Finally, Zion Williamson’s NBA debut with the New Orleans Pelicans is here.
The #Pelicans announced the Jan. 22 home game vs the Spurs will be nationally televised by ESPN with a new tipoff time of 8:30 p.m. CT.
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 17, 2020
Williamson had his meniscus in his right knee fixed at surgery happened on Oct. 21, the day before the Pelicans opened the 2019-20 season against the Toronto Raptors. The initial timeline for Williamson was six to eight weeks, which would have put his return in early-to-mid December. However, the Pelicans took the massively cautious route and have held him out until now, in a home matchup on Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
However, Pelicans Executive Vice President David Griffin recently confirmed that those reports were incorrect.
“Our anticipation is that he’ll play his first game on the 22nd at home vs. San Antonio”
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 15, 2020
I hope you saw Zion Lateef Williamson in the last NBA match. They killed the score by making 17 straight points in the 4th Quarter. He is an American professional basketball player for the New Orleans Pelicans of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He plays the small forward and powers forward positions. Following a dominant freshman-year stint with the Duke Blue Devils, he was selected by the Pelicans first overall in the 2019 NBA draft.
In his freshman and only season with Duke, Williamson was named ACC Player of the Year, ACC Athlete of the Year and ACC Rookie of the Year. He set the single-game school scoring record for freshmen in January 2019, claimed ACC Rookie of the Week accolades five times, earned AP Player of the Year, Sporting News College Player of the Year recognition, and won the Wayman Tisdale Award.
Watch all his moves:
ZION WENT OFF 😳
17 points and 4/4 from deep in 3 minutes pic.twitter.com/CfYklzb2Bv
— ESPN (@espn) January 23, 2020
How Zion uses his go-to moves
How Williamson Bangs scorecard at NBA? Zion creates his own style to stand out as a superstar.
Here are Zion’s favorite moves and how he plays with the ball to be at the pro level.
Zion was the camp at his college basketball and the best scorer in large part because of his footwork in the post. His attack moves are simple, but the speed at which he utilizes basic drop-step footwork makes him tough to guard on the block.
He sets the move up by shifting his body weight one way and slowing up while wrapping his foot around the defender before quickly exploding into the movement. When he doesn’t have the strength advantage, he utilizes fakes to shake his defender, widening his stance to hard plant one foot and show the ball in that direction. This foot stepping maintains the balance and swinging around his other foot before violently going into his move.
Behind the back
If Williamson’s straight-line drive or crossovers got blocked, he regularly counters with a pure behind-the-back dribble to beat his man off the bounce.
While there’s nothing flashy about the actual moves, the fact that he keeps such a sturdy base when he changes direction, combined with his quickness and strength, makes it extremely difficult to defend.
Zion’s most deadly move is his hop step. Whether he’s creating the shot himself or catching the ball with a head of steam, he’s able to cover an incredible amount of ground with his signature hop, dodging help defenders before exploding off the hardwood for a thrilling finish.
Zion puts challenging bigs on skates with hard in-and-out dribbles in each direction, while keeping a low center of gravity before popping to the rim. His smooth moves to shift his body weight makes defenders wobbly, and Zion needs only the slightest crease to catapult all 285 pounds to the cup for a highlight slam or powerful finish.
Williamson loves using essential change-of-pace crossovers to dust opponents, and he’s equally as effective going in different directions. He sets up the move by slowing up and relaxing his body, sending the defender for a split second into chill mode. But right as the ball rests in his outside hand, he abruptly widens his stance, contracts his muscles, and rips past his opponent’s hip.
While known for his nuclear bounce, Zion’s ability to contract and relax his muscles on a dime makes him one of the shiftiest big men the game has seen to date.
The five biggest Zion games to watch
The Pelicans will be careful with Williamson the rest of the season, so we aren’t completely sure how many of the 38 remaining games he’ll appear in. But these are the matchups we’re highlighting.
1. New Orleans Pelicans vs. San Antonio Spurs
Jan. 22, 9:30 p.m. ET | ESPN
2. New Orleans Pelicans vs. Boston Celtics
Jan. 26, 6 p.m. ET | ESPN
3. New Orleans Pelicans vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Feb. 4, 7:30 ET | TNT
4. New Orleans Pelicans @ Los Angeles Lakers
Feb. 25, 10 ET | TNT
5. New Orleans Pelicans @ Dallas Mavericks
March 4, 8:30 p.m. ET