Zion Williamson has been the focus of the NBA draft hype machine since the day his high school mixtape hit Instagram. And under the perpetual spotlight that illuminates Duke basketball, everything he did pointed towards him being a once in a generation player.
Whether it's by the analytics or the old-fashioned eye test, every movement Williamson takes on the hardwood is breaking calculators and shattering perceptions of what a man should and shouldn't be able to do with a basketball.
The quick-twitch athleticism he exhibits moving side to side and the unmatched explosiveness he shows when soaring above the rim is unlike anything a 6'7", 280-pound man should be able to do but he defies logic by making those jaw-dropping plays with regularity.
If a team is looking for someone to change the face of their offence, Williamson can shoulder the scoring load as he creates mismatches with anyone an opposing team tries to send at him. If a team needs a program-shifting defender, Williamson can do that too with his quick feet coupled with otherworldly strength and shot blocking.
When Williamson steps on an NBA floor for the first time, he immediately will become one of the greatest pure athletes to ever grace The Association and he could very well change the course of whatever franchise he goes to.
In a league that already has some of the best athletes in the world, Williamson is still going to stand out as a monster.
Where his athleticism shows out the best is when it comes to breaking his man down one-on-one and driving the paint. His blend of pure power and speed made him impossible to stop when he attacked off the bounce in college, and while the quality of defenders is going to be up several notches in the NBA, there still aren't going to many players able to guard him in space.
If he does ever get slowed while propelling towards the hoop, he's got masterful footwork and countermoves like a guard to slow down, change direction and burst into open space, and that allows him to score off straight line drives as well as mid-post moves. His wide shoulders always allow him to shield off defenders and protect the basketball and even against the best rim protectors he's faced he's been able to take contact and finish, something I think will continue at the NBA level.
Williamson's dynamic finishing ability at the rim is always going to be the first thing people want to talk about, but what might be his most underrated skill is his vision. After drawing multiple defenders he always seems to make the right pass and he can pick apart double teams leaving his opposition scrambling. A terror in transition, his ability to dish to open teammates for layups or kick out to open shooters is what makes him so multidimensional as an offensive orchestrator.
As a defender, he can really guard out on the perimeter and be a game changer with his ability to blow up an offensive set. While you might think his supersized frame would slow him down, he's actually as light on his feet as a dancer and possesses great hip flexibility that allows him to flip side to side and deny dribble penetration. Williamson also plays with a precise sense of timing that gives him supreme anticipation when playing in the passing lanes and blocking shots, both things that make him an elite help-side defender that can anchor his team.
While he actually shot the three a manageable 33.8% at Duke, it's tough for me to believe he's going to be a reliable shooter in the NBA unless he goes through a considerable mechanics overhaul.
Right now his jumper is a clunky release that comes from the side of his face and is the trajectory is noticeably flat. While he was able to aim the ball into the rim from the shorter college line, that stroke is not projectable to the NBA line and he'll have to work on expanding his range.
Even though I think his ability to drive the lane and finish will be his best attribute in the NBA, he could improve the coordination on layups with his off hand to become slightly less predictable when a shot blocker meets him at the rim. On the defensive side of the ball, he is a gambler that is always hunting for steals, and while continually rolling the dice worked in college, I think he'll need to get into the habit of staying at home more often when he plays the disciplined offences of the NBA.
Projected Draft Position: 1
Projected NBA Role: Primary offensive initiator.
NBA Comparison: Blake Griffin
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