Zion Williamson was the most hyped NBA draft pick since LeBron James. The only thing that most people thought could stop him from being a can't-miss, face of the franchise superstar was concerns about his health. His rookie year he tore his meniscus during preseason and was limited to 24 games. When he finally made his debut his name became synonymous with load management. Would he ever be what we expected him to be?
The short answer appears to be a resounding YES. He has been unleashed this season. He has played in 11 of the Pelicans first 12 games, only missing a game last week because of an inconclusive COVID test. During his rookie season he played 27.8 minutes a night. He was on a strict minutes restriction, results be damned. This season he's played 30 minutes a night. This month he's up to 33.8. Load management is nowhere to be seen.
What you can see is the athletic prowess that has captivated the internet since Zion was in high school. Nothing is holding him back, not that anyone could if they tried. He's now making grown men look like those same poor kids he grew up embarrassing in South Carolina. On Sunday night it was on full display as he showed an unstoppable complication of speed, quickness, power and finesse.
Big men bounced off him like he was Derrick Henry. He sent guys flying with jab steps. He went up, over, through and around guys at will. He finished with 31 points on 13-of-15 shooting. His shot chart looked like what Shaquille O'Neal's might while going through a layup line.
How can you stop that? This is the Zion Williamson we were promised. Last season there were concerns about his conditioning. This season there are just concerns for the safety of opponents. Every precaution the Pelicans took last season paid off. And now fans can bask in the warming glow of Zion Williamson highlights yet again.