Pelicans Will Go As Far As Zion Williamson Can Take Them

High expectations in New Orleans with return of franchise star this season

It's safe to say the New Orleans Pelicans will enter this season with higher expectations. Not only are they looking to ride the momentum from their late-season push and playoff birth last year, but you also have the return of one of the biggest young stars (literally and figuratively) in the NBA in Zion Williamson now factored in.

With a win total of 44.5 after winning 36 last year, adding Zion to an already young and talented team makes this seem more than reasonable, and a big rise possibly on the horizon.

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The Turnaround

New Orleans started off 1-12 last year, and that record continued to fall to ugly numbers like 3-16, so you can pick whatever part you think was their "worst start".

They were a complete disaster.

The season turned around though, enough for them to not only squeak out those 36 wins but get through the play-in tournament and take the Suns to six games in the first round.

Now, Williamson is expected back and fully healthy after missing all of last season, which, if he can stay on the court, can propel this team into the conversation of not only going over their win total, but possibly winning a playoff series too.

They also have the third-best odds to win the Southwest Division at +400 in case you're really confident in this all coming together.

Zion sits +5000 to win MVP on BetMGM, and if he gets back to his 2020-21 form where he averaged 27.0 points per game on 61 percent shooting, you can bet these odds will shorten pretty quickly.

The problem is, that whole narrative of "85 total games played since being drafted in 2019" isn't overplayed -- it's a real issue.

Williamson's size (6-6, 284-ish) has always been seen as bare minimum a worry, and to some, even a red flag. So far, the resume has proven that right with all the missed time.

Now sure, there were reports he was ready to go towards the end of last season and the team was being overly cautious, but even if that's the case, it was still another drawn out injury for a franchise star that just signed a five-year rookie max extension worth at least $193 million, that has the possibility of ballooning up to $231 million.

The west is loaded with talented teams, and the Pels aren't going over that win total is they get a third of a season from their star.

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Zion Leads The Way

If he can play a significant amount of games, and by that, I mean at least more than 61 like two years ago, the ceiling is high for this team. We watched the Cavs jump from 22 to 44 wins last year, the Grizzlies move up from 38 to 56, and the No. 2 seed in the West. We even had a third team in the Timberwolves win 46 after just 23 in the 72-game season of 2020-21.

New Orleans can mirror those jumps with the roster they have, but their most important piece has to be a part of the puzzle.

The Pelicans will go as far as Zion takes them, and it's as simple as that.

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