The New Orleans Pelicans have been middling to begin the 2023-24 season despite the return of Zion Williamson from the long-term injury he sustained back in January. Williamson was one of, if not the main driving force behind the Pelicans' strong start to the 2022-23 last season, so it's been a bit disappointing for New Orleans to see their franchise cornerstone struggle the way he has for the first 11 games of their season.

Williamson, despite the Pelicans' rousing 131-110 win over the Dallas Mavericks in the second game of their NBA In-Season Tournament group stage journey, was still a bit lackluster on Tuesday night even if he put up 19 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. The 6'6 highflyer typically shoots the ball at such an efficient clip (around 60 percent) on high volume, but against the Mavs, he hit just 8 of his 15 shots, while missing four of his seven attempts from the foul line.

Basing off the eye test, it seems as though Zion Williamson is a bit less explosive than he was in years past, with his burst going to the hoop and explosiveness off the ground suffering declines. The Pelicans star even admitted that he may need to defer to his other teammates as he figures out how to return to his previous form.

“I feel like I'm a little ways away. And I hate to say it, it's what I refer to when I'm saying ‘I'm taking a back seat,'” Williamson said in his postgame presser, per Pelicans Film Room. “I don't want to affect the team [negatively]. I'm kinda learning a new role right now because I'm  not where I want to be. […] One way or another, I'm gonna figure it out.”

For now, with CJ McCollum and Trey Murphy III out, two weapons the Pelicans have who can help space the floor and make Zion Williamson's life easier, it'll be up to Brandon Ingram to shoulder the responsibility of propping up their offense. Ingram, against the Mavs, had a great game, dropping 25 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists, while the Pelicans also received a boost from Jordan Hawkins, who tallied 25 points of his own off the bench.