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Zion Williamson’s weight clause only costs him money if he is waived

Pelicans big Zion Williamson

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - MARCH 15: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans stands on the court during the first quarter of an NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Smoothie King Center on March 15, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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We have written about this before at NBC Sports, but as Marc Stein noted in his latest substack newsletter, the early headlines didn’t tell the real story:

The much-discussed weight clause in Zion Williamson’s five-year, $193 million max contract extension will only cost him money in the unlikely event the Pelicans waive him. If things ever get to that point, a lot of other things would have gone wrong.

The Pelicans made a Joel Embiid-style bet on Williamson and his health with this contract extension. Much like the injury clauses in Embiid’s contract, this one protects the team if things go very poorly.

The weight clause states Zion must keep the sum of his weight and body fat percentage below 295; if not, the guaranteed money in his contract decreases. However, that doesn’t mean his checks get smaller — so long as the checks are coming he receives the full max amount. The clause means that if the Pelicans ever waive him, Zion’s guaranteed money he is still owed would be smaller.

The Pelicans have legitimate reason to be concerned about Zion’s weight, which has gotten above 300 pounds at times, and is especially concerning for a player who just missed an entire season following foot surgery. The clause is more a reminder for Zion to stay focused — and reportedly he has this offseason with a personal trainer and chef getting him in shape and at a good weight for next season. Zion is more frustrated with the reputation he doesn’t put in the work than the cracks about his weight.

The Pelicans, with Zion, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, Jonas Valenciunas, Devonte’ Graham, Herb Jones, Larry Nance Jr. and other quality role players could make some noise in the West this season. They’ve got the talent, and the combination of coach Willie Green and McCollum have provided a direction and locker room leadership. There should be genuine hope in New Orleans.

And less concern about the weight clause. It’s not going to be an issue.