New Orleans Pelicans: The offensive evolution of Zion Williamson

Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Zion Williamson keeps evolving for the New Orleans Pelicans

Zion Williamson grazed perfection in the New Orleans Pelicans 128-123 win against the Sacramento Kings, scoring 31 points on 13-of-15 shooting, not missing a single free throw, and being decisive down the stretch for his team.

By now, most of us have probably seen his mind-bending, gravity-defying reverse layup over Marvin Bagley III. It’s a mere glimpse of Williamson’s generational athleticism, which was on full display over his 35 minutes in Sacramento, but it also speaks to Williamson’s expanded offensive role over the last two games in California.

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I have criticized Stan Van Gundy more than once this season for his one-dimensional, conservative offense which largely converges around Brandon Ingram creating his own shot out of pick-and-rolls. I don’t think this maximizes the arsenal of unique players Van Gundy has at his disposal, but especially Zion Williamson. For much of the season, Williamson’s offense has been reliant on him getting the ball in the low post and either quickly making move with his back to the basket or facing up.

That’s certainly a way to use Williamson, whose combination of strength, mass, and dexterity around the basket overwhelms most NBA players. It has indeed led to Zion Williamson averaging about 22 points per game. But it’s also because of that unique cocktail of skills that Williamson’s potential is wasted, or at the very least hampered, if he’s only used in the post.

Van Gundy has deviated from that in the past couple of games, mostly in two ways. It remains to be seen if this will continue being the case once Lonzo Ball—in practice, one of the team’s primary ballhandlers and creative forces—is back, but the signs of Williamson in a more expansive attacking role are encouraging.