Pelicans: Giving Zion an extension will be easy

New Orleans Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin called Zion Williamson a top player and said it would be an “easy call” to offer him a big money extension.

Williamson is eligible to sign a five-year, $181 million rookie-max extension this summer. But after missing the entire 2021-22 season with a broken right foot and playing just 85 games in his three-year career, his future availability remains in doubt.

Speaking on “The Ryen Russillo Podcast,” Griffin said Williamson is “historically good” when he’s on the court.

“It’s not a tough call, it’s a pretty easy call,” Griffin said of offering the former Duke star a maximum extension. “The kid is historically good when he plays…this is a top player, that’s easy.”

However, Griffin noted that the team would need to somehow protect themselves against the risk of injury.

“What becomes significant as a team that’s a small-market team and as a team that can’t make mistakes in terms of injuries over time, you have to compensate yourself in some way for that and that’s fine,” he said. “But the decision of whether or not this is a top player is an easy one. It will really come down to whether he is completely with us, this is what he looks like and we are completely with him and I think we always have been.”

The timeline for Williamsons return from injury was murky at the start of the season and he began rehabbing away from the team in Portland in January. But Griffin said the team has always been on the same page with Williamson and feels good about his relationship with him.

“It was really heartwarming when he had his media availability in the postseason and said how much he believes in this,” Griffin said. “I saw him completely moved by Willie Green and his staff and this team frankly during that playoff run. So we feel very confident that he wants to be here and we feel equally confident that we can make a deal.”

During that April media briefing, Williamson said “of course” he would sign an extension if the team offered it to him.

“I couldn’t sign it fast enough,” he said.

The 21-year-old Williamson has career averages of 25.7 points, 7 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting just over 60% from the field.

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Pelicans: Giving Zion an extension will be easy