The New Orleans Pelicans and Zion Williamson are nearing a five-year, $231 million extension, Shams Charania reports this morning. It's the expected decision for the franchise, even as there are no shortage of questions surrounding the former No. 1 pick's ability to remain healthy and maintain his athleticism. It's also the only thing the Pelicans could do. Because while donning a contrarian hat and deciding that investing max money in this basket isn't the best course of action, the devil you know is always better than an unknown commodity.
Williamson has the talent to be a generational player. When he's been able to play, the production has been obvious. In 85 games over his three seasons, the power forward has averaged 25.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and shot 60.4 percent from the floor. He's efficient and forceful, and there's warranted belief his three-point weaponry will be honed with time.
Early returns this offseason all point in one direction. If a player has impact, they will be paid and they will be paid handsomely. New Orleans is saddled with the existing baggage yet the narrative would shift if another team came in to swoop up an available Zion. The conversation would center around his clear potential and belief he could move past early hiccups with a fresh start elsewhere. There's no reason that fresh start and new era cannot be with the Pelicans, who have paid their dues and have already invested in a player everyone agrees has All-NBA potential.
And as far as the pricing goes, consider a comp. Yesterday the Phoenix Suns gave Devin Booker a four-year, $214 extension, which averages out to $53.5 million/season. Williamson's reported figure clocks in at $46.2 million/year. Whether a team would rather have Booker or Wiliamson over the next few campaigns is at worst an open question. The Washington Wizards agreed to give Bradley Beal over $50 million in each of the next five years. The Los Angeles Lakers are bound to pay Russell Westbrook over $47 million in 2022-23. We know exactly who those guys are and, your mileage may vary, but it certainly seems like Zion has more upside potential to be a greater value.
New Orleans surprised many people by making the playoffs and scaring the Suns. They are young, hungry, and could perhaps soar higher than previous expectations. Adding Williamson to that core is extremely attractive.
If you're a very good player in today's NBA, someone is going to pay you a lot of money. Red flags are no longer red and franchises hope the sun bleaches them out to a light pink. New Orleans had a choice yet they really didn't.