New Orleans Pelicans: It’s time to start talking about Zion Williamson

Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans. (Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports)
Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans. (Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports) /

Zion Williamson poured in 35 points for the second straight win against the Phoenix Suns, pushing the New Orleans Pelicans’ win streak to a league-best seven games.

The Pels are the hottest team in the NBA and Zion has been the biggest reason, as Brandon Ingram has been sidelined for the entirety of this current streak.

The bench has rallied and proved they are the deepest second unit in the league, with everyone from Jose Alvarado to Naji Marshall making big contributions on different nights.

But it’s been the brilliance of Zion Williamson that has carried them, as he is not only scoring, rebounding and defending at the highest levels of his career, but his gravity gets open looks for everyone else and is the catalyst behind the Pels’ offense.

Zion has risen to another level in the last six games, averaging 31.2 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists while swiping 1.7 steals per game. He was an average +17.5 in those wins, while shooting an incredible 68 percent from the floor.

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The New Orleans Pelicans are sitting alone atop the Western Conference and are 4th and 3rd in offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively. Zion is the biggest reason why, so does he deserve to be in the MVP discussion?

New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson’s case for MVP

My answer to that question is: Not yet.

While Zion has been playing at an MVP level over the last six games, he’s still behind frontrunners Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic.

But he can get there.

Before the season started, I wrote about how Zion Williamson could win MVP this season and he is getting close to all of the marks. Here was my path for Zion to win MVP:

Stay Healthy

This is always going to be number one for Zion and so far, he has. He’s missed five games, but the Pels are also being very cautious with him, so I expect he will sit out from time to time this season to ensure he gets the rest he needs to be healthy for the whole year.

I still panic every time I see him hit the floor, and these questions are going to remain until Zion puts together a few healthy seasons in a row. But so far he looks great. He’s in the best shape of his life, playing big minutes and has managed to avoid injuries thus far (furiously knocks on wood).

Lead the league in scoring

Zion is doing enough on both ends that he probably won’t have to lead the league to win the MVP. Right now Zion is 15th in the NBA at 25 points per game, but this has been on the rise of late. I don’t think we can expect Zion to score 35 a night for the rest of the season, but he can definitely get closer to the league leader, who is currently Luka at 32.9 points per game.

The problem with this one is that Zion (unlike Luka) isn’t a one-man-band with no supporting cast. He’s an unselfish player with a ton of scoring talent around him, so doesn’t get as many shot attempts as any of the players ahead of him on the scoring list. In fact, of the top 20 scorers in the NBA, only reigning MVP Nikola Jokic takes fewer shots per game than Zion.

To me, this helps his case, as Zion can get his without even taking the most shots on his team.

Finish in the top-4 in the Western Conference

So far, so good on this one. The Pels are currently in 1st place, but the season is far from over and the Western Conference is very good. Only five games separate the Pels from the 10th-place Mavericks, so a lot of things are going to move around in the West as the season progresses.

Zion Williamson isn’t quite there statistically yet, but if the New Orleans Pelicans end up as one of the top seeds in the West, he should definitely be in the MVP discussion. Until then, Zion and the Pels are happy winning games behind a complete team effort, and don’t care about individual awards.

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