After missing most of his rookie season with a knee injury, New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson is leaving up to his hype and then some.
Zion Williamson is a force to be dealt with. Hopefully he owns a large trophy case.
Williamson, 19, stands 6-foot-6 and 284 pounds, yet moves through traffic like a motorcyclist in gridlock. It’s a sight to behold, the No. 1 overall pick from Duke doing what was expected and then some.
After missing three months with a meniscus tear, Williamson returned to the New Orleans Pelicans. He found them in wreckage, sitting 17-27 and sinking in the competitive Western Conference playoff race.
In the 20 games since his return, Williamson is averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. If he qualified, Williamson would rank tied for 15th in points per game, alongside Boston Celtics stud Jayson Tatum and Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, who are both All-Stars.
Beginning in his fifth game, he became the first teenager in NBA history to notch 10 consecutive contests of 20-plus points. The streak covered 14 tilts. His finest outing came March 1 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite a 122-114 loss, Williamson stole the show with a career-best 35 points.
All of this leads to the same conclusion: Zion is going to be a damn monster for years to come.
Only 19, he’s years away from his intellectual and physical peak. What’s the ceiling?
Impossible to say, of course, but also fascinating to ponder. Individual greatness is often judged by titles and MVP awards in the NBA, an acknowledgment of a fantastic campaign. For the former, the amount of factors are numerous. We can’t go there yet with Williamson. Check back in a few years.
As for the latter, many Hall-of-Famers have one or two MVPs to their name. The record for one player is five, shared by Bill Russell and Michael Jordan. Should LeBron James earn the award this year, he makes it a trio at the top.
How many does Williamson claim? Again, check back, but the over/under should be set at 1.5.
With LeBron playing his age-35 season and Kevin Durant coming off a torn Achilles, there’s a potential void in the coming years for the NBA’s new face. Stephen Curry is also on the wrong side of 30, and Kawhi Leonard, while brilliant and in Los Angeles, is withdrawn to the hilt. Tough to market.
Zion has the name, smile and game to match. He’s brilliant with the ball. He commands your attention even without it. He’s the total package. If the Pelicans can become a contender, or Williamson ends up on such a team outside New Orleans in a few years, the NBA would be beaming. He’s the rare rookie who immediately raises expectations.
Williamson is 19 years old. His future unknown, his talent seemingly endless.
This offseason — whenever it starts — should be used to work on his defense and outside shot.
Oh, and to expand his trophy case. Smart to be ready.