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Zion Williamson Has Arrived

The first 3 seasons of Zion Williamson’s career seemed to produce more questions than answers for fans. Can he stay healthy? Is he happy in New Orleans? Will he take his qualifying offer and bolt to New York? Why is he dodging CJ McCollum’s calls? Can he be a leader of men? What is the update on Zion’s injury? Does he have a weight issue? Will the Pelicans regret paying him? Why can’t he play defense? Do he and Brandon Ingram work? Can he live up to the hype? 

Through 21 games this season, Zion has emphatically answered all those questions and then some, all while performing at the level befitting of an MVP-caliber player. 

On Friday, Zion capped off a 35-point, 7 rebounds, and 4 assist performance against the Suns with an emphatic 360 windmill dunk in the dying seconds of the game to put his Pelicans up 11 and seal the victory against Phoenix. 

To some, and to many Suns fans, that broke an unwritten code in basketball. 

To Zion and his teammates, though? He was being a leader

“That was a little out of character for me. But, you gotta understand… you can understand it or not… they sent my teammates home last year. I missed all of last year. I got carried away a little bit. I admit that. But I was in that locker room, my brothers were down because the Suns sent us home last year and that’s a tough moment to be a part of. So, in that moment I got carried away, I admit that”. 

This is the same player whose commitment to the team was put in question last season when McCollum told the media that he hadn’t gotten a chance to get in touch with Zion once he got traded to New Orleans. That same Zion was questioned later for moving his rehab process to Portland. 

Moments like Friday, stepping up for his teammates, make any of those questions seem ridiculous in hindsight. 

On the court, Williamson has answered any lingering questions about his abilities as well. 

He followed up his mighty performance on Friday with a similar one on Sunday afternoon against the Suns (albeit without their superstar Devin Booker) putting up 35 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists in a 4-point overtime win. 

Through the 21 games, he’s played this season, Zion is averaging 25 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.2 steals, and shooting a whopping 62% on 2-point attempts, including 70% around the basket. 

He’s generating 1.34 points per transition possession, 1.2 points per isolation possession, 1.41 points per cut, and over 1 point on every post-up. 

He’s top 20 in the league in drives per game (13.8) and has a field-goal percentage of 55% on said drives. 

When he gets the ball in the paint, he scores 73% of the time. 

Offensively, despite his limitations as a shooter (and opposing teams knowing it), Zion has been virtually unstoppable.  

What has made it that much more difficult to stop Zion is his improved playmaking, averaging a career-high in assists and AST% — ranking in the 94th percentile amongst bigs, according to Cleaning The Glass. 

A part of that is that the on-court context Zion has to work with this season favors his play much, much more with better spacing, more creators around him, and able-body big men to lessen the load. 

We’ve seen a little bit of point Zion before! But not at this level and not at this frequency. 

He’s able to play bully ball, draw help and effectively find cutters and shooters open. 

Enjoy the highlight reel here

As for the defensive end, that too has improved

For the first time in his career, Zion is a plus on defense, with the Pelicans allowing 7.4 fewer points when he’s on the court. He has a positive DPM for the first time in his early career too. 

Let’s be clear – Zion always had the tools and capability of being a good defender, he showed that in college, but it never really translated in his first 3 seasons because the Pelicans required too much of him on that end. 

Now, with elite point-of-attack defenders like Herb Jones and Jose Alvarado in the mix, and the outstretched arms of Larry Nance, Trey Murphy, and Dyson Daniels doing damage – Zion can thrive on defense because he can get back to what he’s good at: being a menace on the help-side. 

He’s digging and ripping the ball out of the offensive players’ hands with his brute strength, blocking shots in obscene fashion as the weak-side defender and being a menace in passing lanes. 

Enjoy Zion wreaking havoc on D, here

It’s still early, but through the start of the season, Zion has made sizeable improvements as a playmaker and defender, all while doubling down and thriving with his overpowering offensive game. 

And above all else? It’s led to wins in New Orleans. 

As of right now, the Pelicans are 1st in the West at 18-8. They’ve won 7 in a row and are 12-2 in their last 14 games. They boast the 5th best offense and the 3rd best defense across the Association and are the only team in the top 5 for both categories. 

They’ve seen the development of players like Murphy, Jones, Alvarado, and even the rookie Daniels who looks like a stellar defender already. 

And that’s all with Brandon Ingram, their 2nd best player, only playing in 15 of their games so far. 

The sky is truly the limit for this Pelicans squad. 

And it’s because Zion is performing at an MVP level, dispelling doubts about his abilities while answering any lingering questions skeptics had about him emphatically.

The Zion Williamson experience is in full throttle. 


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