Kendrick Perkins: Pelicans Should Trade Zion Williamson
By Liam McKeone
The New Orleans Pelicans gave us news on Zion Williamson's status for the first time in months today, announcing that the superstar talent has been cleared for on-court activities after a lengthy rehab for his hamstring injury and will be re-evaluated in two weeks to see if he can return to the court. Given the season ends in two and a half weeks, this pretty much means Zion is done for the year-- a massive bummer for all those who like watching sick dunks and especially for the Pelicans, a trendy pick for a sleeper contender in the Western Conference before they collapsed down the stretch.
For those keeping track at home, that means Zion will have played a whopping 29 games in the last two seasons. His maximum extension will kick in after this season and he will make $33 million in 2023-24 despite his significant problems staying on the court. Combine those facts with how good the team looked for a while without Zion and it all adds up to an inevitable declaration, made by Kendrick Perkins on Wednesday's NBA Today, that the Pelicans need to trade Zion.
This will not be the first time you hear this take. It will probably be regurgitated many times before we see Zion on the court again. It's one of those things that makes sense in a vacuum but not so much in practice. The Pelicans are definitely not getting a player who can make a similar impact in return for Zion, because that is nearly impossible given how good he is and his stock has never been lower. He's been injured before but now he's making north of $30 million. Every team would like to have him but nobody is going to give something decent in return. Such is the unique nature of Zion as a player.
It'll be another few years yet before New Orleans even considers trading him, and that's only if his injury problems persist. They can be a good team without him but will not be championship contenders in their current form unless he is on the court. Perkins is jumping the gun here. But he is undoubtedly just the first of many personalities who will throw out a similar thought this offseason.