Zion Williamson's turnaround cements his status as Pelicans' centerpiece

Apr 16, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) reacts
Apr 16, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) reacts / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

David Griffin's end-of-season press conference sent shockwaves through the locker room at the Smoothie King Center.

""I want to be really, really clear, this is not going to be a summer of complacency. It’s time to get better.""

David Griffin

""Again, because it is a historically good western conference there are teams that didn’t make the playoffs that will get radically better this offseason, we need to do the same. I think you’ll see a real sense of urgency from all of us.""

David Griffin

If I was a member of the Pelicans roster, training staff, in-area entertainment crew, or anyone associated with New Orleans basketball, I would have been tossing and turning in my bed last night. David Griffin feels the butt of his seat warming up after six years of limited success in the Big Easy, and he knows that the pressure is on him to deliver a winner.

There is one person who has been able to sleep soundly, knowing his place in the New Orleans Pelicans pecking order is firmly intact. Superstar do-it-all forward Zion Williamson.

According to William Guillory of The Athletic, Zion ain't going nowhere.

The former number one overall pick cemented himself as the face of the Pelicans with a dominant stretch of basketball in the second half of the season. Williamson averaged 23.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game after the All-Star break, and he came through in huge moments when New Orleans was fighting for their playoff lives.

29 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists in a road win at Phoenix. 31 points, six assists and four rebounds in a road win at Sacramento. Williamson's tear coalesced in the Pelicans first play-in game when Zion put up 40 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists against the Lakers before tweaking his hamstring and derailing the Pelicans postseason chances.

Pelicans' fans and brass had been worried about Williamson's dedication to basketball and the team, but an improved mindset in the second half have quelled any question marks about his future in New Orleans.

"Multiple team sources said they had been impressed by the progress Williamson made with his mental and physical state prior to his latest hamstring injury. He was in the best shape of his pro career. He was present with his teammates after so often operating away from the group in years past. He was vocal during crucial moments as he embraced taking on more of a leadership role. Despite being injured during the playoffs, he frequently gave instructions animatedly to teammates from the bench during timeouts and picking them up during tough stretches."

William Guilroy - The Athletic

With Zion Williamson firmly in the picture, it's David Griffin's job to build around the one-of-one star. Herb Jones and Trey Murphy III are keepers, but besides the three of them, every player on the Pelicans roster should be up for grabs.

The clock is ticking on the Pelicans window to build a team around Zion before it's too late, and Griffin sees the hands slowly ticking towards midnight and the time to strike is now.