New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson is ready to take over the NBA in his second season now that his body is at 100%. The former No. 1 overall pick was able to train this offseason and work on his physique and game instead of rehabbing an injury.
In the post-Anthony Davis era, Williamson is the face of the Pelicans franchise. The team will ultimately go as far as the lefty can take them in the rugged Western Conference. The Pelicans, who missed the playoffs last season after playing terribly during the eight seeding games at Walt Disney World, are hungry to reach the postseason this upcoming campaign with Williamson leading the way.
While pundits are always going to have concerns about his weight and health, it appears Zion Williamson is going to be a new player in 2020-21.
Zion Williamson’s NBA career got off to a bad start
After dominating the 2019-20 preseason schedule, Zion Williamson appeared primed to make an immediate impact for New Orleans once the regular season started. However, the Pelicans’ worst nightmare came true when Williamson underwent left knee surgery to address a meniscus tear on October 21.
NBA pundits were worried that Williamson would get hurt in the pros since he’s so heavy and puts a lot of torque on his joints with his explosive moves in transition and powerful dunks. Pelicans fans, who just lost Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers in a blockbuster trade, were really bummed to see Williamson go under the knife before the youngster even played in his first regular-season game.
As expected, the Pelicans were very cautious with Williamson’s rehab since he’s the cornerstone player of the franchise. The last thing New Orleans could afford to do was rush Williamson back and jeopardize his long-term health, especially since the 6-foot-6 playmaker got hurt in college as well.
Williamson missed the first 44 games of the 2019-20 season and the Pelicans really struggled without him. It wasn’t how anyone in New Orleans envisioned the Pelicans’ run with Williamson starting.
Zion Williamson was a stud once he started playing
Zion Williamson made his regular-season debut on Jan. 22 at home against the San Antonio Spurs and showed the world why he was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2019 draft. The North Carolina native finished with 22 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in 18 minutes of action while shooting 72.7% from the field. Williamson also went a perfect 4-of-4 from beyond the 3-point line.
In 24 games last season, Williamson averaged 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per contest. He made the All-Rookie team despite missing the beginning of his NBA career and scored at least 20 points 19 times.
Williamson shot 58.3% from the floor, 42.9% from beyond the arc, and 64.0% from the free-throw line as a rookie. He also recorded a PER of 24.1, showcasing his high basketball IQ every night. The Pelicans’ front office was thrilled to see Williamson have individual success despite the team not making the playoffs.
Moving forward, everyone in New Orleans is expecting Williamson to take the next step. He’s been a winner his entire basketball life, so missing the playoffs last season certainly burned Williamson inside.
He is going to be even more lethal in Year 2
Zion Williamson is a man on a mission this season to get the Pelicans back to the playoffs and remind everyone why his nickname is “Zanos.” The power forward looks noticeably skinnier and appears to have his legs underneath him after getting a solid offseason to rest.
With Jrue Holiday no longer on the Pelicans, Williamson is the No. 1 option on offense. Even though Brandon Ingram made his first All-Star team last season and won the Most Improved Player of the Year Award, a healthy Williamson is in a different class than the rest of his teammates.
It’s not guaranteed that the Pelicans will make the postseason in 2020-21 since the Western Conference is really tough from top to bottom. However, if Zion Williamson can stay healthy and keep his weight under control, all signs point toward the former Duke star having an All-NBA season and establishing himself as an elite player.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference