There are number one picks in the NBA Draft, and then there is Zion Williamson.
There is always extra attention paid to the top name selection in the draft, but the spotlight was even brighter on the 19-year-old following his extraordinary freshman year with Duke.
Williamson cleaned up at the ACC awards and became only the third freshman in history – joining the elite group of Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis – to shoot 500 points, secure 50 steals and 50 rebounds in a single season.
The New Orleans Pelicans had no qualms about making Zion their first-round pick, but they could not have foreseen the tragedy that struck in pre-season: Williamson tore his right lateral meniscus back in October, and heading into 2020 he is still yet to pull on the Pelicans jersey.
Reports suggest he is now back in light training, but until he passes all necessary conditioning tests, the small forward will not be cleared to make his NBA debut.
And now some Pelicans supporters are getting worried that the 2019/20 season might be a complete write-off for the young man they expected so much from. Given that the franchise is pretty much out of the playoff picture – the New Orleans outfit are a staggering +50000 to win the Southwest Division according to the latest NBA betting on bet365 odds – Williamson will not be rushed back into action.
He isn’t the first highly-rated rookie to miss the entire duration of their debut NBA campaign, however…
Even the sound of Blake Griffin’s rookie year injury – a broken kneecap – is enough to turn the stomach.
That ruined his Clippers debut year, unsurprisingly, but he bounced back to become one of the leading names in contemporary NBA.
A six-time All-Star, Griffin is also a five-time All-NBA performer and won the Rookie of the Year award in what was, technically speaking, his second season in LA.
The path of the 30-year-old to glory should be used as motivation by Williamson in his darkest hours.
A Rookie of the Year winner and an All-Star nominee, Ben Simmons is another player who proves that a first season wipeout does not have to be a disaster.
His debut for the 76’ers was delayed a year due to the complications of a serious foot injury, but he returned in the 2018-19 campaign and played a crucial role in guiding the Philadelphia franchise into the Conference semi-finals.
They are hoping for even better in 2020, and Simmons is once more at the heart of all their best work.
You thought missing your rookie season was bad: Joel Embiid missed his first two campaigns in the NBA with a combination of foot and knee injuries.
Was that the end of the seven-footer’s big-league career before it even began? Absolutely not. Embiid came back stronger and has now earned two All-Star nominations following a number of stellar seasons for the 76’ers.
The 30-year-old is proof that what doesn’t kill you just makes you stronger, and it’s a lesson that proves that, with patience, Williamson can return even better this season or the next.