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#pounditThursday, July 7, 2022

Pelicans to hardball Zion Williamson in contract talks?

Zion Williamson smiling

Sep 27, 2021; New Orleans, LA, USA; Zion Williamson during a press conference at the New Orleans Pelicans Media Day. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans is known as “The Big Easy,” but their contract negotiations with Zion Williamson this summer may be anything but.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported this week on the impending contract talks between Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans. As a member of the 2019 draft class, Williamson has until the start of the 2022-23 regular season to reach an extension with New Orleans or else become a restricted free agent in 2023.

“From what I have been told, the Pelicans, at this point, are not willing to offer [Williamson] a full five-year guaranteed deal,” said Windhorst. “And a lot of it is flowing down from ownership. Gayle Benson, the owner, is also the owner of the New Orleans Saints. And I have been told they’re going to take a football-style, Saints-style mentality with this contract negotiation.

“They will offer him a huge contract but will not guarantee all of it,” added Windhorst. “If Zion accepts those terms, he still protects himself, and maybe gets $100-plus million guaranteed, he signs, everything’s fine. If he doesn’t sign and wants the full guarantee, we could have some drama into the fall.”

The Pelicans’ stance here makes sense though. The former No. 1 overall pick Williamson is not exactly bargaining from a position of strength right now. He missed all of this season with a foot injury and has appeared in just 85 total games through his first three NBA seasons. Williamson has also faced questions over his weight, his work ethic, and whether or not he even wants to be in New Orleans at all.

This week did at least come with a promising update on Williamson’s health. But for a Pelicans team that made the playoffs and put up a fight against a 64-win Phoenix Suns team without him, it is difficult to justify maxing out Williamson until he proves he is healthy enough to justify such a price tag.

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