About three years ago, a friend of mine showed me a clip on youtube of a 6 foot 4 sophomore from Spartanburg, SC. His name was Zion Williamson and I knew from the moment I saw that clip, that this man-child was somehow the future of basketball.
In-game dunks that most players can’t do in warmups. Blocking shots in to the stratosphere and bullying every player that tries to stop him. This kid is unbelievable.
Over the last few years Zion’s game has gone viral, he’s been described as dominant, unreal, monster, elite athlete, and freak of nature to name a few.
He made the decision last year to attend Duke University to be coached by one of the all-time greats, and play alongside top recruits RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish.
Zion has flourished at Duke and is now the odds on favorite to win the Wooden Award and be named College Basketball’s best player.
If you haven’t seen him lately, Zion now stands 6 foot 7 inches tall and weighs in at 285 pounds (not a typo)! If he were in the NBA today, he would be the leagues second heaviest player. However don’t be mislead, Zion’s weight is met with athleticism unlike the world has ever seen.
He broke the Blue Devils vertical jump record at 40 inches last summer, and it has been reported he once jumped 46 inches when he was a much lighter 272 pounds. Combine that with his speed and strength, and you have yourself a generational athlete.
I’d like to talk about his basketball abilities though. Let’s dive in and highlight the strengths and weaknesses of Zion’s game, followed by three big questions.
Explosiveness and finishing
The best finisher at the rim in college basketball today. The lefty has the ability to use his size and quickness to get to the rim and finish with either hand.
On misses he has the best second bounce I’ve ever seen, allowing him to grab his own rebound and go back up. If you give him a window, Zion will put you on a poster and possibly make your family disown you.
Motor and hustle
One of the great things about Zion is his determination to win. He reminds me at times of Tyler Hansbrough back at UNC. Constantly diving for loose balls, chasing down blocks, and fighting for rebounds. He is relentless on both sides of the court, and has incredible stamina. This kid brings it every game.
Passing and ball handling
Perhaps the most underrated part of Zion’s game is his passing ability. He sees the floor like a guard, and is unselfish in transition and the half-court. He draws in defenders with dribble penetration and drops it off to back door cutters with ease.
His ball-handling ability is great for his size and will only improve as he develops. He takes care of the basketball by keeping it low and can dribble in crowds like someone half his size.
Though he isn’t Ben Simmons or the Greek Freak, Zion is a below average three-point shooter. He is currently shooting 30 percent for the season on 41 attempts. He shows the willingness and confidence to shoot when left open, and if he ever develops an average jumper, he will be truly unstoppable.
His mid-range shot off the dribble however is a consistent bucket for him. In today’s NBA he will likely be asked to work heavily on his shot from three and the free throw line.
This isn’t necessarily a weakness as it really depends on the matchup. When going against smaller guards, Zion can be taken off the dribble. When going against bigger forwards however, Zion is an immovable wall.
He shows so much enthusiasm on the defensive side of the ball that he will make up for most of his mistakes on the perimeter with blocks from behind. He also also intimidates players to the point that they don’t even attempt to score on him, leading him to average only two fouls per game.
Overview and three BIG questions
As it stands right now Zion is averaging 22.3 points, 9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, two blocks, and two steals per game. He shoots 67% from the free throw line, and 69% on his field goals (ranks 8th nationally).
These are incredible stats if you factor in that he’s sharing the ball with two other top-five players in the country. If you place him on another team, these stats would be inflated by a lot. He leads the nation in player efficiency rating, an all around stat that is dominated by LeBron in the NBA.
What position will Zion play in the NBA?
Answer…WHO CARES! I hear people asking this constantly! Positions in the pros are almost obsolete at this point. Your position is no longer based on size but rather on skill set. Ben Simmons is a 6 foot 10 point guard, and LeBron plays all five positions!
The center position no longer exists, and almost every big man is now considered a “stretch 4”. Zion will likely have a LeBron-type role, bringing the ball up at times while also playing down low, and guarding bigger guys. Much like he is in college, he’s going to be a matchup nightmare for so many teams.
Will he develop a jump shot?
The short answer, yes.
Coach K requires all players in his system to shoot the open three. Zion has steadily improved as the year has gone on, and he will likely continue to develop. His ceiling as a shooter though is average at best.
Is he ready for the NBA?
Zion was ready for the NBA two years ago. He’s more than a grown man already and he could probably dominate on physical ability alone. One can hope he isn’t affected by the lifestyle of being a pro athlete, and all that it brings. He seems to be a humble kid who values his teammates and wants to win above everything else.
I tweeted recently that I think Zion will have the biggest impact on the NBA since LeBron. Quite simply, I have never been higher on a college basketball player.
One thing that many young players going in to the pros have a hard time adjusting to, is the physical aspect of pro basketball. This isn’t the case for Zion. Instead, the league will have to adjust to him.
Get ready world, the next BIG thing is here!