New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson is better than you think

Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans have had drama comparable to a soap opera this off-season. Seemingly every day, there is a new report coming out that tarnishes the image of the franchise. Player moves have raised eyebrows, and it’s evident from the outside looking in that tensions are high.

When the New Orleans Pelicans won the 2019 NBA Draft lottery, off-seasons of this nature were supposed to be in the past. The team won the right to select Duke superstar Zion Williamson, the highest touted prospect since LeBron James in 2003.

Winning the lottery was like being handed a golden ticket that would Fastrack the organization out of the days of mediocrity and unstableness. The days of being a footnote of the NBA were going to be over, and once the young nucleus matured, a title contender in the Big Easy would be a near reality.

Now, just a few years later, the chances of Zion staying to fulfill that prophecy grow slimmer by the day. Personnel upheaval and incompetence from the top have created a rift between the star and the team, one that could end in a departure. It’s expected Zion stays the season, but long-term plans look somber at best.

Many fans are preparing themselves for life without their superstar, changing the lens of how they view the player. Zion would be the next star to leave the team as he is nearing his prime, first done by Chris Paul and Anthony Davis. Although all seasons are different, the final result could be the same. New Orleans ‘ inability to maintain their top-tier talent is an inditement on the franchise and not the players who’ve had their runs tarnished by incompetence.

Fans should direct their attention towards the team mishandling of Zion and not the team itself. No one on the team, including Brandon Ingram, has anywhere near the ceiling that Zion has. He’s a phenomenal player and probably better right now than many people realize.

The New Orleans Pelicans have to keep Zion because he is this good at 21

There is only one player in the history of the NBA to average over 25 points, grab 5 rebounds a game and shoot over 60% from the floor before they were legally allowed to drink: Zion Williamson. Let that sink in. No one in history has been more offensively dominant at such a young age like Zion.

Basic stats can sometimes be skewed, which is why advanced stats are the best way to look at a player’s overall impact. Of players to play in over 60 games, only one player on a losing team had a top 25 WAR besides Williamson, Spurs center Jakob Poetl. Unsurprisingly, it was in large part due to his offensive brilliance.

His total offensive ranking was 24th in the NBA, and of players that played at least 60 games, in the top-15. His efficiency and ability to contort his body to create an easier angle have made him one of the best offensive players in the league.

Many will read this and complain that numbers don’t matter because they don’t translate to physical wins on the court. The Pelicans haven’t done anything of note since drafting Zion, which must mean he isn’t a winning player. Luckily there is a stat for everything, including win contributions. In total win shares, Zion was 11th in the league last season. His mark faired batter than Trae Young, Jayson Tatum, and some guy named LeBron James.

When talking about the top-20 players in the game, Zion’s hat rarely gets tossed into the ring. Whether it’s the small market or his youth turning some away, they have to stop. His ability to elevate his team when on the court, matched with offensive dominance and defensive promise, makes Zion a superstar in the making. He’s closer to a top-10 player in the league than a top-25 one.

The fact some Pelicans fans are acting like losing Zion might be a blessing in disguise is absurd. Only Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum are better young players in this game, and Zion’s ceiling is just as high as both players. He is playing at a historic clip, but few understand just how special he has been.

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The Pelicans won the lottery when they drafted Zion – now we have to see if they lose their ticket.