What are the New Orleans Pelicans Thinking with Zion Williamson’s Minutes Restriction?
The Pelicans may be shooting themselves in the foot by limiting their impressive rookie
NBA superstar rookie Zion Williamson is one of the biggest reasons why basketball fans looked forward to the reboot of the 2019–2020 season. Although he is fully healthy and reported to the team from the nearly four-month break in impeccable shape, his team, the New Orleans Pelicans, have been severely restricting his minutes. Their plan flies in the face of them being in the thick of the hunt for a postseason berth and makes little sense.
Williamson, a 20-year-old forward, is a physical marvel. He missed the first several months of the season recovering from an injury but finally took the court and dominated as many expected. In 21 games this season, he has averaged 22.3 points and 6.4 rebounds in 28.3 minutes per contest. However, since the resumption of the season, he has played in just 15 and then 14 minutes in the Pelican’s first two games, which have both resulted in losses.
The limiting of minutes is New Orleans’ plan to create “burst restrictions” since he was recently away from the team and related activities for 13 days to tend to a family matter. Keeping him from working up a sweat won’t keep him from injury. If anything, his short appearances is preventing him from getting loose. His youth and elite athleticism are two attributes that are on his side when it comes to considering whether or not to coddle him.
Williamson is saying all the right things, but his body language suggests he is not exactly happy about being on the bench so much, especially as his team is losing such critical games. He told ESPN reporters, “It’s very tough, to be honest, because as soon as I start to break that sweat, I look over and that horn is for me and I have to come out the game. When I do catch the flow of the game, like I said, that horn goes off and it’s for me.”
It makes sense that the Pelicans want to protect Williamson since he is the future of the franchise. The issue is that he does them no good if he isn’t on the floor. If he is fully healthy, they should be riding him as much as possible. If they are trying to save him for the playoffs, it won’t matter much if they don’t make it to the postseason because their electric rookie is kept on the sidelines.