NBA plots to put Duke basketball legend Zion Williamson in playoffs

Former Duke basketball great Zion Williamson (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Former Duke basketball great Zion Williamson (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Duke basketball fans ought to support the NBA’s potential playoff plans.

In light of the NBA’s apparent scheme to include the necessary number of squads in the playoffs so as to not leave out the New Orleans Pelicans — 10th in the Western Conference standings at 28-36 — the NCAA must now be kicking itself for not expanding the Final Four in 2019 to somehow include the Duke basketball show. After all, those April ratings likely would have shattered records due to the invisible-trapeze act of Zion Williamson alone.

During Thursday’s edition of The Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN insider Brian Windhorst broke down what he has deemed as the rationale for the league possibly nixing the remainder of the regular season and then handing out 20 invites to the playoffs, which could feasibly tip off sometime late summer:

“I’ll tell you one thing: that scenario gets Zion Williamson in. Look, I’ve just heard…I’m not saying the NBA is going this route, I’m just saying I’ve already heard this scenario, that no matter what happens, the cutoff line will be the Pelicans. They’ll be in. It will be the first time in the history of the NBA that the league kicked the ball into the fairway for New Orleans.”

ALSO READ: Ranking all 25 Blue Devils in the NBA this season

Windhorst further explained his reasoning:

“Let me just say, how do you get to 20, though? Because if you just go by the straight records, because to me, this is what I’ve already heard, alright; I’ve already heard people in this league say this is an elaborate game to get Zion Williamson into this bubble.”

The first round of games could entail a group-stage format. According to Forbes writer Adam Zagoria, the NBA Board of Governors plans to discuss such matters via a conference call on Friday.

After sitting out the Pelicans’ first 44 games while rehabbing from knee surgery, the first-year sensation dazzled his way to averages of 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 58.9 percent from the floor. Before concerns over COVID-19 put the season on pause, Williamson had worked his way into the Rookie of the Year conversation while helping New Orleans to an 11-9 clip following his return.

What the Duke basketball product means to the bottom line

Here’s how The Bird Writes contributor Preston Ellis summed up Zion Williamson’s impact on dollar signs:

“Zion signed the richest shoe deal among any rookie ever (a $15 million annual salary), narrowly eclipsing LeBron’s ($13.8 million)…Zion is also already the fourth-highest off-court earning athlete in the NBA, behind only LeBron, [Steph] Curry, and [Kevin] Durant, and involved with some very popular companies: Jordan, Gatorade, Mountain Dew, Mercedes-Benz, Panini-America, 2K, Beats by Dre, and Fanatics.”

Ellis continued:

“In his first performance on January 22nd, Zion produced the second-highest telecast of the season on ESPN, surpassing all but one game on Christmas day. The NBA banked on his immense popularity early, scheduling the Pelicans 30 nationally televised games despite the team finishing just 33-49 in the 2018-19 season.”

Perhaps, though, in a conversation with Ellis on Thursday, Fox Sports Nola commentator Nancy Lieberman defended the NBA’s love of the 6-foot-6, 285-pound freak of nature in the simplest terms:

“The league is smart. Why would you not want Zion in the playoffs?”

Duke basketball fans would certainly tune in to Williamson and the four fellow former Dukies he has for teammates: Brandon Ingram, JJ Redick, Frank Jackson, and Jahlil Okafor.

light. Trending. 15 programs who hate Duke basketball success

Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more news and views regarding Zion Williamson and all things Duke basketball.