Mavs HC Carlisle on Zion Williamson: Shaq-Type 'Force of Nature With' PG Skills

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2021

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) against the Dallas Mavericks in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Saturday, March 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)
Derick Hingle/Associated Press

The New Orleans Pelicans unlocked their offensive identity earlier this season when coach Stan Van Gundy turned the offense over to Zion Williamson, allowing the second-year star to act as the focal point of the offense.

After his Dallas Mavericks allowed Williamson to rampage for 38 points, five rebounds and six assists in Saturday's 112-103 loss to New Orleans, coach Rick Carlisle spoke about the unique challenges Zion presents.  

"He's an unusual force and obviously a great player," Carlisle said. "We'll have to figure something a little better out next time, but he's doing this to everybody. We did have some very good possessions guarding him, but he was a beast.

"It presents huge challenges for the defense and for officials. He is just creating collisions out there. This is a Shaquille O'Neal-type force of nature with a point guard skill set."

Williamson scored or assisted on the Pelicans' final 14 points in Saturday's win, continuing a trend that's seen him come into his own as a playmaker. New Orleans has the NBA's most efficient offense over the last two months, scoring 120.0 points per 100 possessions—a mark that's four points better than the Mavericks' NBA record set last season.

Williamson is averaging 26.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game overall this season. While defense is still a significant challenge for the Pels, Van Gundy unlocking Williamson's offensive brilliance is by far the biggest positive of his first year as coach.