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What Will Van Gundy Do With New Orleans, Zion Williamson?

The Pelicans have immense potential

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans
One of Stan Van Gundy’s priorities with the New Orleans Pelicans will be defense where he’ll look for improvement from Zion Williamson.
Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

So how will Stan Van Gundy do in New Orleans, where he will have a roster featuring Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, JJ Redick, Frank Jackson and Jahlil Okafor?

He didn't have a great run in Detroit, but people are optimistic about his chances in the Big Easy.

One thing that will almost certainly happen: he’ll improve the anemic defense. Van Gundy is a terrific defensive coach.

And he has some good pieces to work with there.

Jrue Holiday is a superb defender. Lonzo Ball puts his time in on defense too and at least in Los Angeles, Ingram was an outstanding defender.

The question everyone wants to answer is simple though: how will he deal with Williamson?

He had some very complimentary things to say about the Pelicans and Williamson in particular before he was hired.

And after?

He compared Williamson’s potential to that of LeBron James and Charles Barkley and said this: “But he’s unique. He’s not really those guys. LeBron’s always been a primary ball-handler, point guard, point forward, whatever you want to call him. Barkley was maybe a closer analogy to Zion. What everybody notices is the big body and the great leaping ability, but he’s also got an incredible first step offensively and plays the game very unselfishly. He makes quick decisions, the ball leaves his hand quickly, so other guys can enjoy playing with him. He’s not a ball-stopper.”

That’s a pretty good insight but like most people, he underestimates Williamson’s intelligence and aptitude for the game.

We expect he’ll also be surprised by how different Williamson’s game is when he’s fully healthy, particularly on defense.

People also may underestimate Van Gundy’s drive at this point. He did well before he got to Detroit but he had only one winning season there.

He’s been out of the game for a couple of years and we’re sure he’s looking at this team as a chance at coaching redemption.