The NBA is coming back with a new format and a bunch of unfinished business. Twenty two teams will descend upon the Disney campus near Orlando, vying for basketball supremacy of the highest order.
The immediate storylines to watch will probably be the two Los Angeles teams (Clippers and Lakers), the Milwaukee Bucks and the “small ball” Houston Rockets. For all the hype surrounding a potential LeBron James versus Kawhi Leonard playoff showdown, subsequently followed by the winner of that going on to face Giannis Antetokounmpo, why didn’t the NBA just go straight into the playoffs with its regular 16 teams?
Should we believe the league wanted to give a chance to the the “outside looking in” Portland Trail Blazers? I, for one, believe the NBA went to this format for one player and one player only: Zion Williamson.
Sure, they need to recuperate lost revenue due to the pandemic that brought everything to a halt. Sure, they couldn’t add every team because who wants to see the bottom team play more games? You can paint any picture you want: the NBA has told you they’re coming back with more Zion Williamson.
New Orleans is sitting 3.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Mired in a battle with the Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings and the Memphis Grizzlies (who holds the #8 seed), they will immediately be in a tough battle to make the playoffs.
The league has made it clear that from now on it will give you as much of Williamson as possible. As soon as the league knew where he was going, the networks started fighting over his games. The New Orleans Pelicans were on television more than “Jeopardy” (which literally comes on every night), before the work stoppage.
In 19 games, Williamson was averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting almost 59% from the field. He has immediately shown a propensity to get to his spot on the floor and that spot is usually closer to the rim.
He has a “Luke Skywalker” like feel to him, where it seems he’s bringing balance back to the NBA. Imagine a player making a two point basket look sexy again. He can simply use his body and strength to move people out of the way and get high above the rim to finish.
There’s no need to question his three point shooting or outside jumper. Regardless, teams simply can’t stop him. Williamson is a big, intimidating guy with the demeanor of a gentle giant, the likes of which this league hasn’t seen since Shaquille O’Neal used to break back boards.
Adam Silver and company saw the writing on the wall and it says Zion sells (probably in a spooky Field of Dreams whisper). For all the potential matchups we could have, if you put Williamson’s name there, the venue easily becomes enhanced. A 19 game sample size has left fans, the media and even other players salivating to see this kid play.
No offense to the established NBA Superstars that have been doing it for years but this young kid came to rob your headlines. In time he might be coming for your titles, too.