Zion Williamson’s talent is obvious, and the USA Basketball program wants to bring him into the fold immediately. His participation will only help accelerate his professional development, benefiting the New Orleans Pelicans.
Marc Stein is reporting that USA Basketball has officially extended a training camp invitation to future New Orleans Pelicans‘ first round draft pick Zion Williamson. Williamson will join a 10-man squad that will push Team USA’s initial 18-man training camp roster.
The final roster is not set. Zion is already welcome on the Zulu float. Apparently Williamson could play himself into coach Gregg Popovich’s plans as well.
The Team USA training camp will take place in early August, after any summer league action for New Orleans has already taken place. With a Team USA training camp approaching, Zion would have to balance his summer league work load.
Yes, Zion’s load management is beginning immediately. The Pelicans have to show they have a plan, and have confidence in that plan. Sometimes the plan is to stay out of the way and see what Zion does. He could exceed expectations in Team USA camp, leading to a gold medal before a Rookie of the Year vote even has the chance to be cast.
The Pelicans should let Zion prioritize Team USA camp over an NBA Summer League MVP trophy. Competing against the world’s best in practice every day is more important than dunking on guys destined for the G-League.
According to Stein’s thread of tweets, word Zion has a chance to make the final roster came straight from Chairmain Jerry Colangelo. The FIBA World Cup will be played in China, from August 31 through September 15.
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The roster is slowly being leaked, with Stein and ESPN reporting Anthony Davis and James Harden will be at camp as well. Other possible future Zion teammates Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma, Brook Lopez, CJ McCollum, and Jayson Tatum could also be in attendance.
Anthony Davis trade rumors have included all of those players. Zion will get to learn first hand how the greatest in the world approach the game.
For any player, Zion included, Team USA is the ultimate “platform to see how he can compete with the vets.” Those vets will give Zion a soft open to plenty of “welcome to the NBA” moments. Zion could continue to defy limits and exceed expectations, and have his coming out party dunk moment happen in a Team USA jersey.
It will be far more difficult for Zion Williamson to make Team USA than either Anthony Davis or Christian Laettner. Neither Williamson nor the Pelicans should worry about not making the final roster if it doesn’t pan out this year.
The learning experience alone will be worthwhile. Zion falling short of the final roster could provide even more motivation to realize his full potential. A few weeks listening to Popovich would make anyone a better basketball player. The Pelicans want to create a sustained winning culture, with Zion as the foundation.
Zion Williamson will experience a great culture under Popovich’s Team USA program and can bring that leadership to the New Orleans Pelicans. He might even convince another Team USA teammates to join him in New Orleans. The pros far outweigh the cons for Zion and Team USA.