The New Orleans Pelicans had an eventful summer in 2019. They not only traded Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers after the All-Star big man requested a trade earlier in the year, but the franchise acquired its new cornerstone in Zion Williamson on draft night by selecting him with the first overall pick.
Williamson was incredible during his one season in college at Duke. He averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 68.0% from the field.
The Pelicans beat out the Memphis Grizzlies and New York Knicks for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft. Even though Davis was still on the roster when New Orleans drafted Williamson, everyone in the NBA knew the Chicago native would get traded before the start of the 2019-20 season.
Zion Williamson has been a dominant offensive weapon in the NBA for the Pelicans despite missing the first 44 games of his career due to a knee injury. However, some around the league believe the lefty will leave New Orleans soon.
Zion Williamson is already a superstar
Zion Williamson missed the start of the 2019-20 season after undergoing right knee surgery. He suffered a torn right lateral meniscus during the preseason, and Pelicans fans were worried that their new star would be the next Greg Oden.
Fortunately, Williamson hasn’t been a bust. Since making his NBA debut on January 22, 2020, against the San Antonio Spurs, the power forward has put up superstar numbers. Williamson is averaging 25.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists while shooting 60.7% overall through his first 77 games.
As long as he stays healthy, Zion Williamson is on pace to be a Hall of Famer and appear in double-digit All-Star games. Whether he plays his entire career on the Pelicans is up for debate, though, especially after his recent comments about Madison Square Garden.
People think Zion Williamson already has one foot out the door
After the Pelicans lost to the Knicks on April 18, Zion Williamson said Madison Square Garden is his favorite place to play outside of New Orleans. Naturally, the national media now believes the Duke product already has one foot out the door in the Big Easy.
The Pelicans lost Chris Paul and Anthony Davis to big market teams. As a result, Matt Barnes — who played with Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant during his NBA career — thinks it’s “probably inevitable” that Williamson leaves the Pelicans.
“This small-market trouble will always loom these small-market teams,” Barnes said on ESPN’s The Jump. “This is probably inevitable, and if I’m the New Orleans franchise, I’m thinking again, OK dang, we lost Chris Paul, dang, we lost Anthony Davis. Zion is the next face of the franchise. I’m sure Pelicans fans hate to hear this, but I don’t see him ending his career in New Orleans because these small-market teams never really get over the hump.”
Zion Williamson is eligible for a rookie-scale extension after his third season. The point-forward will undoubtedly sign a new contract with the Pelicans, but Matt Barnes and other people in the basketball world wouldn’t be surprised to see the 20-year-old take a page from Chris Paul and Anthony Davis’ book and request a trade.
Zanos’ college teammate plays for the Knicks
Knicks forward R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson are very close friends. They played at Duke together and keep in touch in the NBA despite playing in different cities.
If Williamson ends up requesting a trade from the Pelicans one day, don’t be surprised if he has the Knicks at the top of his trade wish list. The youngster already said he loves New York City and MSG, and his connection with Barrett could play a big role.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.