National Basketball Association

Just how great can New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson become?

April 4

When a player is selected with the first overall pick in their respective draft, there's significant pressure to live up to the hype of the selection, let alone exceed it.

But for New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, exceeding the hype seems to be the least of his worries less than two seasons into his career.

In 68 career games played, Williamson is averaging 25.0 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 61% from the field. But in taking a look at his numbers in his sophomore season, a more dominant picture is painted.

His scoring average has been raised every month of the season so far, from 19.4 PPG in December to 25.8 in January to 27.3 in February to 28.7 in March.

Overall, Williamson is averaging 26.4 points and 7.1 rebounds this season while shooting 62.4% from the field. Those numbers earned him his first All-Star Game selection at just 20 years of age.

Williamson's level of efficiency and dominance have led some to draw parallels between him and one of the grandest forces of nature in NBA history, fellow former No. 1 overall pick Shaquille O'Neal. With his name being mentioned next to arguably one of the top 10 players of all time, Zion's NBA future would appear to be as bright a lightbulb.

Nick Wright explained on "First Things First" that in his opinion, Williamson could be on the fast track to top-10 status himself.

"Of course I'm not sitting here saying that Zion is going to be one of the 10 greatest players ever, but he's 20 years old, and he couldn't be off to a better start."

Only 13 players in NBA history have averaged at least 26 points and seven rebounds in their second season in the NBA, and in that group are players such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James and O'Neal – four names that few would deny belong on the list of the game's 10 greatest players.

Brandon Marshall is just as high on Williamson, with one caveat.

"The biggest thing that he needs to home in on is the TB12 method or the LeBron James way because that's the difference between good and great. Can you do it year in and year out? Anybody can do it one year."

However, while Williamson's statistical excellence can't be questioned at this stage of his career, the gaudy numbers have not yet translated to wins for the Pelicans.

Zion is paired with another All-Star player in Brandon Ingram, as well as former No. 2 overall pick Lonzo Ball, but the team sits in 12th in the Western Conference, with a record of 21-27. This comes after a rookie season that was marred by injuries for Williamson.

The lack of winning leads Chris Broussard to think Williamson could be more like Allen Iverson or Russell Westbrook than O'Neal when it's all said and done.

"Zion could put up incredible individual statistics. Westbrook, the four years of a triple-double average for a season. Zion could have these incredible scoring numbers and field-goal percentages, become a cultural icon and a legend like Iverson and Westbrook but yet not win championships."

Luckily for Williamson and for fans, there is a lot of basketball left to be played in his career.

If his first two seasons are any indication, there's no telling how high he can rise up the all-time rankings before it's all said and done.

He's just gotta take it one year at a time.

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