Zion Williamson probably heard the rumblings. It would have been impossible not to. Some claimed he was out of shape, run-down or moving worse than he did during the regular season. Hell, some were saying he shouldn't even be playing right now. Monday night, he silenced some of those doubters.
Williamson led the New Orleans Pelicans past the Memphis Grizzlies, 109-99, while scoring 23 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out five assists in only 25 minutes. Yeah, there were times when he lumbered a bit, but plenty of guys haven't looked 100 percent since the NBA's Orlando bubble started. The rookie out of Duke mostly looked like his old self.
Williamson was solid on defense but was downright explosive on offense during his bursts on the floor. He labored a bit and didn't run back on defense at one point in the fourth quarter -- which led to him getting pulled -- but after a brief rest he was on the floor as the Pelicans closed out the win.
It's clear Williamson is supremely confident and is at ease against NBA competition. He bullies his way to the rim with ease regularly, like a wrecking ball smashing through an ancient building, he's almost unstoppable once he gets going. His basketball IQ was on display against the Grizzlies as well. The kid can fire some pinpoint passes in traffic and it's likely the most underrated aspect of his game.
Zion was peaking before the NBA shut down. During March, he was averaging 24.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 33.0 minutes per game, while also shooting 61.0 percent from the floor. That followed a 10-game February in which he averaged 25.7 points per game. The shutdown obviously hurt his progress, but it's worth noting he just turned 20 in July. There were always going to be fits and starts with his development.
When Williamson is right he's one of the NBA's most exciting players to watch. Just check out the 3/4-court alley-oop he caught from Lonzo Ball Monday night:
I agree that Williamson doesn't look to be in the kind of shape he was a few months ago. He'll need to figure out what his optimal playing weight is and find a way to way to reach it. That has to be his biggest goal this offseason. Despite all of that, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the rest of his game.