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What’s Next For Zion Williamson And The Pelicans?

This year has been weird for everyone but more for Williamson than most

New Orleans Pelicans v Sacramento Kings
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 06: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans goes up for a basket against Richaun Holmes #22 of the Sacramento Kings during the first half of an NBA basketball game at HP Field House at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 6, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. 
Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images

A lot has happened since the Pelicans missed the NBA playoffs. For one, Alvin Gentry was not retained as head coach. The job is highly desirable because New Orleans has an outstanding young core. They still have to retain former Blue Devil Brandon Ingram, who will get plenty of free agent attention after the season. Other players may be traded.

The main building piece though is Zion Williamson.

This article from the New Orleans Times-Picayune reviews his rookie season and points out a number of positives and negatives including defense that was less than what we saw at Duke and the fall off in his game when he came back to the bubble from his family medical emergency.

The criticism is fair but we’re not overly concerned. Why?

Well it’s simple really.

We’re not sure anyone has ever had a more bizarre rookie season than Williamson. First he had an injury to rehab from and when he came back he was spectacular, at least on offense. Then the pandemic hit and everything was put on hold with no indication that the season would ever resume. Then the bubble was set up and he had to leave that for a family medical emergency.

Aside from whatever the emergency was, his opportunities to work out were greatly limited by the pandemic.

Prior to that he was reportedly in great shape.

We don’t know what to expect next season obviously, not even when it might start. But as long as he stays healthy and can get consistent time in the gym, well...we know what we saw at Duke. We’ve never seen anything like what Williamson did. He just needs time and consistency and he’ll be fine.

And of course it matters who the Pelicans hire. We’ve seen in the past how the right coach can make a great player even better. Red Auerbach was the perfect coach for Bill Russell. Jack Ramsay was ideal for Bill Walton in Portland. And of course Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan were stunningly successful together.

This is a hugely important hire for the Pelicans and the NBA in general.