NBA, New Orleans Pelicans

Zion Williamson’s contract offers both reward and punishment tied to his future performance with Pelicans


New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson has plenty of incentives in his new extension deal — but there’s also “de-escalators” tied to his conditioning.

Zion Williamson celebrated his 22nd birthday unlike anyone else, signing a five-year, $193 million extension with the New Orleans Pelicans on July 6th.

After he finishes his rookie season, the guaranteed $193 million will start flowing in —but he could earn even more with escalators in his contract, according to Nola.com’s Christian Clark.

If Zion is able to make an All-NBA team, become the league’s Most Valuable Player, or win the coveted Defensive Player of the Year award, he could earn up to $231 million.

But it’s equally possible that Williamson could earn less than that guaranteed number, as there are also de-escalators in his contract tied to his conditioning, per Clark.

“According to league sources, Williamson’s contract stipulates that he will have weigh-ins periodically throughout the entirety of his new deal. The sum of his weight and body fat percentage must be below 295. If it is not, the amount of guaranteed money in Williamson’s contract can be reduced.”

Zion Williamson could earn less than $193 million with Pelicans if conditioning issues arise

The contract is reflective of Zion’s duality: he entered the league as an electrifying recruit from Duke, taken with the No. 1 overall pick, yet he’s been sidelined during the majority of his young NBA career.

Clearly, the Pelicans believe Williamson has the ability to become one of the league’s leading defensive players, and they are willing to incentivize that kind of production to have Williamson involved in another championship run. It also gives the team leverage if the conditioning concerns that have contributed to Williamson’s several serious injuries are not rectified.

In three NBA seasons, Williamson has only played a total of 85 games, which is three more games than one full NBA season. After overcoming a knee injury that sidelined him for more than half of his rookie season, Williamson broke his fifth metatarsal in his right foot last summer. That injury kept him off the court until this May.

Williamson has been working on his conditioning with personal trainer Jasper Bibbs and personal chef Christian Green. Green said recently that Zion “wants league MVP this year” and will be “the face of the NBA once LeBron James retires.”

“Definitely getting him in tiptop shape. My boy says he wants the league MVP this year. I see it. I believe it. I believe Zion is going to be the face of the NBA once LeBron James retires. I believe it. I see it. Just getting him in great health. He’s in great health now. But once the season starts, he’s going to be in even better health.”

For the sake of Zion Williamson and the Pelicans, seeing him step into becoming the league’s next great power forward can’t come soon enough.



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