Injured New Orleans Pelicans star forward Zion Williamson has played all of 85 games since they made him the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Scene as a generational star coming out of Duke that year, Williamson continues to deal with injuries. He’s missed the entire 2021-22 campaign due to a foot injury that doesn’t seem to be healing at the rate New Orleans had hoped.
The backdrop here were previous rumors that Williamson’s camp doesn’t see the 21-year-old All-Star as being a long-term fixture in New Orleans.
We now have some more information on this courtesy of Sports Illustrated’s Howard Beck. To say it’s rather interesting would be an understatement.
“The teams that have a star are feverishly doing everything to keep them happy. The rest are plotting to poach them. Around the league, team executives are already bracing (and/or plotting) for the next disenchanted star to ask out, with speculation focused on Zion Williamson in New Orleans, Damian Lillard in Portland and Donovan Mitchell in Utah.”Howard Beck (February 20, 2022)
We’ve heard rumors that Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are at odds with the Utah Jazz. Trade talk has also surrounded Damian Lillard fo the better part of the past two calendar years.
However, this is the first concrete information coming out regarding Williamson and his cloudy future with the Pelicans.
Will Zion Williamson force a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans?
A report from The Athletic last summer noted that Williamson’s family wants the superstar to play for another team, calling the Pelicans “a heap of dysfunction.”
Apparently, nothing has really changed in this regard over the past several months.
- Zion Williamson stats: 25.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.7 APG, 61% shooting
As you can see, Williamson has played at an elite level since entering the league back in 2019. Unfortunately, multiple bouts with injuries coupled with the COVID-19 limited 2019-20 campaign has kept him off the court for the most part.
In the 203 games that the Pelicans have played since selecting Williamson, he’s appeared in a mere 42% of them.
In reality, New Orleans front office head David Griffin has not been given the opportunity to see how Williamson would work with fellow All-Star Brandon Ingram.
The Pelicans also added star guard C.J. McCollum from the aforementioned Blazers ahead of February’s NBA trade deadline. New Orleans appears to be doing everything possible to build a winning core behind Williamson once he does return from injury.
However, recent information about Williamson’s injury and conditioning complicates things in this regard.
“Last week, Griffin said Williamson will have another round of medical imaging done on his right foot either this week or next week. Williamson has dealt with a series of setbacks on his injured right foot over the past four months.
Williamson has been overweight for virtually all of his pro career, which has complicated the recovery process. He must lose weight in order to decrease the amount of force he puts on his right foot when he runs, cuts and jumps. But it’s difficult for Williamson to lose weight without running, cutting and jumping.
Williamson was supposed to return to practice in December, but he began experiencing soreness in his right foot. That month, he flew to Los Angeles to have an injection to promote healing. It is possible he will need a second surgery on his right foot, sources said, but nothing has been decided.”Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune (February 16, 2022)
Williamson agreed to a four-year, $44.27 million deal with New Orleans after they drafted him back in 2019. It was just this past October that the Pelicans exercised his option for the 2022-23 campaign. He can be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2023.
Despite Williamson’s injury-plagued status, most teams would bend over backwards to acquire the elite talent from New Orleans should he request a trade.
As for Zion Williamson and his camp, they could be targeting a large market. Among others, that would include Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay Area.
It will be interesting to see what comes of this.