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NBA Draft 2019

NBA Draft 2019: What are the best player comparisons for Zion Williamson?

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Zion Williamson (Getty Images)

Zion Williamson is unlike anything we've ever seen.

Couple a menacingly muscular 6-foot-7, 285-pound frame with out-of-this-world athleticism and you begin to scratch the surface of what makes this 18-year-old the most heralded NBA Draft prospect since another 18-year-old named LeBron James in 2003.

While Williamson is absurdly unique, there are some elements present in his physique and playing ability that are reminiscent of other players that have taken this league by storm.

Who, you ask? Our NBA.com experts have a few ideas in mind…

Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): It's hard for me to box Williamson in.

There's never really been a player with Williamson's physique to play as he does, but Larry Johnson is the player that most closely checks these boxes for me.

Their stories bear some similarities, too.

While he was a 22-year-old college senior, Johnson was selected No. 1 overall by the Charlotte Hornets in 1991 after sweeping National Player of the Year honours in his final year at UNLV. Williamson swept National Player of the Year honours in his freshman year at Duke and is projected by many to be selected No. 1 overall in this year's draft.

The physique? Johnson was a bit smaller as he was listed at 6-foot-6 and 250-pounds but, according to reporters on draft night, was just 6% body fat. Two of his teammates were also taken in the top-12 of the 1991 draft, so he was already accustomed to playing alongside NBA-level talent.

Sounds familiar.

His leaping ability wasn't quite up to par with that of Williamson, but Johnson spent plenty of time playing above the rim while at UNLV and during his first few years with the Hornets before back injuries robbed him of his athleticism and limited his potential as a perennial All-Star and franchise player.

Johnson's unique blend of physicality and talent was enough to earn him 1992 Rookie of the Year, an All-NBA selection in 1993 and two All-Star selections. The game has changed plenty over the past 28 years, but Williamson is a bigger, better and younger version of what Johnson was when he was taken No. 1.

The sky's the limit for what he can become.

Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): I'm going with Blake Griffin.

Zion is a few inches shorter and has an extra 30 pounds on Griffin but their games coming out of college are fairly similar. Their strengths and weaknesses at this exact point almost mirror each other.

Griffin was praised for his strength, work ethic and above all, his freakish athleticism. Scouts loved his explosiveness, his ability to guard multiple positions defensively, his ball-handling for his size, position and age as well as his ability to score off the dribble or with his back to the basket in addition to his aggressiveness on the glass.

His body, skill set, attitude and effort were enough to make him the sure-fire No. 1 pick in the draft but his upside potential put him over the top, just like Williamson.

And Zion's scouting report is almost exactly the same with a little more admiration for his build and quickness for his size. The main glaring weakness for both of these phenoms? A consistent jump shot.

But as we've seen with Griffin, with enough practice you can develop a consistent jumper. With a tribute to Zion's work ethic, I don't see why he couldn't become someone you need to guard from all areas on the floor, even if he never becomes a knockdown 3-point or mid-range shooter.

Through Griffin's first five seasons, he was a five-time All-Star; I don't think that's out of the realm of possibility for Williamson either.

His potential is off the charts and there is truly no ceiling for how good this kid could be.

Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): I'll start by saying I don't think there's a comparison for Zion Williamson - I think Zion Williamson is like nothing we've ever seen before, so it's tough to come up with a player comparison.

But for the sake of this article, I'm going with Charles Barkley. Both Zion and Barkley are around 6'6' - undersized for the four spot, but their respective athleticism makes up for the lack of size. Barkley had the uncanny ability to grab a rebound and sprint down to the other end of the floor and finish with authority. Zion will be doing the same at the next level.

Barkley struggled a bit with his jump shot coming into the league, by year two he figured out where and how to get his shots which later extended to 3-point range. Zion will do the same.

Barkley had a handle good enough to see him run the offence by the time he was in the mix of the MVP conversation, Zion will be able to do the same in the not too distant future.

Everything between the two matches up pretty well, but Zion is a far better defender now and has the potential to be an elite defender, something Barkley could never claim.

Zion is so special that he should be only compared to himself, but to me, his game most resembles that of the Round Mound of Rebound, Sir Charles Barkley.

Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): Zion Williamson is the most physically dominant player I've seen since Shaquille O'Neal.

It's easy to think of Big Diesel as the low post dump truck drop-stepping and dunking on everyone in Los Angeles, but young Orlando Shaq did all of that while running the floor and showcasing incredible agility.

Obviously, Williamson is not seven feet tall. But he reminds me of Shaq in the manner in which he plays. Lots of guys have been physically dominant, but it takes a special kind of player to make you want to feel that dominance every time down the floor. Outside of Wilt Chamberlain, there's not another player who consistently imposed his will physically like O'Neal.

Young Shaq also had pristine footwork and was fairly quick twitch, resulting in a high-level two-way player from Day 1. That's perhaps the most exciting aspect of Williamson's game. He's got a lightning-quick second jump which helps on both ends and moves like a ballet dancer crossed with a bulldozer.

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