The New Orleans Pelicans are on a slight transition period heading into the 2020-21 NBA season. They have moved on from Alvin Gentry and have replaced him with a different veteran, offensive-minded coach, Stan Van Gundy.
Fresh-off being named the team’s new maestro, Van Gundy spoke to the media via Zoom and hinted that he has a wide vision for one of his young stars, Zion Williamson. He believes that the 20-year-old is capable enough to truly go beyond his usual power forward spot.
“I don’t look at him in any way, as far as, ‘Is he a four or a five?’ … I’m not sure those labels matter when it comes to him. I think as we study and try to get more definitive and talk to Zion about what he likes, I think it’s more what positions we want to put him in and who’s best around him and things like that. It’s not limiting him to a position.”
It’s an interesting plan and very on-brand for Van Gundy, who’s not shy to take risks. Let’s not forget that he was the architect of another three-point revolution back in the late 2000s with the Orlando Magic, years before the dynastic Golden State Warriors did it.
Also interesting is that Williamson has dabbled on playing the five while in college at Duke, and was pretty good at it – good enough that he smoothly maintained his place as the consensus first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Now, before we get all hyped up, keep in mind that it’s still not a surefire thing. The NBA is obviously a faster, more complex ballgame compared to the NCAA, and though Williamson has been superb in his 24-game stint thus far (22.5 PPG, 58.4 FG%), the center position has its own set of challenges that the youngster still hasn’t fully been tested with.
Williamson does not have an outside game and has been considerably suspect on defense, which means he can’t stretch the floor or contain his counterparts beyond the paint. Such shortcomings are sure to kibosh the experiment fast.
Potential personnel problems may also be in play. The Pels have established a solid young core that should be allowed to grow beyond a season. Brandon Ingram, who’s co-headlining the group with Zion, just won Most Improved Player of the Year while regularly playing his natural three spot. Moving to the four may cause some delay on his development.
Along with that is a clog on the four and five as 2019 lottery pick Jaxson Hayes and veteran Derrick Favors are also on deck.
It’s a tough decision, but very intriguing to anticipate nonetheless.
Well, whatever happens, the Pelicans will stay as one of the most talented young teams in the league. We’ll soon see what Van Gundy and his crew have cooked up.