA News Weekly: Pelicans Eye Zion Return

By Ziv Chen
 |  3 mins
8E3DFB6F-93D4-478C-99D9-112C2BB6C04E  Fact Checked by Mark Fordham
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NBA News Weekly: Pelicans Eye Zion Return

With time running out fast for teams to pick up the wins they need for a shot at the NBA Finals, excitement is building in professional basketball for fans and bettors alike.

March always means March Madness, and with some teams already looking forward to 2024, a fascinating battle between two players competing to be drafted second overall is building. Elsewhere, New Orleans fans wait nervously for its star to return to court. Read below for some of the biggest stories from the NBA this week.

NBA Fines Smart for Young Altercation

The league's head of basketball operations, Joe Dumars, announced the NBA fined Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart $25,000 for an on-court altercation with the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young over the weekend.

Smart and Young had to be separated on the court in the game between Atlanta and Boston over the weekend. Initially, the officials called Smart for a foul, but a lengthy review by the officials saw both players called for technical fouls and Smart was ejected from the game.

Officials claimed Smart was ejected for a “grab and takedown of Trae Young,” while Young drew the foul for “getting up and pointing in Marcus Smart’s face.”

Boston outlasted Atlanta in the game to win 134-125. Young scored a game-high 35 points and produced 13 dimes for the Hawks. The Celtics scored 20 three-pointers, with Jayson Tatum scoring 34 points and Jaylen Brown 24. The altercation occurred with Boston leading 129-121 in the fourth quarter.

Celtics center, Al Horford, commented on the incident, saying, “I just saw them both kind of go down, definitely chirping at each other going down. We were all in there trying to do damage control.”

Boston is currently neck-and-neck in the NBA betting odds with fellow Eastern Conference foe Milwaukee Bucks, with some sportsbooks pricing Boston at +340 to win the NBA Finals in June and Milwaukee at +360.

Projected No. 2 Pick Henderson Shut Down by G-League

Scoot Henderson, the seemingly consensus projected second overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, will be benched for the final five games of the G-League season to avoid injury before the end of the season.

Henderson, 19, is the second-favorite to be the first overall pick in the 2023 draft betting, priced at +4000 behind French phenom Victor Wembanyama, priced at -8000 with most NBA betting apps.

G-League executives feel that with his team, the G-League Ignite, four games out from a playoff position with five games remaining, they are unlikely to make the playoffs. Therefore, Henderson has shown enough this season. The point guard averaged 17.6 points, 6.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals this season. 

The point guard missed significant time with a nasal fracture during the season, an ankle injury picked up in January and had two separate stints in the concussion protocols. Recently, interest has been rising in Alabama prospect Brandon Miller, who is valued at +8000 with some NBA betting sites to be the first overall pick ahead of the NCAA tournament. A big showing from Miller, who has led the Crimson Tide to a No. 1 seed, could see Henderson drop to the third overall pick.

The most attention from the draft undoubtedly remains on Victor Wembanyama, who is expected to add $500 million to the valuation of the team he ends up signing for. The worst three performing teams each have a 14% chance of gaining the first overall pick, with the fourth-worst having a 12.5% chance and the fifth-worst having 10.5%.

The Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs currently have the best chance of drafting Wembanyama. The draft will take place on June 22, 2023.

Zion Expected to Return for Playoffs

New Orleans Pelicans fans are waiting in expectation as the team’s medical department has estimated that its star player, Zion Williamson, could return for the playoffs. New Orleans is a game out from the play-in places, having been as high as second in the West this season.

Williamson last played on January 2 after suffering a hamstring injury. Still, team doctors announced Wednesday that the 2019 first overall pick will be re-evaluated in “approximately two weeks.”

On the day Zion was injured, in the 120-111 loss to the 76ers, the Pelicans were third in the Western Conference. The two-time All-Star has played just 114 games in four seasons, missing the entire 2022 season with an injured foot.

With 16 games remaining in the regular season, New Orleans will have to pull itself up the standings for a chance to see its star back on the court. The Pelicans lost to the Los Angeles Lakers last night, 108-123, and has only won three of its last ten games.

A two-game series against Houston is upcoming for New Orleans, followed by games against San Antonio and Charlotte, meaning New Orleans plays three of the bottom four teams in the league in the next nine days. New Orleans is +16000 to win the NBA championship this season with most USA sports betting sites.

Ziv has served for two decades in senior positions with online gambling operators and software companies. In recent years he decided to combine his passions for writing, gambling, and sports, and became a fulltime casino and sports betting writer. Ziv’s biggest loves are the NFL (Pittsburgh Steelers), college football (Maryland Terrapins), casino games and online slots.

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