SAN ANTONIO — Zion Williamson, the number 1 draft pick in last summer's NBA draft, is expected to make his debut January 22, when the San Antonio Spurs travel to New Orleans to face the Pelicans.

Williamson, who played one season at Duke University before making the leap to the pros, has been absent due to a knee injury sustained last July during Summer League.

The Pelicans have played it safe with their top prospect, keeping him on the bench until their doctors deemed Williamson's knee to be at 100 percent. New Orleans has posted a 15-26 record while Williamson has been out; the team has been led by Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, two pieces acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for big man Anthony Davis. 

The matchup could prove pivotal to both San Antonio and New Orleans as the teams vie for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Pelicans currently sit towards the bottom of the conference, but bringing Williamson back for the second half of the season, as opposed to shutting him down until next year, infers the team has their eyes on the postseason.

San Antonio, meanwhile, is neck-and-neck with the Memphis Grizzlies for the 8th seed. The Grizzlies' turnaround has been one of the notable storylines of the first half of the NBA season. Rookie Ja Morant has quickly risen as one of the brighter young stars in the league; Morant was taken with the number 2 pick, one spot behind Zion.

RELATED: Spurs host first-ever Indigenous Night at the AT&T Center

RELATED: Spurs player DeMar DeRozan named the Western Conference Player of the Week