As the NBA tries to find the best solution to re-start its season, it seems like the most likely methods include Zion Williamson as a piece of the puzzle.
Coming into the NBA as the first overall draft pick, Zion Williamson had a nearly unprecedented level of buzz surrounding his debut. Some analysts were skeptical about his ability to transition to the highest level of the game, but athleticism matters in the NBA, and Williamson may be one of the most athletic and explosive players in the history of the league.
His NBA debut with the New Orleans Pelicans didn’t actually come until January 22nd, but it was electric when it did. After a lethargic start against the San Antonio Spurs, he ended up completely dominating the fourth quarter and hit all four of his 3-point shots while dominating physically and around the basket.
ESPN moved their schedule around when Williamson’s return drew nigh to ensure they would be able to broadcast this game, and considering the unbelievable fourth quarter he had, it’s a good thing they did. It appears that the NBA is invested in making sure we get more than 19 games of Zion Williamson in his rookie season as well, as much like ESPN flexing its schedule to show Zion’s debut, the league appears to be interested in either expanding the playoff format to a 20-team group stage or a play-in tournament of some sort.
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Whatever it takes to get more of him in action, and perhaps even squeeze him and the Pelicans into one final playoff push, it certainly appears the NBA will try to do it.
While maybe this isn’t the time for the league to re-invent the wheel as it seeks to get its season back in gear, if there was ever a time to try, Zion Williamson’s rookie season might just be the time to do it.
His numbers are eye-popping. He averages 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in just 29.7 minutes per game (he started the season on a firm minutes limit) and is absolutely unstoppable around the basket. The Pelicans are just 10-9 in games where he plays, but he only played a combined 39 minutes in his first two games, both of which were losses.
Zion is the most electrifying rookie the NBA has seen in a long time, perhaps since LeBron James‘ own rookie season. Maybe a team like the Memphis Grizzlies, the Western Conference’s current eight seed, has a gripe that the league is trying to give the Pelicans every chance to get into the playoffs.
But if there’s a time to do it, after the stretch the NBA has had after suspending their season for what will likely be about four and a half months (assuming a July 31st re-start), positioning themselves so Zion can get more eyes and attention on the league is a good enough reason to consider such a revolutionary move.
We live in unprecedented times, and Zion Williamson himself may just be an unprecedented player. That sounds like a good enough reason to me.