Listen, it has been a long time since New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson has played basketball (about eight months, to be exact). But let’s not make the mistake of forgetting how good he is when he is playing basketball.
Last season, in 29 games, Williamson averaged 26 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 4.6 APG on True Shooting that was 7.1% better than the league average. He was also selected to be an All-Star Starter before he went down with a hamstring strain on January 2nd that would eventually sideline him for the rest of the 2022-23 season.
Let me say that again: All-Star Starter. Do you know what that means? Theoretically, that should mean that he’s one of the ten best players on the planet. You know, considering only ten players get that honor every year. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that Bleacher Report abides by that logic.
On Thursday, Bleacher Report put out a top-100 list. And guess what? Zion Williamson was not even in the top-20. In fact, he fell all the way down to 28th, which is six spots below where he was last season. Here is their rationale for the decision:
"“If we knew Zion Williamson would remain relatively healthy for the rest of his career, he’d be far too low in these rankings. There’s no one in the NBA who can match his combination of strength and speed, as evidenced by the 26.0 points on 60.8 percent shooting that he averaged in only 33.0 minutes per game this past season.”“We don’t have the luxury of knowing the future, though. And with Williamson having played only 114 games across his first four seasons—he missed the entire 2021-22 campaign with a foot injury that required surgery—it remains unclear whether his body can hold up to the rigors of the 82-game regular season.”“Williamson popped up in trade rumors this offseason, which perhaps speaks to the New Orleans Pelicans’ ongoing frustration with his lack of availability. However, during an appearance on the Gil’s Arena podcast (h/t Andrew Lopez of ESPN.com), Williamson said he’s been “locking in on flexibility” and “band work” this offseason to improve his chances of staying healthy moving forward.”“Before Williamson suffered the hamstring injury in early January that sidelined him for the rest of the year, the Pelicans were 23-14 and had the third-best record in the West. If he manages to dodge the injury bug this season, the Pelicans could be the out-of-nowhere team that goes on a surprisingly deep playoff run.”"
Listen, at a glance, the 28 ranking seems unfair. It’s easy to paint this decision as disrespect to Williamson (hence the title of the post). But they make a good point here. Williamson does have an injury problem, and until he proves otherwise, we need to be cautious with our evaluation of him as a player.
Hopefully, Williamson goes the distance this season because if he can stay healthy, he’ll make this preseason ranking age very poorly.