2022 Free Agency

Zion Williamson, Pelicans agree on 5-year maximum rookie extension

The former No. 1 pick and New Orleans have agreed to a max contract extension worth up to $231 million.

Zion Williamson has not played for the Pelicans since the 2020-21 season.

Zion Williamson will remain in New Orleans after signing a five-year, $193-million maximum rookie extension with the Pelicans, agent Austin Brown told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Pelicans officially announced the move on July 6.

A series of injuries have limited Williamson to just 85 games in three NBA seasons, including a fractured foot that wiped out his entire 2021-22 campaign.

But Williamson, the No. 1 pick out of Duke in 2019, has proven to be an electric talent when available, averaging 25.7 points on 60.4% shooting over his young career.

Williamson joins fellow 2019 draftees Memphis’ Ja Morant and Cleveland’s Darius Garland in earning five-year maximum contract extensions with their original clubs.

Without Williamson, New Orleans won two Play-In Tournament games before taking top-seeded Phoenix to six games in the first round of the 2022 playoffs. They did so with a squad led by high-scoring wing Brandon Ingram, veteran guard CJ McCollum, center Jonas Valanciunas and a supporting cast of young, hungry players who blossomed under first-time NBA head coach Willie Green.

One season earlier, Williamson averaged a team-high 27 points and became a first-time All-Star during what was his lone NBA campaign that was not mostly or entirely wiped out by injuries.

Williamson played in just 24 games as a rookie because of a preseason right knee injury (lateral meniscus).

He played in 61 of 72 games in his second season. But he hurt his foot during the 2021 offseason while performing basketball drills with his stepfather, with whom he had previously entrusted his offseason training.

The Pelicans didn’t reveal the injury until the first day of training camp in September, saying they hoped he’d be ready to play by the regular-season opener on Oct. 20. Williamson initially agreed with that timeline, which proved exceedingly optimistic. He wound up missing the entire regular season and playoffs.

Williamson also chose to spend a significant portion of the season away from New Orleans and the Pelicans. He chose to rehabilitate in Oregon, where his shoe sponsor, Nike, is based.

During that time, the Pelicans offered few updates on Williamson, any mention of whom was later conspicuously absent from Pelicans promotional material regarding season ticket renewals for the 2022-23 season.

When the season ended, Williamson said if New Orleans offered a maximum extension, he “wouldn’t be able to sign it fast enough.”

He also was recently cleared to engage in basketball activities without restrictions.

Without Williamson, the Pelicans started 1-12 last season but steadily climbed into contention for a Western Conference playoff berth.

They had begun improving even before acquiring McCollum from Portland two days before the NBA trade deadline. McCollum helped them rally to clinch a ninth overall seed and a home play-in game.

The Pelicans defeated 10th-seeded San Antonio. They then won a second play-in game over the Clippers in Los Angeles to advance to the first round of the playoffs against top-seeded Phoenix

New Orleans won twice in that series before falling in six games.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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