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Even before his freshman year at Duke, Zion Williamson has carried a ton of hype around him. His college career included rim-rocking dunks and shoe-breaking moves. Those expectations have only continued to grow after the New Orleans Pelicans took Williamson with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. In three seasons, Williamson has been a dominant force when he’s stepped on the court, so there’s no question about his talent. His biggest issue has been staying healthy.
Out of a possible 226 games, Williamson has only appeared in 85. That means he’s played in just under 38% of the games the Pelicans have played since he joined the roster.
But things are looking up for Williamson — both physically and financially.
As The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported, the Pelicans signed Williamson to a rookie supermax extension. The deal is worth $193 million over five years, with incentives potentially bumping the total number up to $231 million.
The incentives will kick in if Williamson makes an All-NBA team next season. The increase would give Williamson an extra $6.6 to $8.8 million per year, with the final season in 2027-28 being the most lucrative. Williamson is guaranteed $43.9 million that season, but making the All-NBA team will instead give him $52.7 million that final year.
It’s a massive deal, though the Pelicans are hopeful Williamson can put his injury woes behind him. He’ll have a clean bill of health entering this season and will get to take the court alongside Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum. Ingram and McCollum led the Pelicans to a surprise playoff berth as the 10th seed last season, winning two play-in games before giving the top-seeded Phoenix Suns a tough six-game series.
Together, the trio will take up nearly $100 million in salary. The NBA’s salary cap for next year is $123 million, meaning Pelicans owner Gayle Benson will have to go deep into the luxury tax to keep all these players around. But for a team that hasn’t been a traditional free-agent destination, it was important to keep Williamson around.
We still haven’t really seen what the Williamson, McCollum, and Ingram trio will look like together on the court. If they can all stay healthy, they would be one of the more entertaining lineups in the entire league — and that just might lead to some playoff success, too.