New Orleans Pelicans phenom Zion Williamson didn't play a single game last season, but that's not stopping him from securing a monster bag from his club. Williamson is nearing a five-year max extension worth up to $231 million, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.
This deal will take Williamson through the 2027-28 season. Naturally, there will be protections on the deal considering Williamson's significant injury history so far in his career:
Williamson said after the season ended, “I couldn’t sign it fast enough.” Indeed, the All-Star locks in commitment to New Orleans.
The deal is expected to include protections that both sides were sorting through overnight and will finalize, sources said. https://t.co/n0hyRwRk9e
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 1, 2022
Zion Williamson isn't eligible for that big of a salary, yet. What they are doing is putting in Designated Rookie Extension language that COULD get him to that big of a salary.
He'd have to make All-NBA this season, win MVP or win DPOY. Otherwise, he'll get around $193M. https://t.co/f0ZBvgrdP0
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) July 1, 2022
There were questions about whether or not the Pelicans would make this kind of commitment and if Williamson himself would commit to New Orleans. There have been rumblings throughout the start of his career about a desire to go to a bigger market such as New York, though Zion was adamant after the season about staying in NOLA.
When this type of money is on the table, it's hard to turn down, especially given what Williamson has gone through so far in his young NBA career. The lefty phenom missed a good chunk of his rookie season due to injury before blossoming into a star in Year 2. Unfortunately, he didn't play a single game in 2021-22 because of offseason foot surgery that didn't heal as hoped.
Despite playing just 85 games in three seasons, the Pelicans are shelling out this contract because Zion truly is a special player when healthy. In 2020-21, Williamson averaged 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists while shooting 61.1% from the field. He's a force of nation who's just about unstoppable when he gets a head of steam going to the rim.
Those injury protections in the deal will surely be significant because of the circumstances. But for now, New Orleans will be happy to have Williamson locked in on this contract. The Pelicans made some noise this past season after trading for CJ McCollum, and adding Williamson to that group will have them going in to 2022-23 with high expectations.