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HomeBasketball TodayZion Williamson Soars into All-NBA Contention with Jaw-Dropping First Half Performance!

Zion Williamson Soars into All-NBA Contention with Jaw-Dropping First Half Performance!

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Zion Williamson has helped lead the Pelicans to prime playoff positioning and perhaps an All-NBA nod for himself.

The New Orleans Pelicans are going into the NBA All-Star break with one of the best records in franchise history. The Pelicans (33-22) sit in sixth place out west, tied with the fifth-placed Phoenix Suns on record but just one game ahead of  Luka Doncic’s red-hot Dallas Mavericks. New Orleans is keeping pace in the playoff race, and above the NBA Play-In Tournament line, thanks to some All-NBA caliber play from Zion Williamson.

Williamson, subtle hints to the city and all, knows his legacy will be earned in the NBA Playoffs. The Duke alum can still use the next 27 games to make an All-NBA case, especially considering the league’s new 65-game threshold.

More than a few All-Stars will now miss out on too many games to be eligible. A glance at the traditional stats suggest Williamson is a long shot, but a breakdown of the categories reveals a compelling argument.

Pelicans, Zion Williamson’s post-Christmas playoff push

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) controls the ball against Los Angeles Lakers forward Rui Hachimura (28) during the first half at Crypto.com Arena.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The two-time All-Star started asserting himself more after the Christmas holidays. He is 21st in points per 48 minutes since a December 28 win over the Utah Jazz, but it goes beyond the sport’s sexiest stat.

The Pelicans are 16-8 since then and Williamson is having a lot more fun as the de facto point guard. It’s starting to show up on the stat sheet. He was two assists away from a triple-double against the Jazz and an athletic well-rounded game has been on display ever since.

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Williamson is averaging 22.5 points, 5.4 assists, and 4.7 rebounds with 0.7 blocks and 0.7 steals since that win over the Jazz. Only 21 players are averaging at least 22 points, 4.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per game. This list is down to 14 over the entire season. Williamson is on both shortlists with time to improve upon those numbers.

 

Antetokounmpo leads the pack with a 61.1% field goal rate. Williamson is third this season at 58.5%, right behind Nikola Jokic. The Pelicans’ lead option has dominated lately, posting five 30-point nights in the last 13 games. There were three games with nine or more assists, all wins by the way, proving Williamson does not need to be scoring to be effective.

The 23-year-old is making teammates better in big moments, another mark of an All-World talent. Williamson is also taking care of the ball wisely with a patient approach, committing fewer turnovers than all but two players on the 14-player shortlist. The defense is still a work in progress (B- anyone?) but there are better good games than bad. Losing focus now is forgivable, but unacceptable in the playoffs.

To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man. And people have to see it. Williamson and the Pelicans have three NBA TV dates left and one last appearance on TNT. Those four games are against Jimmy Butler, Antetokounmpo, Tatum, and finally De’Aaron Fox’s Sacramento Kings.

Perhaps the national networks will take notice sooner rather than later, for Williamson’s sake. The rest of the locker room might want to lay low so as to catch everyone by surprise in the NBA Playoffs.

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Earning a spot on the All-NBA team is not a long-shot proposition for Williamson. Sure the Pelicans started slow (4-6) this season and the offense took time to develop a proper hierarchy. Now with Williamson playing Point Zion, CJ McCollum is having a career year and Brandon Ingram is making history. New Orleans has won 16 of their past 24 games and now looks forward to a fairly manageable schedule after the All-Star break.

Can Zion expect an All-NBA trophy to be delivered in 10 weeks? It would be hard to argue against it if he continues playing at the current levels. Only 15-20 other players have proven capable of the same production and a few will not be eligible.

Falling short despite those statistical facts being laid out would be a snub. Williamson would just have to take his frustrations out on a playoff opponent, or four. NBA Finals MVP trophies look better on the shelf after all.

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