NBA Superlatives: Pelicans forward Zion Williamson

After playing four preseason games last fall, New Orleans rookie Zion Williamson seemed to show the world what was in store, as he dominated and put up big numbers in relatively limited minutes. The Duke University product was forced to sit out 44 games of the regular season due to knee surgery, but on Jan. 22 he picked up right from where he left off, immediately producing and contributing to wins. Based on per-game averages, Williamson is the 2019 NBA Draft’s top scorer (23.6 ppg) this season, as well as its best rebounder (6.8 rpg). For good measure, he’s also sixth in assists (2.2 apg) among ’19 draftees who appeared in at least 15 games, trailing only guards such as Memphis’ Ja Morant (6.9) and Cleveland’s Darius Garland (3.9), while barely behind Chicago’s Coby White (2.7), New York’s R.J. Barrett (2.6), and Golden State’s Jordan Poole (2.4). Williamson’s impact on the Pelicans and their planned starting lineup was unmistakable, as that group compiled the best net rating among five-man lineups that played at least 200 minutes together this season. The 19-year-old gave his early impressions of the NBA to Pelicans.com:

What he’d be doing if he weren’t an NBA player: “Right now, I’d either be an opening act for a comedian like Kevin Hart or Dave Chappelle, or I’d be commentating (games). I think I’m very hilarious, very funny to be honest.” [laughs]

Sport he’d try to play professionally if he weren’t an NBA player: “Football, because I feel like I have all of the natural tools to play, and I played it when I was younger. I was much smaller when I was younger, so I played QB and free safety. Now I’d play tight end and be a receiver when we got close to the goal line.”

Most surprising thing about the NBA as a rookie: “The difference in age among your teammates, compared to college. In college, you ask them, ‘What class do you have? What are you doing tomorrow?’ In the NBA, it’s, ‘Hey JJ (Redick), E’Twaun (Moore), Darius (Miller), what do you have going on tomorrow?’ (They respond), ‘Oh, I’ve got to take my kid to school.’ Wait, you have to take your kid to school? I’m (only) 19. I’m not thinking about that. So that’s been a funny change. But (on the court), the most surprising thing is the pace of the game.”

Most underrated NBA player: “Jrue Holiday. Well, (he’s not underrated) amongst players, because they know what Jrue Holiday can do. They know he’s a dog. He’s one of the best in the league. But among voters and other people, I don’t think they know.”

Best uniforms in the NBA (besides the Pelicans’): “Miami. I like some of their alternate jerseys.”

How he’s most likely to spend a full day off in the middle of the NBA season: “I’d spend it with the people I care about. I feel like when I have them around, the outside world doesn’t exist. Those are the best days.”

All-time NBA starting five: “Magic at the 1, Jordan at 2, LeBron at the 3, Kareem at 4, Shaq at 5.”