Zion Williamson ranked ahead of Paul George on ESPN Top 100 NBA list

The list by ESPN was heavily criticized by basketball fans on social media with many crushing Williamson’s ranking.

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New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson was ranked 19th on the ESPN Top 100 NBA Players list that published on Wednesday morning ahead of the 2020-21 season.

Despite playing just 24 games last season, the former No. 1 overall pick appeared ahead of several established players on the list by ESPN, including the likes of Paul George, Jamal Murray, Kyrie Irving and Bradley Beal among others.

The criteria used to rank players on the list appeared to be fairly straight up, with voters predicting what they expect from each player during the upcoming season. No rookies from the 2020 class were included while Williamson and Ja Morant (31) were the only two ranked from last year.

Williamson was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team after averaging 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season. Of course, Williamson didn’t debut until Jan. 22 following knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus suffered during the preseason.

The list by ESPN was heavily criticized by basketball fans on social media with many crushing the selection of Williamson at No. 19. While Williamson turned in an exciting rookie season, the idea of him being ranked ahead of so many other notable players did not sit well with fans.

Regardless of his ranking, Williamson appears poised to enjoy more success in his second season.

The 20-year-old is fully healthy now with no restrictions in training camp and should be on pace to log a complete season with the Pelicans. However, even predicting moderate-to-good success this season still likely doesn’t warrant a ranking at No. 19.

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JJ Redick named the most impressive thing about Zion Williamson’s game

Redick discussed the most impressive aspect of Williamson’s game and it wasn’t his high-flying dunks, either.

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New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson may have only played 24 games as a rookie but the former No. 1 overall pick certainly proved to be one of the most exciting players in the league.

From his first official NBA game, in which he erupted for 17 straight points on Jan. 22, to his last game of the season in the bubble, Williamson left his mark nearly every time he stepped onto the court with his athleticism, size and strength.

Fans marveled at what Williamson accomplished on the court in such a limited sample size and his teammates were no different. On Friday, JJ Redick discussed with reporters on a Zoom call what impressed him the most about Williamson.

Zion has an amazing ability to get his own rebound, I think that was probably the most impressive thing. His second jump is quicker than everyone else’s and, at 15 or 17 feet when he catches the ball, his ability to get in one movement in that area to the rim with as much speed and force as anyone I’ve ever seen. I think those are the two most impressive things with him.

Williamson averaged 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season and emerged as an elite offensive rebounder. He hauled in 2.7 offensive rebounds per game (64 total), which ranked 22nd among all players in the NBA. Had he been healthy, Williamson likely would have finished among the leaders.

His combination of strength and athleticism allowed him to create several second-chance opportunities for his team on the offensive glass. The most impressive aspect was his ability to chase his own misses, grab them and then put them back up.

Looking ahead to this season, the Pelicans acquired Steven Adams over the offseason, who is among the best rebounders in the league. His arrival has many Pelicans fans excited as the organization has perhaps two of the best offensive rebounders on the roster in Williamson and Adams.

Williamson’s success in his second season with the Pelicans will be dependent on his health and availability but if he can stay on the court this season, the possibilities of what he can accomplish may be endless.

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A refreshed Zion Williamson looking to have fun with Pelicans in Year 2

Williamson faced plenty of adversity with the Pelicans as a rookie but is looking forward to having fun again in his second season.

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Zion Williamson experienced quite a rookie season with the New Orleans Pelicans, from missing over half of the year due to knee surgery to navigating through the uncertainty of playing during a pandemic. Now, with one year under his belt, Williamson is just hoping to have some fun again.

The former No. 1 overall pick spoke with members of the media on Wednesday ahead of the start of training camp and said he is in a great position, both mentally and physically. Williamson dealt with constant questions surrounding his health and availability last season but is seemingly healthy and ready to return to the player many witnessed dominate at Duke.

“What I’m looking forward to is showing the world me and being myself, going out there and having fun,” Williamson said. “Showing my competitive nature and trying to win. I just want to show the world my love and compassion and competitive spirit for the game.”

Throughout his rookie campaign, Williamson learned quite a bit about the NBA and adversity. He suffered several setbacks to begin his career and his much-anticipated debut was eventually pushed back several months to Jan. 22. Even when he played, he often was faced with a minute count and didn’t look completely comfortable at times.

