Following months of anticipation, New Orleans Pelicans rookie big man Zion Williamson finally made his official NBA debut that saw him show flashes of tremendous promise in his brief time on the court. Williamson nearly led the Pelicans back in the fourth quarter, but a late run from the San Antonio Spurs was enough to push them forward for a win on the road. However, the 19-year-old’s debut saw him accomplish something that not even Ben Simmons has reached in his career.
Build up to Zion Williamson’s NBA debut
Since suffering a knee injury that required surgery to repair a torn meniscus, Williamson had been on a steady path towards a full recovery.
The initial timetable was expected to see him miss anywhere between six-to-eight weeks, but he went a few weeks past that mark. That drew questions about whether he would make his return to the court this season. The Pelicans’ sudden push towards possibly contending for the eighth overall seed in the Western Conference helped erase those doubts as well.
Throughout the process, Williamson never suffered any setback in his recovery as the Pelicans were naturally patient with the entire matter. There was no need to rush him back into the fold at any point as the team moved in a manner that was most appropriate for the injury he had suffered.
Nonetheless, it set the stage for what was an incredible NBA debut in limited action that saw him surpass the Philadelphia 76ers All-Star point guard.
How Zion Williamson passed up Ben Simmons
Through the first few seasons of Simmons’ career, the biggest knock on him has been his lack of production from outside the paint. That has been most notably on his reluctance to shoot from beyond the arc.
Simmons has eased a bit on that taking five 3-pointers so far this season, which saw him hit his first two career attempts from distance. Williamson showed a willingness to shoot from beyond the arc, knocking down all four attempts in the fourth quarter against the Spurs.
That saw him become the first player in league history to go 4-for-4 on 3-pointers in their NBA debut. It also pushed him past Simmons in career made shots from distance, where he has just two makes in 204 career regular-season games.
It just speaks even further to the hesitation that Simmons has in shooting from beyond the arc, which Williamson has no indecision about it. What is shows as well is that the Pelicans’ rookie can stretch the floor, which could be a massive part of his development to become an all-around asset on the floor.
Pelicans, Zion Williamson must exercise patience
Although he played in limited action on the floor, it’s clear that Williamson is the real deal.
His production waned in the first half and into the third quarter, but once he started to get his rhythm and more into the flow of the game, his production followed. The plan ahead will likely be to continue to play him in limited minutes, but increase his workload as he gets more time on the court under his belt.
The Pelicans have already voiced that they won’t play him in back-to-back sets at this point, which is something that will change down the line. The most challenging task will be for Williamson to stay patient in the process and make the most of the time that he does get on the floor early on in his return.
It’s clear that he’s a unique talent, the onus is on him to stay the course and not force the issue as his body gets readjusted to playing again.