National Basketball Association

Sizing Up Zion

January 20

Young stars don't get much brighter than Zion Williamson.

The first overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, Williamson is a highlight waiting to happen anytime he touches the ball.

However, Williamson struggled to get time on the court during his rookie season, and when he did, his minutes were often limited.

After tearing his meniscus in the preseason, he didn't make his Pelicans debut until January 2020, and then he appeared in only 24 games during his rookie season.

In those 24 games, he averaged just 27.8 minutes, though he was productive statisctically, averaging 22.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.

A rookie season marred by injuries and fitness concerns led to questions about whether Williamson can reach the lofty expectations of a No. 1 pick.

But so far in his sophomore campaign, he is putting those questions to rest.

Williamson has appeared in 12 of the Pelicans' 13 games this season and is averaging 23.4 points and 8.0 rebounds. This comes with him playing 32.6 minutes per night.

In taking a deeper dive into his play this season, the numbers show that Williamson has become more productive with each passing game.

After scoring fewer than 20 points in two of the Pelicans' first three games, Williamson has scored at least 20 points in eight of the past nine.

His offensive explosion has peaked in the Pelicans' previous two games against the Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz.

On Sunday, Williamson scored 31 points on 13-of-15 shooting in a win against the Kings, a performance that made history and put his name in the NBA and New Orleans record books.

He followed that performance with a 32-point eruption on 14-of-19 shooting from the field in a loss to the Jazz.

Williamson once again found himself making NBA history.

The Pelicans are starting to see the return on their investment in taking Williamson with the No. 1 overall pick, as he is becoming more dominant each time he steps on the court.

However, his individual brilliance has not always translated into wins for the team.

The Pelicans are 2-7 this season in games in which Williamson scored at least 20 points and just 1-2 in games in which he scored 30-plus points. 

Dating back to last season, they are 11-18 when he scores at least 20 points.

Having established himself as one of the elite young players in the NBA, the next step for Williamson is to translate his individual success into wins for the Pelicans and help get them back to the postseason for the first time since 2018.

If and when that happens, he might truly be the NBA's next big thing.

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