The top picks in the draft are constantly under the microscope and that was certainly true of Williamson. The obstacles Williamson faced over the season made it hard to truly enjoy the process and he acknowledged that he would approach his second season with the Pelicans in a different manner than last year.

Over the summer and the offseason, I think I’ve truly come to understand a lot more and that is live moment by moment. Last year, so much happened and I feel like it all happened at once and there were so many directions I had to look and things I had to do that I couldn’t live in the moment. I think this year, I have a better understanding of it and will be living in the moment because I feel like when I live in the moment, I can cherish it a lot more. It allows me to have fun and be who I am.

Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy said this week that Williamson will enter the 2020-21 season with no restrictions in training camp. Williamson spent much of the truncated offseason period working out with his stepfather while staying close to his family during the coronavirus pandemic and he appeared to be in good spirits ahead of the season.

Williamson said there were several elements of his game he was unable to show off last season and will be looking to do so this season. Van Gundy will be looking to utilize Williamson this season more as a slasher and playmaker and that may very well result in an improved sophomore year with the Pelicans.

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Zion Williamson has no limitations going into Pelicans training camp

Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy said Williamson will not have any restrictions heading into the start of training camp.

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New Orleans Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy on Monday said that Zion Williamson will have no limitations heading into the start of training camp prior to the 2020-21 season.

The Pelicans begin camp on Sunday with their two-game preseason schedule set to tip-off on Dec. 14 versus the Miami Heat. Van Gundy will have a better idea of Williamson’s level of conditioning once practices begin but acknowledged that will be true of every player on the roster.

“As for Zion, no one — not Zion, not our medical staff — has mentioned any limitations going into camp,” Van Gundy said. “As far as the conditioning and where it is, it’s not just Zion, it’s everybody on the team. I won’t have any idea on that, really, until Sunday when we get into the first day of team practice and start going up and down the floor a little bit.”

Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said on Monday that the biggest question with Williamson will be his availability this season. Griffin said Williamson flourishes when he can attack and slash, which he was limited on at times last season.

Of course, Williamson played 24 games last season as a rookie, including five during the restart. He looked sluggish at times on the court at the Walt Disney World Resort and even sat during the second game of a back-to-back set.

Williamson, like every player, will need some time in order to get back into shape as most have been limited in training amid the coronavirus pandemic. Teams are beginning to re-open facilities this week and it will prove to be a crucial period as the 2020-21 season approaches.

Van Gundy said that the Pelicans will look to use Williamson at the small forward position on the floor, in addition to the four and five. The team doesn’t want to limit him to one position but to, instead, utilize his unique skill set and ability to make plays on the court.

The organization will certainly look to see if Williamson can stay healthy this season and how effective he can be on a nightly basis. The team has an intriguing young core of players with Williamson, and his health, a key component of that group.

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Zion Williamson is now the longest-tenured player on the Pelicans

Shockingly, Zion Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, is now the longest-tenured player on the Pelicans.

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Shockingly, Zion Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, is now the longest-tenured player on the New Orleans Pelicans following a series of moves this offseason.

The revelation was unearthed on Reddit, courtesy of u/322KPM, as all of the players that joined the Pelicans prior to Williamson, have now either been traded or signed elsewhere in free agency during the truncated offseason period.

Williamson took over the reins once the Pelicans traded Jrue Holiday to the Milwaukee Bucks last week. In addition to Holiday, Derrick Favors (Utah Jazz) and Jahlil Okafor (Detroit Pistons) left the Pelicans in free agency and have already agreed to new deals.

Based on how the Pelicans structured some other deals, Williamson, who signed on July 1, 2019, narrowly has the edge over the likes of Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram, who were all officially acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers on July 6.

Here are the signing and acquisition dates of the rest of the roster:

  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker: Rights acquired on July 7
  • Zylan Cheatham (two-way): Signed on July 26
  • Josh Gray (two-way): Signed on July 26
  • Jaxson Hayes: Rights acquired on July 7
  • Nicolò Melli: Signed on July 25
  • J.J. Redick: Signed on July 15

Additionally, Frank Jackson, E’Twaun Moore, Sindarius Thornwell and Kenrich Williams all have not received new contracts with the Pelicans and are currently free agents. They have not signed with new organizations as of Saturday.

