Should the New Orleans Pelicans trade Zion Williamson?

Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

In our recent post ranking the New Orleans Pelicans’ top 6 trade assets, it was, of course, Zion Williamson that came out as number one on our countdown.

That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone. In just four years of playing in the NBA, Williamson has already earned himself two All-Star nominations. And the best part is he’s only 22 years old.

However, the kicker is that the early portion of his career has been marred by injury. So much so that, out of the 308 regular season games that he’s been eligible to participate in, he’s only appeared in 114 (so roughly 37% of games).

This poses an interesting question: should the Pelicans avoid dealing with these injury worries altogether and trade him away for a haul while his value is still fairly high? After all, a player of his caliber would command quite a bounty on the trade market.

Before the mob of angry folks holding pitchforks comes running after me, I will answer the question: no, the Pelicans should most certainly not trade Williamson, and here’s why.

First, as we said, he’s only 22 years old, and he’s already this good! He was named an All-Star Starter this past season, which means that he was likely on his way to an All-NBA nod had he stayed healthy.

He’s also already contributing to winning basketball. Before he went down with a strained hamstring in early January, his Pelicans had a 23-14 record and were near the top of the notoriously competitive Western Conference. And when he was on the court, New Orleans was +7.9 points better (90th percentile) as a team per 100 possessions (per Cleaning the Glass).

The other big reason not to trade him is the type of injuries he’s suffering. Over the years, he’s had problems with his right knee, right hand, right foot, and right hamstring. Notice how this isn’t all concentrated on one specific body part?

That indicates that his situation is more like Anthony Davis’ (a player who experiences a bunch of random nagging injuries) than someone like Brandon Roy (most of his injuries had to do with his rapidly degenerating knees). And as we’ve seen in this postseason, a player like Davis can get healthy and be the best player on a team making a deep postseason run.

At the end of the day, the reason you draft, trade, and make moves in free agency is to land special players like Williamson. So no, you shouldn’t give up on players like that when you already have them.

And it looks like the Pelicans don’t plan on doing so either, as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin has even said this off-season will be more about making minor tweaks than about completely redecorating their roster. Plus, the team recently announced that they will be taking steps to restructure/improve their player care and performance team. Another sign that they are doubling down on Williamson and his health.

Next. Ranking the New Orleans Pelicans top 6 trade assets. dark