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5 Can't-Miss Matchups: Zion Williamson vs. LaMarcus Aldridge

New Orleans morphs into the center of the NBA universe Wednesday, when the Pelicans host the San Antonio Spurs for the professional debut of rookie sensation Zion Williamson.

Williamson isn’t expected to take on massive minutes in his return, but his rare combination of size and explosiveness is sure to turn heads.

Williamson’s matchup with LaMarcus Aldridge headlines what’s expected to be an exciting week of head-to-head clashes that also feature Kawhi Leonard versus Luka Doncic on NBA TV, as well as a clash between Lonzo Ball and Ja Morant on TNT for Martin Luther King Jr. Day:

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1. Zion Williamson vs. LaMarcus Aldridge

Wednesday, Jan. 22 (9:30 ET, ESPN)

Last regular season meeting: Players have not yet met

Williamson hasn’t taken the court since Oct. 13, when he dropped 22 points to go with 10 rebounds in an exhibition victory over the Spurs. As good as Williamson looked in that outing, you can expect an even better player in this one, according to Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin, who said that “we all feel like he will be a bigger, better version of himself; a healthier version of himself going forward.” Williamson’s debut comes against a formidable foe in veteran LaMarcus Aldridge, who at 34 has reinvented his game somewhat to add more 3-point shooting. After Sunday’s win over the Miami Heat, Aldridge had already surpassed his previous career-high in 3-pointers made (45), and he’s connecting at a 43.7% clip from range.

2. Kawhi Leonard vs. Luka Doncic

Tuesday, Jan. 21 (8:30 ET, NBATV)

Last regular season meeting: Nov. 26, 2019

Although they play different positions, you can expect to see Leonard guarding Doncic on occasion, especially if the Dallas Maverick starts to hurt the LA Clippers with his playmaking ability. The last time these teams met, Doncic committed 7 turnovers, shooting 4-for-14 from the floor and 0-for-8 from 3-point range in a loss to the Clippers. Doncic did manage to get to the line for 16 foul shots, and he knocked down 14 of them. Leonard, meanwhile, closed out the week racking up 39 points in a win over the Pelicans to become the first Clipper to score 30 points or more in five straight games since World B. Free in 1980 (11 straight games). In fact, the 180 points scored in Leonard’s last five games coming into this week is the most he’s ever scored in a five-game span in his career.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference.

Kawhi Leonard 3 0 27.3 9.0 4.0
Luka Doncic 0 3 26.3 8.3 6.7

3. Paul George vs. Jimmy Butler

Friday, Jan. 24 (8 ET, ESPN)

Last regular season meeting: Jan. 19, 2019

Out for the last five games due to a hamstring injury, George could be back for this one leading a Clippers squad that finished up last week winning their seventh game out of their last nine. Luckily for the Heat, this game comes at home where Miami owns a record of 18-1. Butler’s teams have come out on top in three of the last five meetings against George. The last time George and Butler faced off, George scored 31 points and shot 4-for-9 from 3-point range. Butler hasn’t shot the ball particularly well, hitting 12-for-33 in his last three games coming into this week.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference.

Paul George 11 12 20.9 6.3 4.0
Jimmy Butler 12 11 14.7 4.1 3.0

4. Lonzo Ball vs. Ja Morant

Monday, Jan. 20 (5 ET, TNT)

Last regular season meeting: Players haven’t met yet

With Jrue Holiday missing the last seven games due to an elbow injury, Ball has stepped up to take on a more significant role. Ball notched his sixth career triple-double (and his second of the second of the season) Saturday in a loss to the LA Clippers, and he’ll be counted on to deliver in this matchup against Morant. Morant on Saturday produced his 10th consecutive game with 7 assists or more, which registers as the most by a Grizzly since Brevin Knight accomplished the feat in 10-straight games in 2012. Memphis enters the week having won seven in a row, which ranks as its most consecutive victories since 2015.

5. Chris Paul vs. Russell Westbrook

Monday, Jan. 20 (5 ET, NBA League Pass)

Last regular season meeting: Jan. 9, 2020

Paul returns to Houston for his second matchup of the month against the Rockets, who dropped their third-straight contest on Saturday to the Los Angeles Lakers and have lost four of their last five. Westbrook racked up 35 points in the loss to the Lakers for his fourth consecutive game of 30 points or more. In that game, Westbrook became the first Rocket besides James Harden to score 30 points or more in four consecutive games since Tracy McGrady in 2006-07. Westbrook produced 34 points the last time he faced Paul in a Rockets loss back in January. Paul dropped 21 of his 30 points in the first half Saturday in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers, but it’s important to note that OKC closed out the week with a record of 7-15 against teams that are .500 or better.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference.

Chris Paul 18 16 19.5 4.8 9.6
Russell Westbrook 16 18 21.6 5.9 7.5

Underrated matchup: Kyle Lowry vs. Trae Young

Monday, Jan. 20 (2:30 p.m., ET, NBATV)

Last regular season meeting: Feb. 7, 2019

The old guard versus the new in a series in which Young has yet to notch a victory. Atlanta closed out the week with a loss to the Detroit Pistons in which they gave up 23 points off 20 turnovers with Young committing four of them. The Hawks are 5-15 at home this season, and the last time Young squared off against Lowry, the guards combined to shoot 10-for-27 from the floor and 4-for-13 from deep, as Young committed four turnovers in a losing effort. The banged-up Raptors ended last week with a 16-3 record against teams below .500, snapping a two-game home losing streak.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference.

Kyle Lowry 3 0 16.7 7.3 12
Trae Young 0 3 14.7 3.7 4.7

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for You can e-mail him here , find his archive here and follow him on Twitter .

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