Since making his official NBA debut back in January, New Orleans Pelicans rookie big man Zion Williamson‘s career has taken off to a tremendous start. It has also seen his playing time steadily increase while his play has improved along the way. Williamson‘s performance has helped New Orleans make a bit of a push towards the playoffs to close the gap for the eighth overall spot. The Pelicans’ effort may have received another encouraging development involving their prized rookie big man‘s availability for the rest of the season that could impact their push towards the playoffs.
Zion Williamson’s strong start
Following an extended recovery period from knee surgery that cost him the first few months of his rookie season, Williamson has been nothing short of phenomenal in his first 16 career games.
The 19-year-old immediately stepped into a prominent offensive role where he has become arguably the most consistent factor for the Pelicans since his debut back in January. Williamson is currently averaging 24.2 points and 6.9 rebounds on 58.8% shooting from the floor.
His production has put him in rare company in league history that helped him earn Western Conference Rookie of the Month for February. Williamson put himself alongside Hall of Famers Shaquille O’Neal and Grant Hill as the on the only players with seven 20-point outings in their first 10 games career games over the last 30 seasons. He joined O’Neal and Allen Iverson as the third rookie over that span to notch at least 200 points over that stretch of career games played.
Williamson has continued pushing his way forward with his production while his playing time on the floor has steadily increased in the process. With that in mind, he has hit another significant marker in his availability.
Zion Williamson cleared to play in back-to-back games
Through his first few weeks back on the floor, Williamson has been playing in restrictive minutes. That number has continued to inch up with the more playing time he has gotten under his belt since return.
However, Williamson has yet to play in both games of a back-to-back set in his first several weeks back. That has also changed as head coach Alvin Gentry has voiced that the team has cleared him to play in back-to-back games moving forward.
The NBA has cut down the number of back-to-back sets that teams have each season, but the Pelicans have two such situations left in the regular season. The first will be a pair of away games against the Utah Jazz on March 13 and followed by facing the LA Clippers the following night.
New Orleans’ final back-to-back will be an away game on March 21 against the Memphis Grizzlies followed by a home agianst the Sacramento Kings. It may have only a small impact on his overall availability, but it puts on the court for a couple more games that prove to be pivotal in the Pelicans’ playoff push.
Pelicans’ playoff push ahead
With just over a month left in the season, the Pelicans are a tight spot of fighting their way into the playoff picture.
New Orleans is four games behind the Grizzlies for the eighth playoff spot with teams such as the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, and San Antonio Spurs in the hunt. That makes having Williamson available for more games that much more crucial as he continues to excel offensively as one of the teams’ primary scorers.
His increased availability will give them a greater chance at making a serious run into the playoffs, especially with their remaining schedule still having matchups against several of those teams vying for a playoff spot. Given how things have laid out ahead of the Pelicans, expect Williamson to play a significant part in their postseason push.