The Pelicans have been among the most active teams thus far this offseason and are certainly transitioning into the next phase of their competitive state. Despite all of the moves, the idea of Williamson being the longest-tenured player is still somehow shocking.

He’ll be around for quite some time, too…

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21 Savage wants to see Zion, Ja Morant play together on the same team

The 28-year-old rapper went on Twitter this week and expressed his hope to one day see Williamson and Morant team up.

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New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson and Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant emerged as perhaps the two most entertaining players from the 2019 NBA draft and showed out each time they stepped onto the court this season.

Of course, Williamson and Morant are also friends off of the court after playing on the same AAU team in South Carolina. Williamson hilariously revealed in January that he and Morant were role players on that AAU team, well before they became the top two picks in the draft.

Given the strong friendship between the two, basketball fans have long wondered about Williamson and Morant playing together on the same team, including 21 Savage. The rapper went on Twitter this week and expressed his hope to one day see them team up together.

Williamson and Morant each played together during the NBA Rising Stars Game at All-Star Weekend as they led Team USA to a win over the World Team. Williamson scored 14 points and two rebounds while Morant had 10 points, six assists and five rebounds.

The two pals put on a show during the showcase as they each threw down a number of highlight-reel dunks. Williamson even connected with Morant on an alley-oop that tilted the backboard, requiring a readjustment. The final minute of the game turned into an impromptu dunk contest.

After watching Williamson and Morant show out, fans of the game hope to one day see the two play together on an actual NBA team. For now, though, we may just have to cherish the moments when they link up in exhibition games during All-Star events.

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Executives, coaches question Stan Van Gundy’s fit with the Pelicans

A couple of anonymous executives and coaches are unsure if Van Gundy is the right head coaching hire for the Pelicans.

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On Wednesday, Stan Van Gundy reportedly agreed to become the next head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans after the organization fired Alvin Gentry in August, according to ESPN. Van Gundy confirmed the news on Twitter.

Van Gundy arrives in New Orleans boasting a 523-384 record in 12 seasons as head coach after stops with the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons. He has won at least 50 games in five different seasons and led the Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009.

The 61-year-old inherits a team that posted a 30-42 record last season and failed to qualify for the postseason at the Walt Disney World Resort. Despite missing the playoffs, Van Gundy will have a good blend of veterans and younger players that likely made the job attractive.

Van Gundy has been touted for his ability to teach his players while bringing accountability and discipline on and off of the court. His former players have often praised him for his level of preparation throughout the season and playoffs.

However, the immediate reaction to the hiring appeared to be mixed among executives and coaches. According to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, one anonymous Western Conference assistant coach wasn’t necessarily impressed by the move.

It doesn’t move the needle for me. I didn’t think Stan would get another job. I know they want structure and accountability, but a 61-year-old, non-former player connecting with a 20-year-old Zion [Williamson], 22-year-old Lonzo Ball, and 23-year-old Brandon Ingram wouldn’t exactly be my move. Thought they’d push harder for Jason Kidd, personally.

Of course, one reason why the Pelicans’ job was attractive is because of the presence of Williamson. The No. 1 overall pick proved to be electric during his 24 games on the court last season and his relationship with Van Gundy will be key to the Pelicans having success.

Additionally, the Pelicans also have Ball, Ingram, Josh Hart, Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker in the fold, as well. Ingram was named the Most Improved Player while Ball and Hart showed improvement and the rookies showed promise throughout the year.

“He’s a very good coach but I don’t know if he fits with the players on the team,” a long-time Western Conference executive said, according to HoopsHype.

While some have doubts about Van Gundy taking over, others like the move since he will bring structure and allow his players to grow under his watch. J.J. Redick has said in the past that he owes a lot to Van Gundy for giving him his start with the Magic early on in his career.

Certainly, there are areas where Van Gundy excels that will be a positive change for the Pelicans while other elements will need to be developed in the coming months. In any case, the fit between the two will be worth monitoring…

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ESPN lists two players from the 2019 NBA Draft class as untradeable

ESPN highlighted those that should be off the table in trade conversations, which only includes two players from the 2019 NBA Draft class.

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With the NBA Finals beginning to wind down, teams around the league are continuing preparations ahead of the offseason, which, of course, includes the draft and start of free agency.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, teams may be reluctant to sign players to large contracts given the financial loss from this season and uncertainty with the salary cap. With free agency expected to slow down, the trade market should see plenty of activity this offseason.

