As most of us know, former Duke star Zion Williamson’s NBA debut was delayed because of injury and then shortened by the pandemic. He really hasn’t played much yet at all, yet he has left an absolutely indelible image. He goes over, around and occasionally through whoever is between him and the basket.
He’s also found a basketball soul mate in Lonzo Ball.
After a superb if brief career at UCLA, Ball was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers where he was criticized for lots of things, including his jumper.
But when you have a savant passer, who cares? You find guys for him to pass the ball to and work on the shot after practice.
And the Pelicans were smart enough to imagine what he could do with a target like Williamson. Now, after just a handful of games really, teammate Jrue Holiday says “[t]hey just have this connection. It’s kind of like a quarterback and receiver. It’s like, where he throws it, I’m not saying Zion can’t jump out the gym, but he places in the right place, Zo does. I love to see it.”
What’s going to be fun is to see how the Pelicans build around that. They already have Brandon Ingram and Jaxson Hayes.
In this year’s draft they have picks at #13, #39, #43 and #60. NBADraft.net projects those picks to bring Vernon Carey, Maryland’s Jalen Smith, DePaul’s Paul Reed and Gonzaga’s Killian Tillie, all 6-9 or above.
And in the 2021 projections, the Pels will get L.A.’s first round pick if it’s in the top eight (and is unprotected in 2022 if not), an unprotected pick in 2024 and they can also choose to swap picks in the 2023 draft.
So they can either continue to bring in young, running talent to put around their two rising stars or perhaps bundle some of their picks for a trade for, say, a Rudy Gobert who might want a fresh start.
And consider this: over this past winter, Ball’s brother, LaMelo, finally got away from his father, blossomed into a potential #1 pick with a deadly outside shot. We could see the Pels trading for him or simply waiting a few years and picking him up as a free agent.
No matter how you cut it though, guys are going to want to join the circus. If things go well, New Orleans could become a new version of show time.