Baker's Dozen - The Ascendency of Zion Williamson

Zion Williamson is putting up the most impressive numbers of his career over the last month, and is fresh off being named an All-Star for the first time in his career this past week. 

While he may have started out the year a bit wonky after having to play his way into shape, he has come on especially strong in February, averaging 27.3 ppg on 64.7% FG, 6.5 rpg, & 4.5 apg for the month. After going though his injury-plagued rookie year in which he only played 27.8 mpg in 24 games, he has been healthy this year and has upped his playing time to 32.9 mpg. With the increased time on the court, Zion has been provided the added responsibility of playmaking for the Pelicans. He's made a believer out of many, including ESPN's Mark Jones. 

Head coach Stan Van Gundy has decided to put Zion in the pick-and-roll as the primary ball handler more times in the last 10 games than the rest of his career combined. The results for Zion have been outstanding, as he has been able to distribute as a point-forward with excellent efficiency, all while getting to the rim and finishing at an above-average rate. He is scoring in a historic fashion, as he's putting up numbers that haven't been seen in the NBA since the late 1980's.

If Zion can continue to progress and improve in his 2nd season, and push the Pelicans into a playoff spot we should start to hear some MVP chatter. He still needs to continue to develop consistency his mid-range game, with the intention of stepping out past the 3-point line in order to keep defenses honest - even shooting slightly below league average beyond the arc would open up the lanes to the basket. Given the fact that the Williamson has made incredible leaps over the last couple of months, it's only a matter of time before we start hearing whispers of MVP. 

Quick Hitters

Business of Basketball: On February 25th, Hennessy and the NBA announced expansion of their global partnership, making Hennessy the official spirit of the NBA worldwide. This is the league's first-ever partnership with a spirits brand and extends Hennessy's partnership with the NBA, WBNA and USA Basketball, which started in February, 2020. 

SNL Weekend Update: Kenan Thompson was at his finest on Saturday night, impersonation LaVar Ball on SNL's Weekend Update segment. The skit was hilarious, as Thompson plays to Ball's over-the-top personality perfectly. 
Line of the Week: Can I give this to Joel Embiid every week? In Philly's overtime loss to the Cavaliers on February 27th, The Process went off once again with 42 points (13/22 FG & 14/16 FT), 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal & 2 blocks. 

Check out previous columns:

February 21, 2021: Raptors on the Rise
February 7, 2021: Jazz Swinging Sweet Tunes
January 31, 2021Remembering Kobe & the MVP Race 

Photo Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports