An argument can be made that not since LeBron James in 2003 has a player felt as much pressure to become an instant NBA success as Zion Williamson. The New Orleans Pelicans didn't hesitate to take Williamson No. 1 overall in 2019, and few could blame them considering the immense talent of this high-fly act out of Duke University.
Although in retrospect, it seems Ja Morant, who went No. 2 overall to the Memphis Grizzlies, might have been the better pick, the Pelicans are living with their decision. When Williamson is healthy, few players in the NBA can do what he can on the floor with his unique blend of size, strength, speed and ability to play above the rim.
Unfortunately, injuries and his inability to keep his weight down have become a major problem for Williamson. Since the Pelicans drafted him, the former Blue Devils star has played only 85 games in three seasons. The bulk of those games came during the 2020-21 NBA season when he played 61 games and became an All-Star for the first time.
In his first season with the Pelicans, Williamson only suited up 24 times for New Orleans. He tore his meniscus right out of the gate during the preseason in October of that year, which resulted in his professional debut being postponed to late January.
Despite the fact Williamson put on a show in his sophomore campaign alongside Brandon Ingram in the Big Easy, the incredibly talented 22-year-old came right back down to earth, suffering a Jones fracture that required surgery in his right foot before the 2021-22 campaign. He missed the entire season as a result and also gained a lot of weight in the meantime leading to questions on whether he was serious about basketball and if the Pelicans should even sign him to a new contract.
Although there were plenty of questions about Williamson's weight and durability, the Pelicans signed him to a new deal worth $231 million. However, there was an interesting tidbit in this new deal with New Orleans, which could turn out to be a brilliant move by the Pelicans.
According to Christian Clark of Nola.com, Williamson will be held accountable for his weight as part of the contract he signed. In a brilliant move by New Orleans, Williamson's weight and body fat will be monitored. He will be subjected to periodic weigh-ins, and "the sum of his weight and body fat percentage must be below 295."
After only seeing their superstar on the floor for 85 games in three years, which is just over a full season (82), the team is finally making Williamson accountable. This will almost certainly pay dividends for the struggling franchise, especially when things are trending up in New Orleans.
The Pelicans recently put on a show in the playoffs by giving the top-seeded Phoenix Suns all they could handle in the first round. New Orleans saw a glimpse of what this team could be with C.J. McCollum, Herb Jones, Jose Alvarado and Ingram leading the charge. Adding a healthy and in-shape Williamson could make the Pelicans a threat in the Western Conference for years to come.