Zion Williamson deserving of 2023 All-Star starter selection

Jan 27, 2023 - 12:00 PM
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Zion Williamson was selected as a starter to the 2023 NBA All-Star Game yesterday, along with LeBron James, Luka Doncic, Stephen Curry and Nikola Jokic from the Western Conference.

This is Williamson’s second selection to the All-Star game of his career but first as a starter.

He joins Chris Paul, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins as the only members to have been named a starter from the New Orleans franchise.

While Williamson finished fourth in the fan vote, his third place finish among NBA players and fourth among designated media propelled him ahead of Davis, Lauri Markkanen, Domantas Sabonis and others to grab the third Western Conference forward spot.

Williamson’s averages of 26.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks are quite strong, but some took exception to them, along with his 29 games played this season.

Davis’ stat line of 27.2 points, 12.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.2 blocks, at first glance, looks superior. Meanwhile, Markkanen (24.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.6 blocks) and Sabonis (18.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.4 blocks) have appeared in far more games.

However, all of these candidates have strikes against them too.

Davis has missed more games than Williamson to date, compiled a 12-14 losing record when in uniform, and plays for a Los Angeles Lakers team sitting outside the play-in picture.

Markkanen plays for a below-.500 Jazz team, and while the Kings sit third in the Western Conference, Sabonis has had the privilege of playing on the healthiest team in the league. Sacramento players have combined to miss only 27 games either due to injury or health protocols.

For comparison’s sake, Pelicans players have missed a combined 159 games due to injury or illness, with Williamson accounting for just 20 of that total.

Prior to Williamson straining a hamstring in the Jan. 2 matchup against the 76ers, the Pelicans and Grizzlies trailed the Nuggets by a single game for first place in the Western Conference.

Zion’s case for MVP was growing louder and louder before missing the last 12 games.

The truest line of demarcation, though, Williamson is the most spectacular yet feared player from the group of potential candidates. His aura is precisely what fans want to see at the All-Star game, and in the same breath, very few are game-planned for as much as Williamson is in the league — he’s one of the most unstoppable forces ever witnessed.

Remember when Jrue Holiday, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez made it a priority to stop Zion?

Or how about when PJ Tucker, Joel Embiid and other 76ers tried to do the same thing?

It’s amazing how often Williamson makes the right read or scores through and around multiple bodies given his relative inexperience. No one sees more sets of eyes on every possession nor the greatest number of defenders at the boxes and elbows yet enjoys the highest degree of offensive success.

Despite all the walls that have been built, Williamson has a 60.8 field goal percentage and is averaging more points in the paint (19.1) than any other player.

Need some timely defense?

Williamson seemingly posts highlight material in every appearance. He already possesses a legion of fans that few will ever match. However, there’s good reason why his peers on the court and media who closely watch the games picked him ahead of the remaining candidates at his position not named Jokic or LeBron.

Z’s compiled a resume worthy of an All-Star starter, pure and simple.

It’s not his fault if you haven’t paid enough attention this season.

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.

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