Appearing on a podcast with Ryen Russillo of The Ringer, Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin expressed confidence in signing Zion Williamson to a maximum-salary extension this offseason, though Griffin hinted the club will seek protections in the contract due to Williamson’s injury history.
“We feel really confident he wants to be here and we’re equally confident we can come to an agreement,” Griffin said.
Williamson expressed in his postseason press conference that he’s eager to sign long-term with the franchise after the team made a late run to reach the postseason. Griffin says it’s essentially a no-brainer he’ll get a max offer, which would be five years and at least $182MM.
“It was really comforting when he did his media availability in the postseason and said how much he buys into this,” Griffin said.
No player eligible for a rookie scale extension has ever turned down a maximum-salary offer, but given that Williamson missed the entire 2021/22 season due to a foot injury and has appeared in just 85 games since entering the league in 2019, the club may seek protections within the deal.
“It’s not a big decision. It’s a pretty easy decision,” Griffin said. “This is a max player. That’s easy. The kid is historically good when he plays. … What becomes significant with a team that’s a small market team and team that can’t make mistakes in terms of injuries over time, you have to indemnify yourself in some way.”
A report late last month suggested that ownership was reluctant to give Williamson a fully guaranteed max deal.
That would follow the lead of Philadelphia when Joel Embiid was eligible for his rookie scale extension. His five-year, maximum-salary extension included an injury protection for the franchise.
Griffin also addressed two other hot topics related to Williamson. He called the notion that there was a disconnect between the Pelicans and Williamson during his injury rehab “complete nonsense” driven by social media. “There was never a time when we were in the dark on Zion,” he said.
He also said Williamson was simply not healthy enough to suit up after he suffered an early-season setback. “The kid’s bone didn’t heal,” Griffin said.
Additionally, he noted that Williamson, who was cleared of any restrictions regarding his injury last month, has remained in town.
“He’s literally in our gym every day right now,” Griffin said.