When the Pelicans drafted Zion Williamson, they believed he would be a special player. Following an injury that sidelined him for much of the season, Zion now, is proving them right.
Over a 15 game sample size Zion and the Pelicans have run a 9-6 record, which would make for a near 50 win team over a full season. This after running 17-28 (.378 win percentage) over the first half of the year.
Those six loses by the way, have come against Denver (2nd in West), Houston (4th seed), Milwaukee (best record in NBA), OKC (6th seed) and of course the Lakers twice(the number 1 seed in the western conference).
Zion has now become the second best scorer nearly even with Ingram at 24+ points per game, giving the Pelicans a second 20 point scorer(Holiday averages 19). Zion is also averaging 6.8 rebounds behind only Favors for the team lead.
While Ingram has had statistically lower shooting number since Williamson’s return, even that can be seen positively given their record. The balance of scoring can now be spread across this roster, rather than so heavily relying on one or two players.
Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball are also benefiting on the stat sheet as Holiday has averaged nearly two more assists (8.6) per game, while Ball has gone +1 in assists and rebounds in the month of March (averaging 7 and 8 respectively).
Beyond the stats, it is also Williamson’s physical presence. Typically it takes a few years for players to grow into their NBA bodies, but Zion comes in with a “thick build” and the ability to go inside and attack. In that, Zion represents an offensive talent and defensive presence that was otherwise lacking on this roster.
Currently the Pelicans sit in the 10th seed, 3.5 games back of 8th seed Memphis. With 22 game’s remaining New Orleans will face opponents with a combined .443 win percentage and just a .396 win percentage when removing 4 games(MIA, UTAH, LAC and PHI).
Bottom line, with 17 of their remaining 22 games against opponents with sub .500 records(including two against Memphis), I am putting my money on the “Zion Effect.”
In what will amount to less than half a season of games, Zion Williamson will take a team from the depths of the Western Conference and into the playoffs, all while creating a ROY debate along the way.