Zion, Holiday, Jackson Meet 65-Game Criteria For Award Eligibility

Pelicans forward Zion Williamson met the criteria for end-of-season award eligibility on Wednesday by appearing in his 65th game of the season, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

It’s a career high for Williamson, who appeared in 61 games in his second NBA season in 2020/21 but had otherwise never played more than 29 times in a season. The former No. 1 overall pick has built a legitimate case for All-NBA consideration this season, averaging 22.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5.0 assists in 31.3 minutes per contest, with a .581 FG%.

The bad news for Williamson and the Pelicans is that he didn’t play the final seven-plus minutes of Wednesday’s loss to Orlando due to a finger injury on his left hand. As Andrew Lopez of ESPN details, Zion had his left middle finger taped up after the game, but declined to speculate on the severity of the injury when he spoke to reporters.

“I don’t want to say anything that’s not right, to be honest,” he said. “But yeah, I tweaked it a little bit. I’ll have more information on it [Thursday] morning and I’m going to get it looked at and go from there.”

Appearing in 65+ games and potentially earning an All-NBA spot this season wouldn’t have any real impact on Williamson’s contract situation, though as Marks outlines in a YouTube video, the 23-year-old is on a unique deal and his games played in future seasons will help determine how much of his salary is guaranteed or non-guaranteed going forward.

Williamson was one of three notable players to reach the 65-game threshold for award consideration on Wednesday, according to Marks, who points out (via Twitter) that Celtics guard Jrue Holiday and Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. also got there. It was technically Jackson’s 66th outing of the season, but he played fewer than 15 minutes in one of those contests, so it didn’t count toward the 65-game minimum.

Neither Holiday nor Jackson is a legitimate candidate for an All-NBA spot or for any other major award except for All-Defense. Holiday has made the All-Defensive First Team three times, including last season, and has also earned a pair of Second Team nods, while Jackson is the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year and has made the First Team in each of the past two seasons.

There’s essentially no chance that Jackson will repeat as Defensive Player of the Year for the lottery-bound Grizzlies, but it’s worth noting that if he did – or if he wins the DPOY award next season – he would become eligible for a super-max extension in July 2025.

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