The headline was bold: Zion Williamson signed a five-year, $193 million max extension with the Pelicans. No player option. If he makes All-NBA this season, that could jump to $231 million over five years.
However, the fine print on the contract is interesting: There is a weight clause that could reduce Zion’s payday if he does not meet a set weight target (read: Stay in shape). From Christian Clark of the Times-Picayune who had the details.
According to league sources, Williamson’s contract stipulates that he will have weigh-ins periodically throughout the entirety of his new deal. The sum of his weight and body fat percentage must be below 295. If it is not, the amount of guaranteed money in Williamson’s contract can be reduced.
This really isn’t quite the threat it seems on paper — Zion only takes a financial hit if he gets waived. The guaranteed amount due declines if Zion misses the weight target, not the base amount of the deal, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN. That means Zion keeps getting his money unless the Pelicans waive him, in which case his guaranteed amount comes into play. And him getting waived is highly unlikely.
What the clause does, however, is send the message the Pelicans want to be sent about a commitment to condoning, something that has not always been Zion’s top focus. To put it kindly. There were reports that during his recent injury rehab Zion’s weight got well above 300 pounds. Zion was listed as 284 pounds with the Pelicans, if he is at that weight he would need less than 10% body fat to meet the target.
You can be sure the leak of this clause has made Zion’s agent and camp unhappy.
There has long been a push (and a recommendation from people inside and outside the organization) that Zion play 10-20 pounds lighter than his official listed weight. For a player who missed all of last season following foot surgery and whose explosive athleticism puts extra strain and torque on ligaments and tendons, keeping his weight down matters for his ability to stay on the court in the short term and longevity beyond that. Zion’s focus on his conditioning has been questioned going back to his first Summer League game, where he played nine minutes before bumping knees with another player and being sat down for the rest of the entire Vegas showcase (his conditioning that summer was part of the reasoning).
Maybe things will be different this season. With a true locker room leader in CJ McCollum, and a strong coach in Willie Green, things feel changed around the Pelicans right now — everyone seems to be pulling the rope in the same direction for once. A roster with three stars — Brandon Ingram, Zion and McCollum — surrounded by quality role players such as Jonas Valenciunas, Devonte' Graham, Herb Jones, Larry Nance Jr. and more could make a little noise in a deep West. We saw the potential of that at the end of last season when, without Zion, the Pelicans pushed past the Lakers into the final play-in slot.
Regardless of how they do, Zion weight watch is on for the coming season.