Zion Williamson’s long road to recovery is finally complete.
On Thursday, the Pelicans announced that their star forward has been cleared to participate in all basketball activities without restrictions. After missing the entire 2021-22 season, Williamson is expected to be back with the Pelicans at the start of next year.
In all likelihood, the most significant addition New Orleans will make over the next few months is a player who’s already on the roster. With 14 players under contract going into 2022-23, the team doesn’t have to do much to build upon the young core that helped guide it to a stunning playoff berth this past season. Getting such a dominant offensive weapon back in the mix with a group that features Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum could turn the Pelicans into a top contender in the West.
Things are rarely that simple, though.
Getting Williamson back healthy won’t be enough to get this team over the hump without a few other moves to make sure he’s at his best. With the work Ingram and head coach Willie Green did to establish a new identity for the Pelicans last season, it’ll take time to figure out where Williamson fits.
Here are a few questions Green and the front office will have to answer to make sure the Pelicans reach their full potential with the face of the franchise back in the fold:
Can Williamson and Ingram learn to work together?
During Williamson’s historic 2020-21 season, the “Point Zion” phenomenon took the league by storm, and it helped the Pelicans have one of the more efficient scoring attacks in the league. However, it was clear the team needed to do some work to make sure all the pieces fit.
In particular, the Pelicans didn’t do enough to make sure opponents had to deal with Ingram and Williamson at the same time. The offense often derailed into a “your turn, my turn” style that only worked because both Williamson and Ingram are supremely talented.
Now that Williamson is back and Ingram is coming off arguably his best season as a pro, New Orleans needs to figure out how the two star forwards can find cohesion in half-court sets to make the game easier for each other. It won’t be an easy solution, because they aren’t a traditional guard-forward pairing like Stephen Curry and Draymond Green or Trae Young and John Collins. Rolling out a bunch of pick-and-roll sets with Ingram and Williamson won’t be the solution.