I have never seen anything like Zion Williamson, I saw LeBron James in his prime gliding like a gazelle at 260 as a small ball power-forward for the Miami Heat and I also saw Vince Carter and Amare Stoudemire at their athletic peaks and it does not compare to Zion Williamson. Throw a young Shaquille O’Neal in there while you are at it and it does not match up, I have been following Zion Williamson since high-school and I often asked myself, is anyone keeping up with this kid?
He was shutting down gyms and I’ll admit the hype wasn’t as big when LeBron came into the NBA, mind you that was the flip phone era and everyone has a smart phone at their hands now with an infinite amount of features now which facilitates the opportunity for the NBA fan to keep up with the latest news.
I know the title of my article says Zion Williamson can lead the Pelicans to the West Finals and it is an insanely bold prediction but I would not be shocked if it happened. Zion Williamson checks all the boxes, he can jump out of the gym, he’s 6’7-280-285 pounds, he can create shots for others and is a willing passer, and on top of it all he is a great person and mature beyond his years, at 19 Zion Williamson is stepping into a situation in New Orleans with a bunch of hungry players eager to prove their place in the NBA in Brandon Ingram and especially Lonzo Ball who could evolve into an all-star within the next couple years now that his father is out of his way and less involved in his career.
2 key signings stand out to me which was the Pelicans signing JJ Redick and bringing in Derrick Favors, both these players are regarded as veterans in the NBA and they both are not looking to step on any toes or hinder the development of Ingram,Ball, and Zion as they look to take the league by storm this coming season. I’ve seen the potential in Lonzo Ball from where he scored 29 points hauled down 11 rebounds and dished out 9 assists in a game in his rookie season against the Suns, or what about when he closed out the Spurs with 3 straight bombs? The flashes have always been there but we have to understand he transitioned from playing with a young group of players to playing with LeBron James which had him have to adjust to a more off-the ball role since LeBron James is ball-dominant superstar.
Ingram has been dealing with blood clots issues but it’s been said the issue is going away so all the best to Ingram as I believe he can average 24-29 ppg over the next 5 years alongside Zion Williamsom and Lonzo Ball. As for Josh Hart who also came over in the trade I believe he will play a vital role as a 6th man of the year candidate, I remember watching him in his rookie season and how much he reminded me of Jimmy Butler the way he finished on fast-breaks when he pushed the ball up the floor and finished over defenders. The Lakers ran more of a motion offense under Luke Walton and when LeBron James came into the picture it forced Luke Walton to find a way for Kuzma,Ingram,Lonzo, and Hart to adjust their way of play to fit around LeBron James. Josh Hart spoke of being forced to shoot more 3 pointers which was not his game alongside LeBron James, under Alvin Gentry he will get back to playing to his strengths and have a bounce back season.
Throw in Jrue Holiday who has been one of the best 2 way players in the game over the past 7-8 years and it makes for a nice recipe in New Orleans, Jrue Holiday was the definition of a bucket-getter for the Pelicans down the stretch over the past few years, you can rely on him to create his own shot,play elite defense on opposing guards,serve as a reliable floor spacer, and now he will be tasked with being the leader of this young New Orleans Pelicans roster and I think he will succeed. They’ll have some decisions to make regarding an extension 2 years from now with Holiday, he will be 31 years old by then so we will see how David Griffin handles that situation. Will he trade him to extract value or consider keeping him around?
The reason I feel Zion Williamson can take this team far and they project to miss the playoffs to the NBA masses is because Zion Williamson showed me he can co-exist with other top recruits like Cam Reddish and RJ Barrett so meshing with his teammates won’t be a problem. There is no clear alpha on the Pelicans, I’d like to believe Lonzo Ball will be the transmission of the Pelicans and Zion Williamson will be the engine as Zion Williamson imposing physicality and surreal athleticism will be terrifying on fast-breaks, I believe we are ready to see Zion Williamson unleash an aeriel-attack on the NBA we have not seen since the days of Vince Carter in a Raptors uniform. Amare Stoudemire,Russell Westbrook,LeBron James, and Blake Griffin have left me with my jaw dropped at times but I would like to say that Zion Williamson will exceed anything any of those athletes ever did.
Looking at this upcoming season, the Lakers,Clippers, and Rockets stand out as the 3 elite West teams but beyond those 3 teams I think the other 5 spots are up for the taking. I think most would agree a healthy Warriors team with Klay Thompson,Stephen Curry, and Draymmond Green will always be a threat, Lillard is on a mission in Portland, and Utah picked up some floor spacers in Bogndanovic,Conley, and Green over the summer to space the floor out more for cornerstones Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Don’t forget about the Kings as Fox and Bagley look to establish themselves as all-stars,Nikola Jokic,Karl-Anthony Towns,Devin Booker, Luka Doncic,Dejounte Murray,Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the West is loaded with future superstars so Zion Williamson is not alone.
Anthony Davis who was the former franchise player of the Pelicans was never able to get the team to the Finals, some said it was injuries to Davis, Cousins going down in the second round 2 seasons ago, whatever it was the Pelicans flip the page. Not often does an organization lose a superstar and gains one the following season through the draft, but the Pelicans will be the first. When we look at a superstar in the NBA we think he has to be a great scorer but look at James Harden, an elite scorer but falls short in the playoffs year after year. Zion Williamson will not be James Harden, he is a totally different player and that is no knock on James Harden who I believe will go down a top 5-6 shooting guard all-time but judging off what I’ve seen from James Harden over the past few years he just doesn’t have that fire and passion in his eyes like Zion Williamson.
You can’t teach passion and heart and those are 2 things Zion Williamson has said he hopes he never loses, he cried and gave his mother credit for all her sacrifices to mold him into the bright 19 year old man he is about to become. I am by no means taking shots at James Harden but I just see something different in Zion Williamson, on the court I think he will blow the NBA away and we will be startled by how great of a player this kid will be, he gets after it defensively and he is far from a stiff who can’t blow by defenders. Even when his athleticism declines he incorporates fundamentals and skill with his athleticism and can put the ball the floor rather easily. He has pump fakes and decent foot-work, what I think he should develop is a turn-fade away from about 15 feet, he will be a willing 3 point shooter and I think he will shoot it more maybe 2 years from now but I believe Alvin Gentry wants to use him more as a defensive anchor and point forward which he will excel at.
To conclude Zion Williamson leading the Pelicans to not only the playoffs but a possibility of advancing in the playoffs is possible, or maybe I should get off the high-horse and come back down to reality and maybe expect a well fought first round series but go satisfied going into the off-season with Zion’s massive second year leap into a possible MVP candidate? We will see, he impacts every play practically, it’s almost like an engaged LeBron James, I have seen LeBron James grow disengaged throughout a game but boy when is dialed in he is second to none in dominance. Zion Williamson I believe understands that winning will define his ranking among the greatest players of all-time, Iverson,Barkley,Malone,Wilkins,Miller,Ewing,Stockton,Paul,Westbrook,Harden, the list goes on of former and current superstars who never became champions. Anthony Davis left the organization because he wants to win now and win big too, I’m sure Zion Williamson wants to be as good as Anthony Davis and boy it will be a battle for the ages between those two over the next 8-10 years, where is my popcorn?