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Zion Williamson is likely to receive a Joel Embiid-type max contract

The New Orleans Pelicans will likely give Zion the bag but with a big catch in the contract.
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson

Zion Williamson

The New Orleans Pelicans are looking to secure star forward Zion Williamson with a massive contract extension this offseason. They know that they have a rare gem in the Duke standout and will do everything in their power to keep him. But at the same time, they’ve become wary of Williamson’s health and commitment to staying in shape. The solution? You could call it a "Joel Embiid clause." 

Financial security

Williamson and the Pelicans have been plagued with rumors all season long. Many believe that the Pelis will eventually trade the forward in exchange for picks and some credible role players.

His rumored weight issues have hampered the organization’s rebuilding momentum. Despite all these concerns, the Pelicans want to move forward with Williamson. But they will make sure they retain financial flexibility.

From what I have been told, the Pelicans, at this point, are not willing to offer a full five-year guaranteed deal. 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,” said Brian Windhorst on Get Up.

Williamson’s contract is estimated to run between $182 million-$195 million over five years. There will be additional incentives if the Duke product makes an All-NBA Team.

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A page from history books

This move by the Pelicans is quite understandable. It’s the perfect balance between Williamson’s generational basketball skill vs. his health issues. This isn’t a form of disrespect but simply a matter of business. And in the past, the Philadelphia 76ers also arranged a similar contract structure with Joel Embiid.

To recall, though the Cameroonian was picked in 2014, it wasn’t until 2016 that he played his first NBA game. He suffered a series of injuries that required surgery. So in 2017, the 76ers offered him a max contract that wasn’t guaranteed. Details revealed that he needed to play at least 1,650 minutes beginning in the 2017-18 season to qualify for the full amount of the deal. He logged in the following minutes in the succeeding seasons.

2017-18: 1,912 minutes

2018-19: 2,154 minutes

2019-20: 1,329 minutes

Since the 2019-20 NBA Season was cut short due to the lockdown, Embiid’s minutes per game were taken into account. Specifically, in an 82-game schedule, 1,650 minutes is around 20.1 minutes per game. Embiid played 20.4 minutes before the NBA closed shop in March 2020. Therefore, he was awarded the rest of the money from his contract.

The Pelicans may write up a similar arrangement for Zion. That remains to be seen in the coming months. Whatever the case may be, their fans have to be happy that Williamson will stay in New Orleans and hopefully actually play for one of the most surprising teams of the season. 

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