Height: 6’7” Weight: 285 Wingspan 6’11” Age: 18 College: Duke Hometown: Salisbury, North Carolina
Zion Williamson is the most powerful athlete I’ve ever seen on a basketball court, but there is definitely more to his game than that. At 6’7” and 285 pounds he will be ridiculous hard to stop around the rim and in transition. He will also be a force defensively shot blocking, and can guard 1-5 which is very important with how much NBA teams switch today. He will be able to help a team with play finishing, drawing help, defensive versatility, rebounding, leadership, and competitiveness. He can hurt a team with floor spacing because of his lack of a consistent jumpshot, and taking too many risks defensively instead of being in solid position.
Offensively he can draw help with no screen whether he’s isolating from the perimeter, elbow, or posting-up. His drives are mostly straight line, or one cross in front, which will be easier to cover in the NBA when they’re people that are near his athleticism, but I still imagine he will get to the rim easily in the NBA. In the post he doesn’t only rely on his strength and jumping ability, he also incredible footwork. Even though he’ll have better defenders guarding him in the NBA, he should get to the rim just as easy because he will have much more space to work with than he did playing with a lack of shooters on Duke. Even though I don’t imagine he will post up that much in the NBA, there will definitely be matchups where he could easily take advantage of his strength down there. He could also be very effective with isolations from the elbow. One place where he was almost never used at Duke was as the screener in the pick and roll, Because of his leaping ability he could have huge roll gravity which will open up the floor for all of his teammates. I hope whatever team drafts him puts him in that spot because I think he’ll be very valuable in that role. He also has solid vision coming off the pick and roll, but teams can go under on him because he can’t hit jump shots off the dribble consistently. At Duke last season he was efficient as the pick and roll ball handler, but in low volume. In transition, as long as he plays with guards that have good vision he will be unstoppable.
Zion can play on both blocks in the post, but he goes over his right shoulder every time, and never finishes with his right hand. Michigan State exposed this some, and heavily overplayed his right shoulder, and Zion still refused to use his right hand. If he never learns how to use his right hand while finishing at the rim, it will make him a lot less unstoppable than he could be because teams will just overplay that side. If he gets a better right hand i’m not sure how anybody will stop at the rim. I could see his lack of right hand being an issue, and a lot of people say one of his weaknesses is his wingspan, but I don’t think that will affect his finishing because of his insane leaping ability. One area where he can hurt his team is with his shooting, not only because defenses can sag off, but his defender can help him off him when he is off the ball making all of the creators he plays with have less room to operate. Last year he was in the 47th percentile in spot up situations, but that was only because how well he attacks closeouts. He was in the 24th percentile in spot up jumpers, so I imagine teams will close short on him which will limit how effective he is attacking closeouts on the drive. He has a 2 motion shot so I think it will be hard for him to get very consistent with his jumper, but he seems like he has a very strong work ethic so I imagine he will at least become a capable threat.
Defensively Zion has a chance to be an absolute force. I would go as far to say he has a chance to be the defensive player of the year someday with his physical tools. He has the strength and athleticism to guard centers, and is also quick enough to stay in front of point guards. This makes him able to switch any screen which is important to a lot of NBA teams schemes. When locked in he should be incredibly tough to score on 1 on 1. In transition defense he will be a huge threat to block and change shots, and also has a chance to be a great rim protector in the half court. His hops and explosiveness could intimidate a lot of people at the rim, and make them change their shot.
Zion also has great instincts in the passing lanes, and gets many steals for breakaway dunks that change the momentum of the game. However, sometimes he is too aggressive in the passing lanes, and hurts his team by getting out of position and gambling. He will need to do this less in the NBA. Another area he needs to improve defensively is closeouts, he occasionally got blown by while closing out. He needs to work on this a lot, but I’m sure he will get better at this. If he locks in on this end, he could be one of the best defenders in the league early in his career.
Zion has the mentality you want in a superstar. He plays hard every game, wants the ball at the end of the game, seems to be a great teammate, and has a killer instinct. He has an incredible motor, and is an elite competitor that seems to care about winning more than stats. With his athletic ability and motor, if he becomes a more consistent shooter, and a better finisher with his right hand I am confident he will be one of the best players of all time. He is a very safe pick with huge upside. His absolute floor is Julius Randle who is a very solid NBA player. It’s likely that he will improve his shot and skill level, and consistently be on an All-NBA team due to his once in a generation athleticism. If he doesn’t improve his shot and right hand much he will probably still make some all star games. He will excel most on a team where he has the ball in his hands a lot or is cutting to the basket a lot, because he is not good in spot up situations. He will be a huge difference maker right as a rookie.