New Orleans hiring Stan Van Gundy as coach clearly signaled one thing: This franchise wants to win now.
For the Pelicans to do that — and make the playoffs in a ridiculously deep Western Conference — it means having a healthy Zion Williamson on the court and taking advantage of his unique skill set. How exactly does Van Gundy plan to do that? He would not be pinned down when talking to reporters, not even willing to define Zion’s position, via Andrew Lopez at ESPN.
“I think you have a vision what [Williamson] is, which is a multi-talented guy,” Van Gundy told reporters Tuesday at his introductory news conference. “He is an unbelievable playmaker for a guy at his size. He’s a guy who can take the ball off the glass and lead the break and make plays. He can make passes off the dribble. He can finish over bigger people inside. He’s a multi-talented guy. I don’t look at him in any way as far as is he a four or a five. I’m not sure those labels matter when it comes to him…
“I think as we study and try to get more definitive and talk to Zion about what he likes,” Van Gundy said, “I think it’s more what positions we want to put him in and who is best around him and things like that. It’s not limiting him to a position.”
Zion fits in perfectly in a positionless basketball world. He also brings a gravity when he goes to the rim — with or without the ball — that opens up the offense for Brandon Ingram, Jrue Holiday, J.J. Redick, and the rest of an interesting New Orleans roster.
That is especially true in transition: New Orleans was fourth in the league in points per possession in transition, but they were middle of the pack in the league in the number of transition possessions they had. A lot of that came back to defense — the Pelicans were bottom 10 in the league on that end of the court. If Van Gundy — a fantastic defensive technician as a coach — can get the Pelicans into the upper half of the league defensively, create a few more turnovers, then New Orleans can run more and get more easy buckets.
And more Zion Williamson dunks, something everyone wants to see. When he is out and running, it doesn’t matter what position you think Williamson is, he is a threat.