What’s the best way for the Pelicans to use Zion Williamson, who missed all of last season while recovering from a broken foot? Christian Clark of NOLA.com (subscriber link) tackles that question, examining how Williamson’s previous coaches utilized him on the court.
Underat Duke, Williamson primarily scored out of post-ups, put-backs, and lobs, averaging 22.6 points on just 13.2 shot attempts per game due to his outstanding 68% field goal percentage. As Clark writes, Williamson was a dynamic defender in his lone college season, though that hasn’t translated to the NBA.
As a rookie under Alvin Gentry, Williamson’s season was disrupted, appearing in a total of 24 games. When healthy, Williamson was again primarily utilized down low, averaging the seventh-most post-ups per game (6.9) in the NBA, Clark notes.
Things changed fairly dramatically in 2020/21, Williamson’s most healthy season to date. Stan Van Gundy allowed Williamson more on-ball opportunities, and he responded with an All-Star appearance while averaging 27 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists on .611/.294/.698 shooting.
According to Clark, Williamson’s drives per game more than doubled in his second season (5.0 to 12.9), and after not logging a single possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler as a rookie, he recorded 3.2 per game in ’20/21.
Williamson has yet to play under head coach Willie Green, but Green is known for preaching ball movement and asking players to making quick decisions, Clark adds.
Ultimately, Clark says he’d be surprised if Williamson is used as an initiator as frequently as he was a couple of years ago due to the addition of CJ McCollum in February. He also notes that individual statistics will likely have to be sacrificed amongst the team’s leading scorers (Brandon Ingram, Williamson, McCollum, and Jonas Valanciunas).
Here’s more from New Orleans:
- Andrew Lopez of ESPN takes a look at how Williamson has spent his offseason thus far, including signing a maximum-salary rookie scale extension and a trip to Las Vegas to support the Summer League squad.
- In a separate article for NOLA.com, Clark interviews reserve center Willy Hernangomez. Most of the Q&A session is focused on international competition, as Hernangomez is set to play for Spain in the upcoming EuroBasket tournament, which begins September 1. The 28-year-old averaged 9.1 points and 6.8 rebounds in 50 games (16.8 minutes) for New Orleans last season. As we noted last week, Valanciunas (Lithuania) will also be competing at EuroBasket.
- In case you missed it, Luke Adams took a look at the Pelicans’ pre-camp roster situation within an article earlier today about the Southwest Division.