2020-21 New Orleans Pelicans Player Review: Zion Williamson

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It’s hard to put Zion Williamson’s rise in his sophomore season into context. Adjectives like meteoric, record-breaking and unprecedented go some way in applying words to what it was.

In simple terms, Williamson did something no one else in the league’s history had done. The list of players to average 27.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists at age 20 or young in league history is Williamson, Luka Doncic and LeBron James. Williamson’s 61.1% field goal percentage dwarfs Doncic’s 46.3% shooting and James’ 47.2% shooting in their respective seasons.

In fact, no one has averaged 27 points and seven rebounds on 61% shooting in league history. Expanding the requirements to 21 and younger and dropping the shooting percentage down to 59% adds Shaquille O’Neal.

This is the type of storied company Williamson found himself in time and time again this season. He has rather quickly gone from star prospect to superstar in the NBA.

Stat of the Season

5.6.

The difference between Williamson’s on-court rating (plus-2.1) and off-court rating (minus-3.5) was the highest mark on the Pelicans.

Notable Exit Interview Quote

On finishing outside the playoffs in his first two years…

“It’s disappointing. I’d be lying to you if I told you anything else. It’s very disappointing. But the best thing we can do is regroup, come together as a team…and just talk and do what we need to do to be better next year. There’s not much to it. We just have to be better.”

Overview

Perhaps the most intriguing development for the Pelicans and Williamson this season was Point Zion. While Stan Van Gundy’s tenure was short, it could lead to huge things in the future as he unleashed a version of Williamson that the league had not seen and was not ready for.

While Williamson’s ballhandling was always a fascinating caveat to his game, it became a focal point. It was never more apparent than in an early April game against the Sixers where the Pelicans were without Lonzo Ball, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Josh Hart, three of their top guards.

Williamson exploded that night for 37 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists with just two turnovers despite a usage rate of 41.2%. That moment was a look at what could be the future for Williamson and the Pelicans under the next head coach.

Outlook

Williamson’s rapid ascension has placed even more pressure on the Pelicans front office and the second-year star already knows the power he has. Shortly after the season ended, a report from Williamson’s camp indicated he was unhappy. It’s no coincidence that leak coincided with Van Gundy’s departure and ahead of one of the most important offseasons in the franchise’s brief history.

It not only puts the microscope on New Orleans, but also puts a clock on the franchise to get it right before Williamson joins a different elite list of superstars to demand a trade away from the Pelicans.