By the end of the 2020-21 season, Zion Williamson had dug himself into a grave, after putting on an unhealthy amount of weight, and suffering a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot. It wasn’t looking good, but there was still hope throughout our past year.
But that hope was never more than hope.
With a rocky start to the season and an equally rocky ending, the Pelicans missed their superstar Zion Williamson all season, and failed to adapt.
The New Orleans Pelicans have been the underdogs of the west, only barely making the play-in tournament and then just barely surviving that to finally reach the play-offs, and coasting behind in 8th seed.
New Orleans hadn’t reached the Playoffs since the 2017-18 season, and they were quickly shut out in the Conference semifinals against the Warriors. This season’s recent visit to the NBA Finals was a gruelling battle with the reigning Phoenix Suns, which ultimately resulted in a loss of the series.
Going back to the beginning of the Pelicans franchise, we’ve never seen them have such a selection of big names like ex-Raptors and Grizzlies Centre Valanciunas, or the more recent Trailblazer Point Guard CJ McCollum. From their phenomenal trade with the Portland Trail Blazers, we’ve only seen the best of the Pelicans since they drafted Chris Paul back in 05. We’ve seen many stars come and go in their time in New Orleans, but we’ve never seen so many concurrent stars.
Records in the history of the New Orleans basketball franchise have never been too hot, but notably, the Pelicans best record reached was in 07-08. They went for 56-26, an outstanding score, and All-Star “CP3” averaged 21.1 points, 11.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds per-game. But in 19-20, the Pelicans finished 30-42, while Zion was averaging 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game, which even surpasses Chris Paul’s record.
With disappointing stats like these, the Pelicans need Zion, the way they needed Chris Paul when the team was new.
As of this season though, the Pelicans ended with a record of 36-46, placing eighth, ahead of both San Antonio Spurs, led by Dejounte Murray, and LeBron James’s Los Angeles Lakers. Although they put up a good fight against Phoenix, it’s safe to say that this season was a disappointment from the very beginning.
They started with a 1-12 deficit at the beginning of the season and they couldn’t climb up. By the end of December, they were still down at a record of 13-22, and couldn’t hold a longer win streak than 4. Without Zion, they were stunted, and they failed to adapt to the missing piece in their roster.
The Pelicans, despite being in the middle of the standings, secured the 8th draft pick from the Lakers this season, the 41st pick by themselves, and even the 52nd pick from Utah back in 2020. With three new talented young players, along with their current roster of rookies, all to be led to victory by their current veteran players like CJ and Jonas, the Pelican’s have potential to be an intimidating team next season.
But so much hinges on the question of whether or not Zion will return.
He’s been practising back home now, and it’s doubted that the Pelicans will part ways with Zion “NBA-All Rookie Team” Zion, after his contract comes to an end in the upcoming season, unless the Pelicans seek a rebuild around their younger rookies, like their Power Forward Herbert Jones. If however, Zion does make his return on opening night, with a few new faces on the roster, the Pelicans can be expected to have a strong showing in the Western Conference.
Zion has said that he’s open to an extension on his contract with the Pelicans, considering his last 4-year 44 million dollar contract has come to an end, and that’s only good news for the fans, but for New Orleans, it could be difficult. Zion’s contract ends as of 2023, and if Zion doesn’t suit up, facing the big cost Zion is as of now, the Pelicans could back out of an extension.
As of May 26th, Zion Williamson had finally been cleared to resume playing, but of course, the season has been well over for the Pelicans. Now, it’s up to New Orleans to keep his run. Rumours behind the lines say the Pelicans want to offer a contract for the big man, but don’t want to guarantee a 5-year max contract. With that being said, Zion’s time at Smoothie King Centre could possibly be coming to a close.
But as scary as it sounds, I think New Orleans will come through and keep him. We’re talking about the NBA 2K21 cover player here. Sure, other teams are definitely seeking a player just like Zion, so if the Pelicans choose to let go of him, they’re sure to secure an amazing deal. But I’m more than confident that New Orleans will make the right decision and choose what’s best for their future.
If New Orleans wins the championship, everyone but Chris Paul would be happy.
Cover Image Credit: @pelicansnba on Instagram