For better or worse, not much has been heard from the New Orleans Pelicans over the first half of the season.

Their 30-21 win-loss record is solid, yet unspectacular. They are tied for fifth place in the Western Conference with the Phoenix Suns which is right about where most pundits expected them to land in their preseason forecasts. This has kept them out of the mainstream discourse that has instead been dominated by the better-than-expected form that the Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder have shown this season. 

The Timberwolves and Thunder actually have somewhat a similar timeline with the Pelicans as all three of these franchises are led by superstars who are still 25 years old or younger. Anthony Edwards and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have emerged as potential NBA Most Valuable Player candidates for their respective teams this season while New Orleans’ Zion Williamson seems to have fallen behind.


Injuries have played a major role in delaying Williamson’s rise to superstardom as the first overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft managed to appear in just 114 out of a possible 328 regular season games across the first four years of his career. These injuries seem to have sapped away some of his athleticism too as he has had significantly less highlight reel moments this year which could also help explain why their team has been rather anonymous. 

Williamson has shown glimpses of what kind of all-around superstar that he can ultimately become when healthy though, especially in his sophomore campaign. Back in ‘20-’21, he played a career-high 61 games and averaged 27 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists which helped lead to his NBA All-Star Game debut. 

Williamson is on track to setting a new career-best this season as he has already suited up for 41 of the Pelicans’ 51 regular season games. The load management employed on him by New Orleans’ coaching staff has paid off as of now, albeit his measly 30.3 minutes per game has also led to the worst per-game numbers of his career. 

Nonetheless, Williamson’s availability this season bodes well for the Pelicans’ immediate and long-term future. His health–or lack thereof–is a popular talking point among those in the mainstream media and the fact that he has managed to stay on the court has allowed him to grow outside of the spotlight. Now that there are less eyes on him, Williamson has a prime opportunity to grow and, more importantly, get himself into better shape so that he can turn into the force that he was expected to become in the NBA. 

New Orleans is slowly rounding into form as well and have now won their first four contests this February after closing out January with a three-game losing skid. Their most recent win was their most impressive one so far as they went on the road and beat the Los Angeles Clippers by 11, 117-106. Seven different Pelicans players scored at least eight points in the victory and Williamson was a major reason for this. Aside from scoring 21 points, the 23-year-old forward also racked up 10 assists and only two turnovers as he constantly created opportunities for his teammates throughout the evening, 

If Williamson can do this on a consistent basis, this New Orleans team could potentially enter the conversation as a legitimate candidate to make the Western Conference Finals. This group is already one to reckon with as they are deep and filled with long players who can play multiple positions. However, it is Williamson’s unique combination of brute force and all-around offensive skill that holds the key to elevating this team into the upper echelon of the West. 

The Pelicans and Williamson may not be getting as much attention as they have in the past, but they have a chance to surprise the rest of the West come the playoffs. With Williamson healthy–at least for the time being–and playing better by the week, they have the potential to make some noise over the coming weeks. They still have much to work on before they can catch up to Minnesota and Oklahoma City, but this team should be happy at the very least that they have been relatively healthy for the first time in what seems like ages. 

The Pelicans may be flying low in the West, but it is clear that they are, slowly but surely, ready to rise.