Zion Williamson keeps proving why Knicks should stay far away from possible trade

Zion can't escape the injury bug.
New York Knicks, New Orleans Pelicans, Zion Williamson
New York Knicks, New Orleans Pelicans, Zion Williamson / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages

The New York Knicks haven't played their first playoff game yet, so it's still too early to try to guess what the front office will do this summer. Leon Rose has built up a treasure chest of draft assets that the Knicks could cash in over the offseason, but it'll depend on who's available and how they fit alongside Jalen Brunson.

Five years ago, fans hoped New York would be awarded the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft via the draft lottery. Instead, the Knicks had the No. 3 pick, which turned into RJ Barrett. The Pelicans were the big winners, and drafted Duke phenom Zion Williamson.

New York has since traded Barrett for OG Anunoby, and New Orleans could decide to listen to trade offers for Williamson over the summer. The 23-year-old forward played in a career-high 70 regular season games, but an unfortunate hamstring injury will keep him out of the Pelicans' must-win Play-In Tournament game on Friday.

On Tuesday, Williamson posted 40 rebounds and 11 rebounds against the Lakers in his first postseason game before a hamstring injury took him out with the score tied at 95 in the fourth quarter. The Lakers went on to win, 110-106, to secure the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference.

If New Orleans beats Sacramento on Friday, the Pelicans will still be without Williamson for the first round of the playoffs.

Zion Williamson out for at least two weeks after unfortunate hamstring injury

Since drafting Zion, New Orleans has made the playoffs once, in a first-round exit against Phoenix in 2022. Williamson didn't play in that series because of a foot injury. If the Pelicans come up short of the playoffs or are another first-round exit, the front office could decide to shake things up.

When Zion is healthy, it's hard to stop him. However, he's dealt with several injuries throughout his career. It'd make sense for New Orleans to at least listen to offers for him this summer. If that happens, Knicks fans should already know that New York will be listed as a possible destination for Williamson.

The front office doesn't need to take Nate Robinson's advice and trade Julius Randle for Williamson. Randle suffered a season-ending injury in January but played at least 71 games for three straight seasons before this season. Before 2023-24, Zion's career-high was 61 games played. He played 24 games as a rookie, 61 games in 2020-21, missed the entire 2021-22 season, and played 29 games last season.

Williamson signed a five-year max contract that could be worth up to $231 million, but after this season, his salary won't be fully guaranteed. Because he played only 29 games in 2022-23, the remainder of his deal will be non-guaranteed, starting in 2025-26. His 2024-25 salary is partly guaranteed. New Orleans could waive Williamson after next season without losing any money.

There's a reason why the Pelicans structured his contract the way they did. Zion's injury history is a major red flag. As dominant as he can be, he isn't reliable. The Knicks know that. Leon Rose has made smart, calculated decisions. New York might've wanted to draft Zion in 2019 (who didn't want to?!), but that ship has sailed.

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