The New Orleans Pelicans have emerged as an intriguing team in the Western Conference, excelling in both defensive rating and net rating. They possess a versatile defensive lineup that can adjust to different situations, playing small or big depending on the need. One of the most surprising developments this season has been Zion Williamson’s defensive improvement. Previously considered a liability on defense, Williamson has shown a significant transformation in his defensive efforts post-All-Star break.

During the In-Season Tournament final four against the Los Angeles Lakers, Williamson’s lackluster defensive performance was evident. However, a noticeable shift occurred after the All-Star break, with Williamson displaying a newfound commitment to defense. His defensive rating improved, and he began making multiple defensive plays on the same possession. Notably, Williamson has been tasked with guarding top opponents like Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard, showcasing his defensive versatility and impact on the court.

Pelicans coach Willie Green has implemented a strategic change in their pick-and-roll game to maximize Williamson’s offensive potential. By setting screens for Williamson inside the paint, the Pelicans create opportunities for him to drive to the rim and exploit defenders sagging off him. This tactic forces defenses to make tough decisions, as collapsing on Williamson opens up passing lanes for shooters like CJ McCollum and Herb Jones. Green’s adjustment has proven effective in unleashing Williamson’s offensive capabilities.

As the Pelicans aim for a playoff berth, Williamson’s defensive intensity and offensive prowess will be crucial factors in their success. Having never played in an NBA playoff game, Williamson faces a new challenge in maintaining his high level of play under the pressure of postseason competition. The team’s defensive versatility and strategic adjustments will be key in navigating the playoffs and potentially making a deep run. With Williamson’s growth on both ends of the court, the Pelicans have the potential to surprise many in the postseason.

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