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Zion Williamson, Pelicans

Zion Williamson already looks like a superstar just 9 games into NBA career

It is very rare to find an NBA talent who can deliver when the expectation are sky-high from the start. New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson has done just that.

Despite suffering a preseason meniscus tear and facing plenty of hearsay about his recovery process, the reinvention of his walking, running, jumping, and landing mechanics, he turned what could have been a meek debut against the San Antonio Spurs into a showstopper, scoring 17 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-point barrage that made for one of the most impressive debuts for a rookie:

Only nine games into his NBA career, Williamson has already scored 20 or more points in seven of those games, including five straight. He has grabbed nine or more rebounds in four of them and shot over 72% in three of those games.

He’s also coming off a career-high night, scoring 31 points against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, showing just how dominant a scorer he can be when given the leash to do so:

Zion is now averaging 21.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in just 27.0 minutes per game while shooting 57.6% from the field. He has joined other NBA superstars with historic stat lines. And, most important, he’s contributing to winning in a big way as the Pelicans try to claw their way back into the playoff hunt:

That’s not to say Williamson doesn’t have some aspects to clean up. He does. The Duke standout is shooting an iffy 63.1% from the foul line and is turning the ball over more than once every 10 minutes, but his athleticism, motor, and nose for the ball more than make up for those miscues.

Zion is just a freak of nature, exactly as we expected him to be. He’s not just up there with the superior athletes the NBA has to offer — he’s beating some of the best of them.

While he did face a quick reality check during his 5-of-19 shooting night (23.1%) against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks — the only time he has shot under 50% this season — he still managed to provide enough elsewhere, grabbing seven boards and dishing out five assists in the loss.

Zion Williamson will face his share of bad matchups against faster, lengthier defenders who won’t let him plow through, but he already has all the makings of a superstar player — even if he’s just getting started.