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5 Can't-Miss Matchups: Zion Williamson vs. Luka Doncic

Showdown of rising stars among this week's matchups to watch

First-time battles between rising stars highlight this week’s edition of can’t-miss matchups, and in one instance — Trae Young versus Ja Morant — there’s an opportunity to watch them square off twice in a span of five days.

Morant and Zion Williamson, who faces off with Luka Doncic on Wednesday, rank first and second in the league among rookies with nine and five games, respectively, in which they’ve racked up 20 points or more on 60% or better shooting this season.

But you should also keep your eyes peeled for clashes between NBA All-Star Game captains Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James set for Friday at 10:30 p.m., ET on ESPN, and a potential playoff preview Thursday on TNT that pits Russell Westbrook against Paul George.

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1. Zion Williamson vs. Luka Doncic

Wednesday, March 4 (9:30 ET, ESPN)

Last regular season meeting: Haven’t met yet.

Dallas and New Orleans have met three times this season with the Mavericks claiming victory in each of the contests. But this matchup marks the first featuring Williamson, who missed the first 44 games due to a knee injury, going head to head with Doncic. The Mavericks held out Doncic (left thumb sprain) for Sunday’s game against the Timberwolves, but the injury isn’t considered serious. So, we should see Doncic in this one.

Williamson, meanwhile, finished the weekend ranked No. 10 in offensive rebounding percentage among players averaging 20 minutes per game and has averaged 28.2 points in his last six outings. Doncic called Williamson “a monster” during All-Star weekend, and we don’t think he’s wrong.

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. LeBron James

Friday, March 6 (10:30 ET, ESPN)

Last regular season meeting: Dec. 19, 2019.

These players occupy the top two spots in the 2019-20 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder, and although Antetokounmpo is 5-14 overall in this series, he’s won three of the last four outings against James. In fact, Antetokounmpo shot 57.9% from the floor in his last outing against James and 62.5% from deep for 34 points to go with 11 rebounds. The Bucks finished the weekend on a six-game winning streak, and believe it or not, James has guarded Antetokounmpo for just 1:04 this season with the Bucks star scoring 2 points on 1-of-2 shooting

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

Giannis Antetokounmpo 5 14 22.4 8.6 4.5
LeBron James 14 5 27.3 7.4 7.1

3. Trae Young vs. Ja Morant

Monday, March 2 (7:30 ET, League Pass)

Last regular season meeting: Haven’t met yet.

Steve Nash got these guys together over All-Star weekend, and we finally get to see them in action going head to head twice in the same week. So, take your pick here. First up is a showdown on Monday in Atlanta (7:30 ET, League Pass), followed by a game in Memphis on Saturday (8 ET, League Pass). The stakes are high in both games considering Memphis is clinging to the eighth spot in the West. These young stars are the future at the point guard position in the NBA.

4. Chris Paul vs. Derrick Rose

Wednesday, March 4 (7 ET, League Pass)

Last regular season meeting: Feb. 13, 2019.

Veteran star point guards clash in this one. Rose is a three-time NBA All-Star and former MVP, while Paul is a 10-time All-Star. Danilo Gallinari called Paul the “best leader” he’s ever played with, and for good reason as the veteran is one of the main reasons Oklahoma City has exceeded expectations after trading away Russell Westbrook and Paul George over the summer.

Rose, meanwhile, is one of the few bright spots and the veteran leader of a Detroit rebuild that saw four new players join the team just in the month of February. Although Rose is 8-4 against Paul in the regular season, the latter owns a postseason record of 4-1 in this matchup.

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

Chris Paul 4 8 16.4 3.8 8.8
Derrick Rose 8 4 14.4 4.0 5.7

5. Russell Westbrook vs. Paul George

Thursday, March 5 (8 p.m., ET, TNT)

Last regular season meeting: Dec. 19, 2019.

This display of chemistry between former teammates seems like an eternity ago, doesn’t it? But here we are with the former teammates and close friends now playing for new teams. George has won three of the last five matchups against Westbrook, but the Rockets’ new guard is playing at a Kia MVP-type level now as Houston has gone all-in on small ball.

Westbrook averaged 33.4 points in February, and shot 54.9%, which ranks as the best shooting month of his career. He’s done most of his damage of late by attacking the rim, which poses a formidable challenge for George, who is considered one of the league’s elite defenders. If you lose interest in this battle, you can always focus in on how Kawhi Leonard defends James Harden.

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

Russell Westbrook 6 6 26.2 8.3 9.4
Paul George 6 6 20.2 7.8 3.3

Underrated matchup: Aaron Gordon vs. Derrick Jones Jr.

Wednesday, March 4 (7:30 ET, League Pass)

Last regular season meeting: Feb. 1, 2020.

Here’s a quick refresher if you need it for what went down between these players as one of the most memorable AT&T Slam Dunk contest finishes in recent history. Jones’ parlayed his narrow victory over Gordon in the contest into a multiyear footwear and apparel endorsement deal with Puma, despite Gordon clearing 7-foot-6 Celtics rookie Tacko Fall for a two-handed dunk on his final attempt.

Although winning the game is the top priority here, we anticipate on some level at least a small continuation of what we saw between these high risers back in February. Gordon scored 24 points on 9-of-20 shooting in the last matchup between these teams. But Jones and the Heat have come out victorious in the last two meetings.

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

Aaron Gordon 5 3 18.3 7.9 1.9
Derrick Jones Jr. 3 5 5.3 3.4 0.8

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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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