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Pelicans’ Stan Van Gundy hints at Zion Williamson’s future at center

Stan Van Gundy, Zion Williamson, Pelicans

Recently hired New Orleans Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy hinted that Zion Williamson could see minutes at the center position in the future.

“I don’t look at him in any way, as far as, ‘Is he a four or a five?’” Van Gundy explained to reporters via Zoom on Tuesday. “I’m not sure those labels matter when it comes to him. I think as we study and try to get more definitive and talk to Zion about what he likes, I think it’s more what positions we want to put him in and who’s best around him and things like that. It’s not limiting him to a position.”

Zion was highly-effective as point center in small-ball lineups during his one season at Duke, but he didn’t get much of a chance to show off his positional versatility as a Pelicans rookie under Alvin Gentry.

The Pelicans are deep in the backcourt and have Brandon Ingram at the four, so small-ball lineups with Williamson at the five could be one way to get everybody on the floor. New Orleans does have bouncy 6’11 project Jaxson Hayes, who showed promise in his first season, averaging 15.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per 36 minutes as a 19-year old.

Van Gundy sees Williamson as somebody who can affect the game in a variety of ways for the Pelicans.

“That combination of size, quickness and explosive power, it really hasn’t come along. People were trying to make the comparison to LeBron or to Charles Barkley, and that’s probably as close as you’ll get, ” Van Gundy of the Pelicans told Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report.

“But he’s unique. He’s not really those guys. LeBron’s always been a primary ball-handler, point guard, point forward … Barkley was maybe a closer analogy to Zion. What everybody notices is the big body and the great leaping ability, but he’s also got an incredible first step offensively and plays the game very unselfishly. He makes quick decisions, the ball leaves his hand quickly, so other guys can enjoy playing with him. He’s not a ball-stopper.”