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Pelicans’ Zion Williamson resembles LeBron James, Charles Barkley, per Stan Van Gundy

LeBron James, Zion Williamson, Stan Van Gundy, Charles Barkley, Pelicans

One of the main reasons Stan Van Gundy is leaving his cozy TNT gig for the New Orleans Pelicans is because he gets the chance to coach Zion Williamson, who has drawn comparisons to LeBron James and Charles Barkley.

Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft out of Duke, is the face of the Pelicans franchise in the post–Anthony Davis era and Van Gundy is excited to get to work with him.

After taking the Pelicans head coaching job on Wednesday, Van Gundy spoke to Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report about how Williamson resembles James and Barkley.

“He’s unique. 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.

“But he’s unique. He’s not really those guys. LeBron’s always been a primary ball-handler, point guard, point forward, whatever you want to call him. 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.”

Williamson appeared in 24 games for the Pelicans in 2019-20 after missing the beginning of the season due to knee surgery. The lefty averaged 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 58.3 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from beyond the arc and 64.0 percent from the free-throw line.

The Pelicans missed the 2020 playoffs and fired Alvin Gentry as head coach upon returning to New Orleans from the Walt Disney World bubble.

Aside from Williamson, Van Gundy will get to coach Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and J.J. Redick, who was on the Orlando Magic back in the day when Stan was the head coach.