Lonzo Ball, Zion Williamson have a special chemistry, and it’s turning the Pelicans into must-see TV

The New Orleans Pelicans have become one of the NBA’s must-see shows. They play fast. Together. Zion Williamson, of course, is the main draw, but he’s not a standard superstar in a “give him the ball and get out of the way” sense. Yes, if he gets a step on his defender (particularly if that step is going left), it’s over. He has the first step and handle to effectively isolate. He can post. His footwork in getting to his strong hand is exemplary and his jab step is earth-shifting. 

But so much of the great work Zion does is without the ball, establishing leveraged position, running the floor, sealing his man for lob passes, and more times than not it’s Lonzo Ball delivering those passes. 

Ball and Williamson have shared obvious chemistry from the start. Their skillsets define complementary — an eager floor-runner in Williamson, one of the more willing pass-ahead guards in the league in Ball. They connect on pick-and-rolls. Zion is a fabulous cutter, Ball is always on the lookout. They have already reached eye-contact levels of communication, like when Williamson quickly spins and seals his man as Ball simultaneously lofts a pass over the top. Ball trusts Williamson can go up and get anything, and he pretty much can. 

And the passes will come from any distance. We’re not just talking about your standard lobs where the ball-handler gets into the paint, sucks the defense in, and floats a pass to an unencumbered dunker. We’re talking about lob passes in excess of 70 feet, right on the money, with Zion finishing contested dunks on the other end. Take a look at some of their recent connections:

Since Williamson’s debut on January 22nd, the Pelicans have the No. 8 offense in the league and the seventh-best net rating. Entering the Lakers game Tuesday night, the Pelicans were plus-8 with Ball and Williamson on the floor together, which was the best mark of any duo on the team, per NBA.com (that number slipped to plus-6.9 after the Lakers loss, falling just behind the duo of Jrue Holiday and Derrick Favors). 

For the season, Ball has tallied 35 assists to Williamson, by far the most of any New Orleans player and the same amount as Jrue Holiday and Brandon Ingram combined. Some of this is due to the fact that Lonzo and Williamson often rotate out of the game at the same time; Ball plays more minutes alongside Zion (22.2 per game) than any other Pelicans player. 

This is not by accident. It all comes back to the chemistry Ball and Williamson have developed and consistently displayed in their short time playing in actual games together. They make winning plays. They make fun plays. And it’s all adding up to one of the more exciting young tandems in the league. 

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