This strategy could unlock the Ingram/Williamson tandem

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

One of the common critiques that people have about the Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson tandem (outside of the fact that the two never seem to be healthy at the same time) is that they both like to play with the ball in their hands. And this can be a problem because there is “just one ball.”

Those narratives are sorely lacking in nuance, especially since Ingram was in the 84th percentile in catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage over the last three years (per Thinking Basketball). But it is true that they both are at their best when they are involved in the immediate action. That’s why this potential lineup wrinkle could help unlock the duo’s full potential.

According to Basketball Reference, Williamson has spent 5% of his career minutes at the center position. Judging from this tweet, it seems the New Orleans Pelicans want to up this percentage. This could help the team for two main reasons.

First, using Williamson more frequently as a screener in pick-and-roll opens up the opportunity for Ingram to be the ball handler. This enables both of them to be involved in the on-ball action. Williamson would make for a great pick-and-roll screener/roller. His burly build makes him a difficult obstacle for defenders to navigate. Meanwhile, his freight train speed and power makes him a dynamic roller.

On top of that, if he can take a leap as a passer this year, Ingram can flip the ball over to Williamson for him to operate as a short roll passer.

The second reason this could fully unlock the two-man partnership (and the team as a whole) is that it helps improve the unit’s spacing. As a general rule, the more space you can create, the better for your offense.

If Williamson is at the five, that means they won’t have to play non-shooters like Jonas Valanciunas or Larry Nance Jr. Instead, they can prioritize putting more shooting on the floor alongside Ingram and Williamson. Just imagine how much room Ingram/Williamson could have to work with if they were flanked by a trio of CJ McCollum, Trey Murphy III, and newcomer sharpshooter Jordan Hawkins.

That lineup would certainly run into some issues on defense, but their offense may be so prolific that it won’t even matter. Regardless, hopefully, they use the regular season to experiment with this tactic.

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