“This is almost reminding me of Anthony Davis 2.0. They realized they had a transcendent talent, and just rushed to get veterans around him, and the team just wasn’t good enough, and I think with Zion Williamson they just have to be careful.” That's how Zach Lowe described the situation in New Orleans and opened up a lot of old wounds. Despite the fact rookies are effectively under team control for 7 years, the clock starts from Day 1 in the modern NBA.
Lowe talked about the Davis 2.0 situation on his Free Agency preview podcast with Woj when the rumors of the Pelicans losing Lonzo Ball started to become legitimate. As we know now, they were true - Lonzo signed a 4 year - $85 million contract with the Chicago Bulls. The Pelicans planned to use cap space created by Lonzo's departure to go after Kyle Lowry who we know is joining Jimmy Butler in Miami. The only player the Pelicans were able to bring in so far is Devonte' Graham from the Hornets on a 4 year - $47 million contract. Graham had a good year in Charlotte and is a nice addition to the Pelicans, but he's far from a guy that makes you a Playoff team in the West.
Pelicans fans know that their team started making the same mistakes with Zion they did with Davis. Ömer Aşık and Tyreke Evans in AD's era were Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe in Zion's. The difference is that, unlike AD, Zion wants to play the position he's best at. As we know, Davis refused to play the five, and the Pelicans kept spending a lot of money on big men to appease the Brow. But this time, the lack of team identity and pecking order is 100% inflicted by the Front Office - Willie Green will be Zion's third coach in his third season in the NBA. All that led to a bombastic tweet by Bill Simmons.
This is the worst possible news for Pelicans fans. Zion is represented by CAA, and it's very rare that an agent comes out with such a forward statement. While the comment did not come from Zion's agents, Austin Brown and Lisa Joseph-Metelus, that's probably by design - it gives some plausible deniability to Brown and Joseph-Metelus. But there's no way another CAA agent gives a statement like that without coordinating with Zion's representatives. Here's a top-five ranking of agencies and agents in the NBA to give you a feeling of how impactful CAA and Zion's agents are.
Creative Artists Agency (CAA)
Excel Sports Management
Klutch Sports Management
Octagon Athlete Representation
We've seen how dominant the Pelicans are when their game is built around Zion's strengths. It's now quantum physics to figure out that they should make all moves with only one question in mind "How does this improve Zion's game?" For instance, when you have a guy who takes 73% of his shots at the rim and makes 70% of those (that's Shaq and Giannis level efficiency), why would you trade for and then extend Steven Adams to stand in the paint and get in the way? This also goes to Brandon Ingram. As great as Ingram is, if he doesn't accept that the Pelicans are Zion's team and he has to be what Khris Middleton is for Giannis, then New Orleans should move on from Ingram.
That being said, offensive identity should be no.2 on the priority list for new head coach Willie Green. Defense is a thing, and someone should let the Pelicans' players know. If they want to achieve anything, they have to start defending. For Zion and the crew, it starts with effort - you won't get it if the team and the coach constantly changes. He still may be on his rookie contract, but this season will be crucial for Zion's career as a Pelican in many ways. It's time to get things right in New Orleans.