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Pelicans’ Zion Williamson joins Shaquille O’Neal with rare 2nd chance, points in the paint scoring average

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Thursday will mark just the 10th game for New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson, but the rookie sensation is already in historic—and very specific—company. As ESPN’s Andrew Lopez tweeted out, Williamson is leading the league in second chance points per game (5.2) and ranks third in points in the paint per game (15.1). Over the past two decades, only Shaquille O’Neal has averaged 5.0 second chance points and 15.0 points in the paint per game in a season.

That might be an oddly precise stat, but it does reflect the ability Zion has already shown at 19 to manhandle NBA players inside—including snagging boards over Giannis Antetokoumpo.

Almost 90% of Zion’s field goal attempts so far have come within eight feet of the rim, and he’s converting 60.4% of those shots. In fact, he’s not just in rare historic company via his interior game, but also a rarity in the current NBA, which is becoming increasingly devoid of post play.

Zion has been undoubtedly impressive in the first weeks of his career, averaging 28.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per 36 minutes with a 59.2 eFG%. Heading into Thursday night’s contest vs. the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder, the Pelicans (23-21) have gone 6-4 since Zion made his debut (he missed one of those games). They trail the Memphis Grizzlies (28-26) by five games in the race for the no. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

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