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Through three NBA seasons, New Orleans Pelicans power forward Zion Williamson has played a total of 85 games. During the 2021-2022 season, Williamson failed to appear in a game, sidelined as he attempted to recover from a fractured foot.
Concerns over his health and conditioning moving forward are well-deserved considering how his short NBA has played out.
But this is the NBA, and apparently, 85 games in three NBA seasons means it’s time for a massive raise.
As reported by Shams Charania, Williamson and the Pelicans are getting close to agreeing to a five-year, $231 million contract extension, keeping the former number one overall pick in New Orleans for the foreseeable future.
New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson is nearing a five-year rookie max contract extension worth up to $231 million, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. The commitment will take Williamson’s new deal through the 2027-28 season.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 1, 2022
The deal will end any speculation of his future in NOLA, as there was at least some concern over whether Williamson would be the first player to turn down a max contract offer on his rookie deal.
But the Pelicans run to a playoff berth and subsequent feisty first-round series against the Phoenix Suns seems to have solidified Williamson’s thoughts on remaining a New Orleans Pelican.
When healthy, Williamson is a wonder to watch. The 6-6 power forward averaged 27 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game during the 2020-2021 season, the lone season in which Williamson was relatively healthy. He shot 61.1% from the field and was selected to the All-Star Game.
It’s a move New Orleans needed to make, as the threat of losing the former Duke star would have been disastrous for Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin and the small-market franchise.
“It’s not a big decision, it’s a pretty easy decision,” Griffin said in June on “The Ryen Russillo Podcast.” “The kid’s historically good when he plays … this is a max player, that’s easy.”
Griffin did say infer that the team would need to protect themselves against future injuries to Zion, which Charania reported would be the case with the extension.
“What becomes significant as a team that’s a small-market team and as a team that can’t make mistakes in terms of injuries over time, you have to indemnify yourself in some way for that and that’s fine,” Griffin continued, according to ESPN. “But the decision of whether or not this is a max player is an easy one. It’s really going to be about if you’re all the way in with us this is what it looks like and we’re all the way in with him and I think we always have been.”