On the eve of NBA training camp, the New Orleans Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin promised that the best of Zion Williamson is yet to come.
“Once he gets to the point where he’s healthy enough to play his game, play with the ball more, play more as a slasher and less as a post-up presence, I think you’re going to see the real Zion come to the floor,” Griffin said.
Williamson is many things to both the Pelicans and the NBA as a whole. He was the No. 1 overall pick in 2019, but he missed the first three months of the season with a knee injury.
When he was finally healthy enough to play, Williamson was a bit rusty. Then the season was suspended. Then the NBA returned in July. All the while, Williamson showed flashes of the dominant force everyone expected him to be.
He became the first teenager to score at least 20 points in 10 straight games. He erupted for 35 points against LeBron James and the Lakers on March 1. He played hard, often wore a smile, remained humble and represented the league well.
As former Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters before a game in Cleveland, “He never turns anyone away. Eventually, I hope he learns how to say ‘no’ sometimes.”
Williamson’s personality and approach were among the NBA’s few bright spots last season. He is a refreshing change in a league that has its fair share of fickle and opinionated superstars.
At 6-foot-6 and 284 pounds, Williamson is a beast on the court and a complete gentlemen off of it. So another year of development and production for a guy like Williamson will be good for a league that is suffering in the PR department.
Griffin reiterated that he thinks Williamson is on his way.
“Everything he did, he did at a historically efficient level. And frankly, I would tell you it’s the things he enjoyed the least on a basketball court,” Griffin said. “And he was historically good at it. That’s not a function of his improvement, that’s more of a function of his opportunity to stay on the floor and be used in those interchangeable ways.”
The Pelicans need Williamson to become the superstar they’re dreaming of for the sake of the franchise. The NBA may need it even more.