Credit: Duke Athletics

Zion Williamson Draft Profile

Breaking down the NBA potential of Zion Williamson

Freshman 6’7″ 285 Power Forward Duke DOB: 7/6/00
22.6 ppg 8.9 rpg 2.1 apg FG: 68% 3 PT: 33.8%

Click here for full stats

Recruiting Profile

Wingspan: 6’10”

NBA Comparison: Charles Barkley/Larry Johnson

Strengths: Athleticism, Defense, High Motor, Efficiency, Strength

Weaknesses: Outside Shooting, Position Fit, Weight

Most basketball fans knew Zion Williamson as a high school player due to his highlight dunks and YouTube mixtapes, but few draft sites or analysts had Williamson as the top pick when the season began. That all changed when he had one of the best freshman seasons of all time, and the same could be said for a season by any player regardless of age. He was a force down low using his strength and high motor to get offensive rebounds at an elite rate, and finishing around the basket was something he did well. His athleticism is elite with a 40 inch plus vertical leap, and given his size at 6’7″ 285 pounds, we have never seen an athlete like Williamson on the NBA stage. Not just a jumper, his speed and agility in the open court are top end as well leading to the expectation that he will be a star in fast break situations. From the wing he showed that he can create a shot off of the dribble, although not nearly as often as his other ways of producing, and he has the quickness to drive by a defender to the basket. Once he is by a defender he can throw down contested dunk or use his athleticism to hang in the air and adjust for a layup. How well he plays from the wing will be a key to whether or not he reaches his full potential as a professional, and he should be able to drive to the basket against NBA level talent. His defense is possibly the most intriguing aspect of his game, with his ceiling as a defender being an All-NBA type of talent defending both on the wing and protecting the rim inside as well as on the fast break. Williamson was unselfish in his year at Duke, showing a solid ability to pass the ball when double teamed or driving to the basket which are two skills that he will need as a pro. The fact that we have not seen a prospect like Williamson for the most part, makes comparing him to NBA players both past and present very difficult as well as determining his production without knowing for sure what his role will be going forward. Click here to see our break down of just how unique his game is. He played with a high basketball IQ, leading the break and making smart decisions or not taking too many bad shots in general to go with his defensive instincts which were high level in college. 

The obvious question mark in Williamson’s game in his jump shot. While his three point numbers were better than many expected at 33.8%, that was only on 2.2 attempts per game, although he did shoot two point jumpers at 47.1% which is a solid number for a freshman. Free throw shooting at just 64% is another concern, and his mechanics as a whole will need some work. His motion is rigid and it can look forced at times, but it is understandable that he is not yet comfortable with his outside shot considering he has been able to dominant using his strength and athleticism throughout high school as well as college. If he does develop a consistent three point shot his ceiling is most likely higher than any player in the draft class, and it will be a focus of his development going forward. What position he will play is a bit of a mystery, but that is a minor concern with the modern NBA game not adhering to the tradition position roles. With that said every player at the professional level has a role to fill and that role can ultimately define your value to a team so it is important that he can find a way to produce on the offensive end at a high rate. Considering the increased size and talent level in the NBA, he will not be able to dominant inside to the same degree that he has up to this point, so his game as a whole will need to fit in with the most likely scheme of Williamson being asked to play both inside and out on the wing at different points. Weighing 285 pounds is seen as a concern by many scouts who are not sold that his body will be able to handle being that weight and making the basketball moves that Williamson can make for an entire career. You cannot predict injuries with any reasonable certainty so you just have to take the risk and hope that he can hold up over time, and the fact that there has not been a player at his size with the type of athleticism he possesses, just adds to the mystery. With that said, it would not be a surprise to see a coach and executives ask that he lose some weight and still be able to use his strength inside but doing it more in the 265-270 pound range. 

Here is an example of his elite athleticism:

This play shows how he can effect the game on the defensive end of the floor:

Williamson is projected as the top pick in the draft, with most analysts viewing him as a generational talent. His ceiling as a professional is an all star caliber forward, being an elite defender and providing scoring at a high level. The worst case scenario for Williamson is that he is unable to shoot the ball effectively enough to reach his ceiling as a star on both ends of the floor, but is still a starter level player putting up above average offensive numbers, and strong defense. 

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