ESPN front-office insider Bobby Marks detailed each team’s trade assets. From draft picks to players on team-friendly contracts, executives project to have quite a bit to work with when it comes to executing trades this offseason.

Of course, not every player is available in trade talks. The distinction of being untradeable applies to only a small percentage of players, ranging from All-Stars to those younger individuals that project to have a bright future in the league.

Marks highlighted those that likely will be off of the table during conversations, which, from the 2019 NBA Draft class, includes only two players: New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson and Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant.

The designation of Williamson and Morant as being “off of the table” likely isn’t surprising. They were each the top two picks in the draft and project to have perhaps the brightest futures of any other player in their class, maybe with the exception of just a few others.

In total, Marks listed just 25 players around the league as being untradeable. In most cases, those players included the likes of LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and others. When given that criteria, it makes sense only Williamson and Morant were included.

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Air Jordan XXXV ‘Bayou Boys’ official release date set for November

Zion Williamson and Rui Hachimura are among the players that will help usher in the Air Jordan XXXV next season on the court.

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Nike announced on Thursday that the Air Jordan XXXV will hit stores globally on Oct. 17 in the “Center of Gravity” colorway, which honors the original Air Jordan V on its 30th anniversary.

Five new colorways were unveiled in the latest rollout as Jordan Brand athletes Zion Williamson, Rui Hachimura, Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic, Kemba Walker and Kia Nurse will help usher in the latest Air Jordan sneaker on the court.

Jordan Brand created two Air Jordan XXXIV PE shoes for Williamson this season, which included the “Bayou Boys” and the “Noah” colorways. With the upcoming release of the Air Jordan XXXV, Williamson will see an updated look for the “Bayou Boys” hit stores on Nov. 30.

The Bayou Boys | Release Date: Nov. 30

Photo courtesy of Jordan Brand

Williamson signed a five-year, $75 million contract with Jordan Brand in July 2019, the richest annual rookie shoe deal in NBA history. He helped usher in the new Air Jordan XXXIV shoes this season and will now transition to the next model in the iconic signature line next season.

In addition to Williamson, Hachimura will also have a new PE colorway released, which was designed by his mother. “The Warrior” will hit stores on Oct. 21 and will feature a Kanji-inspired samurai logo that honors his family’s name and his spirit on the court.

The Warrior | Release Date: Oct. 21

Photo courtesy of Jordan Brand

Jordan Brand has added some of the best up-and-coming players in the NBA and WNBA to its roster as the apparel company looks to continue its dominance in the marketplace around the world.

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Pelicans, Zion announce Smoothie King Center as early voting location

The Smoothie King Center in New Orleans is the 21st arena in the NBA to serve as an early-voting location.

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Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans announced on Tuesday that the Smoothie King Center will provide early voting next month ahead of the 2020 general election, the 21st arena in the NBA to serve as an early-voting polling location.

The announcement came as the NBA, as part of National Voter Registration Day, launched a new online resource hub highlighting leaguewide efforts around voting and civic engagement and connecting fans with non-partisan voting and Census completion resources.

Citizens in New Orleans can stop by the Smoothie King Center from Oct. 16-27 to cast their vote before Election Day in a safe and socially-distanced environment.

I hear you guys all of the time in the Smoothie King Center where it’s loud. There is a more important way for your voice to be heard: Voting. From Oct. 16-27, early voting will take place all across the state. To accommodate voters in a safe and socially-distanced environment, Orleans Parish will provide early voting at the Smoothie King Center from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Team governors, coaches and players met last month to discuss additional ways to help raise awareness for key issues and promote social equality in the United States. The league together with the players will work to enact several commitments and initiatives, including early voting.

The plan set forth by the NBA and NBPA included a commitment that team governors will work with local elections officials to convert arenas into voting locations to allow for a safe in-person voting option for communities to vulnerabilities to COVID.

Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said last month that the NBA worked to get each player at the Walt Disney World Resort registered to vote on site. Rivers said that only 20% of players were registered to vote in the last election and they wanted to help raise that number this year.

NBPA president Chris Paul said previously that putting a plan into place regarding voting was a key issue that players wanted to address. The players have helped raise awareness for early voting and that has resulted in increased engagement around the U.S.

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