Zion Williamson Rumors: Pelicans 'Not Willing to Offer a Full 5-Year Guaranteed Deal'

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVMay 29, 2022

NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 28: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans smiles before Round 1 Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs on April 28, 2022 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Zion Williamson is eligible for a contract extension this offseason, but the New Orleans Pelicans might not offer a fully guaranteed deal for the oft-injured forward.

ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported the latest Friday:

"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 gonna 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."

A max contract for Williamson could be worth at least $180 million over five years, but Windhorst projected closer to $100 million in guaranteed money. It could be structured similarly to the deal Joel Embiid signed with the Philadelphia 76ers early in 2017, which included triggers for games played to guarantee the money.

Williamson has played just 85 games in his first three NBA seasons, missing all of 2021-22 because of a foot injury.

The Pelicans announced Thursday that Zion is cleared to return without any restrictions, setting him up to play at full strength in 2022-23.

The 21-year-old has impressed when on the court, earning an All-Star selection in his only full season. He averaged 27.0 points and 7.2 rebounds across 61 games in 2020-21, shooting 61.1 percent from the field.

Williamson led the team with 8.7 win shares that season, per Basketball Reference, living up to the hype as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft.

The upside is clearly enough for the Pelicans to offer an extension when first eligible this summer. Williamson also indicated he would sign a deal if offered.

"Of course, I couldn't sign it fast enough," Williamson said in April.

The question is whether injuries will prevent him from reaching his potential, a concern that could affect his next contract.

While few NFL contracts are fully guaranteed, it is much more common for top players in the NBA. Williamson and his camp might have to agree to the major concession for the two sides to come to an agreement.