When Will the Pelicans Unleash Zion?
There seems to be an ongoing problem in New Orleans, and the problem is Zion Williamson's playing time.
When the Pelicans won the NBA Draft Lottery last summer, the world knew Zion was headed to the Big Easy and was going to fill the void of Anthony Davis leaving for LA. The NBA world anxiously awaited the arrival of the most talked about NBA rookie since LeBron James, but offseason knee surgery halted his debut and he missed the first 44 games of the season.
The Pelicans knew what they were getting themselves into when they drafted Williamson. He's had a history of lingering knee injuries ever since high school, but his electrifying physical and leaping ability with a combination of athleticism and power made his number 1 overall selection a no-brainer.
Finally on January 22 Williamson made his NBA debut against the San Antonio Spurs, scoring 22 points in 18 minutes off an absurd 72.7% shooting from the field. In his 2nd career Williamson made NBA history as the first and only player to shoot over 70% in his first two games. Zion had finally arrived and we were witnessing the future of the NBA. In his games played before the hiatus, Zion averaged 22.3 PPG and 6.4 RPG while shooting 57.9% from the field. But then the injury bug bite Williamson again in February with a toe sprain.
The Pelicans limited his minutes during the season, and now four months later and finally healthy Williamson's minutes are getting restricted once again. In the first game of the restart Zion scored 13 points in 15 minutes in a loss against the Utah Jazz. The next game in a loss against the Clippers, he scored 23 points in 25 minutes. Zion expressed his frustrations over his minutes restriction, calling it "very tough" to not be in the floor playing.
I get why the Pelicans are being cautious with Zion because he is the future and the face of the franchise, but enough is enough already. Keeping him in a bubble (no pun intended) is not going to help his growth and development. The Pelicans are in the middle of a playoff race and their best player needs to be on the court, period.
There are concerns with Zion though, his health and weight could pose a big issue. He looks out of shape and winded at times on the court, but he's still productive when he plays. New Orleans had 30 nationally televised games this season, so it's disappointing to not see him on the floor, but it's also disappointing not to see him on the court when he's healthy. Williamson along with the rest of the league had 4 months off, so his injuries should have healed enough to get him on the floor.
In order for Zion to prove his full potential head coach Alvin Gentry is going to have to roll the dice and let this kid play and prove why he's the number one pick.