Zion Williamson didn’t play a single second for the New Orleans Pelicans this season due to a broken foot, but he will still be eligible to sign a massive contract extension over the offseason. There has been some speculation about Williamson’s level of happiness with the Pelicans and if he’s interested in remaining with the franchise long-term, but when asked if he would sign an extension over the summer if offered, Williamson didn’t hesitate.
“Of course. Of course. I wouldn’t be able to sign it fast enough,” Williamson said to media members on Friday, before uttering some words that had to sound like music to the ears of Pelicans fans: “I can’t control rumors and how people feel about certain things, but anybody that knows me knows I want to be here.”
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While likely a relief to many in New Orleans, Williamson’s comments aren’t especially surprising, for a couple of reasons. First, even if he didn’t plan to sign an extension, it seems unlikely that he would announce that publicly ahead of time. Instead, it seems like something that would happen behind closed doors. Second, players are always financially incentivized to remain with the team that drafted them. The Pelicans will be able to pay Williamson more than any other team in the coming years, and that’s certainly something a young player has to consider.
Even if Williamson was unhappy in New Orleans, he could still sign the extension in order to ensure his money and then ask for a trade down the road. We’ve seen plenty of star players demand trades over the past few years. Ben Simmons, for example, signed a five-year, $170 million extension with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019 only to demand a trade two years later.
After the way the team performed without him this season, though, there’s real reason for Williamson to be genuinely enthusiastic about the Pelicans’ future. After starting the season 1-12, they rallied and were ultimately able to claim the eighth seed in the West, and they pushed the top-seeded Phoenix Suns to six games in the firs round. In addition to established stars Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum, the Pelicans also got major contributions from a trio of promising rookies — Herb Jones, Trey Murphy III and Jose Alvarado. With Williamson and the rest of their roster as currently constructed, the Pelicans’ future looks pretty bright. Williamson certainly seems to think so.
“It sucked watching from the sideline, but I got to see our potential,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of great pieces, and I’m excited to get on the court with those guys. … You saw it on the court. We have a special group. I truly believe that. … I’m one of those people that believes the more your team wins, the more individual awards will come. So, with a special group, a coach like Willie [Green], I think a lot of great things will happen.”
Given the potential he has shown when he has been healthy — he averaged 27 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in 2020-21 — combined with how much the organization has invested in him, it seems like a near-certainty that the Pelicans will indeed offer Williamson an extension this summer. The real question is whether or not a new contract would include benchmarks that would potentially protect the Pelicans should Williamson miss substantial time moving forward. After all, he has only played in 85 total games since New Orleans selected him with the top overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.