Last week, New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson made waves when he showed off his impressive physique in his return to the Pelicans’ facility. Social media was abuzz, and even his teammates were praising the work their young star put in during the quarantine.
Williamson wasn’t just working on his body while he was back home, however. During a press conference with reporters, the Pels’ main man promised to show off a new and improved game once play resumes in Orlando later this month. Via ESPN:
“It just felt like I was 5 years old again. Just went back to square one, tried to get my body where it needs to be, get my fundamentals back to square one and start from there. So yeah, it was just like starting over at 5 again. It was a great process to learn it all over.”
“Yeah, I think there are going to be parts of my game that you didn’t see before that you’ll see when we start playing.”
Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry echoed Williamson, and even hinted at some improved outside shooting.
“His stepfather did a fantastic job of working him out every day, of making him be in good conditioning when we got him back. He’s made a lot of strides in his shooting, I think. Although we weren’t together, he did a lot to improve his game.”
Williamson missed the first few months of the season due to knee surgery, but once he was able to get on the floor, he was as advertised. In 19 games before the season was suspended, he averaged 23.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists, and his combination of power and athleticism made him borderline unstoppable at the rim.
Inside the restricted area, Williamson shot 63.1 percent, and was throwing down nearly three dunks per game. In some sense it feels strange to criticize a rookie who was dominating like that right out of the gates, but it is true that his offensive game is a bit limited. Outside of a 4-of-4 performance in his first game, he was just 2-of-9 from 3-point land, and operated almost solely around the basket.
While he’s proven already that he can make a huge impact living off transition opportunities, cuts, straight line drives and offensive rebounds, an improved outside shot would obviously make him even more dangerous. Could you imagine the extra space he’d have if opponents had to come out to the perimeter to respect his outside shot?
He doesn’t even need to become a great, or even good 3-point shooter either — just solid enough that defenses can’t leave him wide open. Beyond that, a go-to move or two in the post would also make him even more unguardable.
Regardless of what he did over the quarantine, Williamson was always going to be a must-watch player once the seeding games start on July 30; the prospect of an improved version of the player we saw back in the early Spring only makes him more intriguing from a fan perspective, and more terrifying from an opponent’s.