Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans have messed around and now find themselves at the top of the Western Conference through 26 games. Their 18-8 record puts them just ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies and it's not hard to imagine they'll be competing for the West crown throughout the season.

It's all thanks in large part to a breakout season from Zion Williamson. The Pelicans have a ton of depth and versatility, but it's Zion's earth-shattering impact that turns New Orleans from a feisty fringe team to a dark horse contender for the title. He's averaged 31.2 points per game in their last six contests and more importantly looks as healthy as he's ever been at the pro level.

That's prompted CJ McCollum to send a message loud and clear to everyone doubting Zion Williamson throughout his injury-stricken 2021-22 season.

“Let the praise be as loud as the disrespect was,” said CJ McCollum.

There was certainly a lot of disrespect directed towards Zion Williamson when he was stuck on the sidelines. While it's obviously still early in the season, Williamson has clearly gotten himself in tremendous shape amid all the chatter that he'll always be too heavy to stay healthy.

His recent 360 windmill dunk that got Chris Paul and the Suns heated sure was a ringing endorsement of his current bill of health.

The Pelicans have the star power, the proven veterans, and the youthful depth in a perfect blend to spell out a contender. In their first season amongst the NBA's elite, it's not time for them to prove their mettle.