Another year, another injury-plagued season for Zion Williamson. On Friday (Manila time), it was reported that the New Orleans Pelicans’ All-Star forward is not likely to return this season.
Such will mean that by this coming Monday’s end – the conclusion of the 2022-23 regular season – the 2019 first overall pick will have missed a grand total of 194 regular season games in just four seasons.
It’s tough to see, regardless if you are a Pelicans fan or not. Williamson is a rare talent blessed with a tractor-like physique and elite athleticism, which deservingly made him one of the best prospects of all-time. He’s the type of player you’d pay to witness play, partly why he’s a two-time All-Star, including this year where got voted in as a starter.
Sadly, though, it has come to a point where there’s one injury after another, reminiscent of other oft-injured heralded youngsters in the past, particularly 2007 first overall pick Greg Oden, who only played a combined 82 games in his first six seasons as a pro, missing four full seasons in that span.
From knee, finger, hamstring, and a couple of other issues, Zion has just been battered by injuries. Here’s a breakdown of the number of contests he has sat out since entering the league:
- 2019-20: 48 missed games
- 2020-21: 11 missed games
- 2021-22: 82 missed games (out all season)
- 2022-23: 53 missed games
As a franchise with great fans who have long-yearned for playoff glory, you just start to wonder if the wait, year after year, is still worth it. The Pels have been patient, and though one can argue they’ve had their shortcomings, it may be time to focus more on building for who’s really on deck, instead of who might be there if their body holds up.
Can the Pelicans really afford to trade Williamson?
It’s hard to imagine the Pels getting rid of their prized forward. He brings too many butts in the seats, and that translates to a variety of good things for the team and the franchise. Then again, how much of a difference would it be if they can leverage that type of value into a haul of players and/or picks, which would then help make the team better, and eventually generate more ticket sales?
Let’s not forget that the Pels have quietly built a playoff squad outside of Zion, and that they actually made the playoffs last year as a play-in team and can very well do it again in the next week. Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, Jonas Valanciunas, Herbert Jones, Trey Murphy III, and Jose Alvarado are a feisty core with great offensive and defensive identities. Head coach Willie Green is also well-loved by the group, so that’s another plus.
Lastly, now is simply the time if they are indeed open to letting Williamson go. He’s still in his rookie contract and that makes matching salaries easier than usual, meaning options would be quite plenty.
What can the Pelicans get for Williamson?
Pels GM David Griffin has been up-and-down in his run with the franchise, but we can’t argue that he has pulled off some good trades and pick-ups. That alone should at least gain him some trust. He traded down in 2021 but still got a stud in Murphy III, who has been constantly improving as ‘3 and D’ weapon. Don’t forget that they still have a couple of first-round picks from the Anthony Davis trade with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2019.
If they play it right, Griffin and the entire front office can definitely acquire more picks and/or an established talent in place of Zion. There will be teams who would salivate for that trade, especially among the second-tier contenders who are hoping to get to the next level.