It’s never a good sign when a franchise star like New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson is reported to be unhappy with his current team. However, for other NBA franchises, it’s music to the front office’s ears. Every team, including the Miami Heat, is surely listening.
On June 17, The Athletic‘s Shams Charania, Joe Vardon and William Guillory reported that certain members of the soon-to-be 21-year-old’s family “want Williamson on another team.”
After reading such a report, it’s hard not to immediately flashback to 2019, just before Williamson was drafted by the Pelicans, when Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix powerfully surmised exactly why the future MVP would thrive best with the Heat franchise.
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After firing Steve Van Gundy, The Pelicans are looking to hire a third head coach during Williamson’s third year with the team. If the power forward’s family wants stability, few other teams have a front office quite like Miami.
Under the leadership of Heat president Pat Riley, and head coach Erik Spoelstra, there’s no doubt Miami would shape the young star into a true MVP. Mannix wrote in February 2019:
Here’s a novel idea,” Let’s reward the team that refuses to tank, no matter how logical it might be for them to do it. Miami’s relentless pursuit of playoff appearances has defined the Pat Riley/Erik Spoelstra era, and while the Heat odds to land Zion will be long if they don’t make the playoffs, is there a better landing spot for him? Worried about his conditioning? Stick him in the Heat program, which has re-shaped the figures of anyone from LeBron James to Dion Waiters. Need structure? Miami has one of the NBA’s best coaches in Spoelstra and runs a sharp, disciplined system. The Heat’s salary cap issues will make it difficult for them to build a high-level roster over the next few years. Zion’s best chance of developing winning habits early—and perhaps his best chance of winning, period—could be in Miami, one of the NBA’s most rock-solid organizations.
Williamson Still Has 2 More Years on His Contract
Williamson is still on his rookie deal in New Orleans, and his contract won’t be up until the 2022-23 season. So if he wants out, he’ll have to ask for a trade.
Right now, the Pelicans have the best chance of bringing in top talent while Williamson remains on his rookie contract. He’s getting paid $10.7 million next season and $13.5 the following year. But then Williamson will due for a massive payday, a contract extension that could succeed the $200 million Luka Doncic is expected to receive from the Dallas Mavericks.
While it’s unnerving to hear Williamson is unhappy in New Orleans, it would be more concerning if he was happy. Despite Williamson having one of the best campaigns of his career, averaging 27 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, the Pelicans finished the season 31-41 and once again, failed to make the playoffs.
Willamson’s family is frustrated at New Orleans for failing to put together a successful supporting cast around the Duke alum, according to The Athletic’s report, and league sources are paying close attention to “Williamson’s family members’ thinly-veiled unhappiness with the Pelicans and whether those feelings seeped into the player’s own views.”
However, close confidants of the Pelicans star told The Athletic that “he just wants to win” and “remains focused on basketball and helping New Orleans win next season.”
Heat President Pat Riley Discussed Adding a Third Big Name for Next Season
With Victor Oladipo‘s future still up in the air, and possibly up to $34 million in additional cap space if they release both Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala, the Heat are capable of making a blockbuster move this offseason.
“We’ll see,” Heat President Pat Riley said during his annual postseason media conference on June 3, as reported by Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson. “The market will determine a lot of that as we move forward. I like the nucleus of our team. We have a great core with Jimmy [Butler] and Bam [Adebayo]; regardless of how they performed in the playoffs, we didn’t make a mistake on those guys.”
“I have a pretty good idea of what we have and where we are headed,” Riley said, “Despite the result of the Milwaukee series, which was bad… We are ready to move forward.”