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Zion Williamson to sign five year deal with New Orleans. Is Zion worth the money?

The New Orleans Pelicans will take a big leap of faith on the face of their franchise, Zion Williamson, who got a new deal after sitting all of last season.

The New Orleans Pelicans will take a big leap of faith on the face of their franchise, Zion Williamson, who got a new deal after sitting all of last season.
Chuck CookUSA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans are on the verge of offering their once-in-a-lifetime draft pick from 2019, Zion Williamson, a monumental contract. The deal is for five years, and could reach up to $231 million dollars depending on performance, but a lot of people are questioning is the risk worth the reward?

Big money coming for the big man

It was reported by Adrain Wojnarowski that Williamson and the Pelicans agreed to terms on the five year deal on Saturday. While the original number attached to the contract is $193 million, that could bump up another $38 million if Williamson makes the All-NBA team, wins NBA MVP or Defensive Player of the Year next season.

There is no question that Zion Williamson is a rare specimen is a league full of the top athletes on the planet. He is listed at 6′7″ and goes about 275 on the scale. His hops are unmatched and his patent blend physicality and quickness makes him one of the most unguardable players in the league.

His freakish build is what makes him special, but can also be attributed to some of the injuries that he has had to battle through his carrer. He is coming off a season in which he rode the bench from start to finish because of a fractured right foot. Williamson was originally reported to be returning in late November, but was shut down from basketball activities until further notice. A couple weeks later it was announced he would be re-evaluated in a months time. In the end Zion missed the entire season, including the Pelicans playoff push late in the season.

New Orleans could be new kids on the block in the West

The Pelicans are no dummies. They know a healthy Williamson only adds to an already talented roster that is growing in experience with every game. Getting Zion back on the floor would push the Pelicans from a team on the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff off picture to immediate contenders in a tough confernce featuring the Warriors, Grizzlies, Mavs and Suns.

It’s a small sample size, but in Williamson’s two seasons in the NBA he has wowed. In his rookie campaign he dropped 22.5 points per game and shot 58.3% from the field. Both his average and percentage were better than LeBron James in his rookie year. He was the second player ever, after Shaquille O’Neal to average over 20 ppg and better than 55% from the field.

The next season he set an NBA record by scoring 27 points a game, and shooting 61.1% from the field, which is the most points ever scored for a player who shot better than 60% from the field.

Can Zion stay on the floor?

His statistical resumé is unlike anything we have ever seen, and his body of work holds up in the time he has played in the league. His body on the other hand is the question. While his size and stature is of the most imposing in the league, it is also the reason why he has played about a third of the Pelicans’ games since getting drafted. In his first year he missed 48 of the 72 games New Orleans played because of knee problems. The next year he played 61 of the Pelicans’ 72 games, but then he fractured his foot that offseason and was forced to sit out all of last season.

The Pelicans have surely evaluated their options, and know there is plenty of risk involved in essentially handing over the keys to the car to a youngster who has missed over half his NBA career due to injury. But the risk of letting a player who could be a generational superstar is too great to let him walk.

Without Williamson the Pelicans went just 36-46 in the regular season, but crept into the Play-In Tournament and beat the Spurs and the Clippers to earn a first round matchup with the top seeded Phoenix Suns. They took the Suns to Game 6 of the first round all the while announcing to the league that New Orleans will be in the playoff picture for a while to come.