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Perhaps the most captivating player to enter the NBA since LeBron James was drafted in 2003, Zion Williamson is set to return to the New Orleans Pelicans for the start of the 2022-23 season.

Missing all of last year with a foot injury, Zion is not only healthy physically, but he has taken some time to heal mentally and has really committed to being in the best shape he can possibly be in.

There had been a lot of discussion over the last year about Williamson’s long-term future in New Orleans and whether or not he could get his body in shape to endure a full 82-game season, but after granting him a new five-year, at least $193 million extension and after Williamson has showed up to training camp looking better than ever, all of these questions have been put to rest.

“I feel like I am at my best right now,” Williamson said at the team’s media day earlier this week with a big smile on his face. “I feel like I am moving faster, jumping higher. I just feel great!”

Zion is not the only person to have noticed positive changes in his game either, as Pelicans head coach Willie Green observed Williamson play in the team’s recent intrasquad scrimmage and had high praise for what he saw from the former top overall pick.

“Z looked amazing. His strength, his speed. He dominated the scrimmage pretty much,” Green said. “And then he did a good job of looking for his teammates. What stood out the most was his force, more than anything.”

Having Zion Williamson healthy is extremely important to this franchise not only because they have invested a ton of money into him being the face of the franchise, but because he is the difference between winning and losing for the Pelicans.

Last season, the Pelicans finished the year with a 36-46 record after starting the season 7-20. They ended up sneaking into the playoffs after winning two games in the Western Conference Play-In Tournament and now, entering the 2022-23 season, the Pelicans have high expectations.

Their trio of Zion Williamson, CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram could absolutely lead the league in scoring and the Pelicans have the perfect blend of defensive intensity as well with Herb Jones, Jose Alvarado and of course, the potential Zion Williamson presents on the defensive-end of the floor.

He can contest any shot with his freakish athleticism and length, plus we all know what Zion can do on the offensive-end of the floor.

Feeling faster, stronger and eager to get back out on the floor, Zion Williamson truly is the key to success for the New Orleans Pelicans this upcoming season.

If he can remain healthy, there is no reason why the Pelicans cannot win 45-plus games for the first time since the 2017-18 season and that may just be the start of what this group can achieve. Look out for the Pelicans this upcoming season because with Williamson on the floor alongside Ingram and McCollum they are absolutely a dark-horse title contender in the Western Conference that no team will want to run into when the postseason begins.