Since entering the NBA with more hype than any player since some kid from Akron got drafted, Zion Williamson has tantalized fans. With the physique of an NFL offensive lineman, the speed of a gazelle, and the vertical of an Olympic long jumper – Williamson amazes at every turn.
After a disappointing rookie season that was shortened by injury, all eyes are on the former Duke standout for his sophomore outing. With a new coach and a young core, it remains to be seen how ideal of a basketball situation the Pelicans is for Zion.
Conventional wisdom typically dictates that a player needs to have a reliable jump-shot to break the ranks of the elite in the NBA but two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo may have something to say about that. Eagle eyed observers may have realized that Zion seems to have already lost a step from his Duke days. His dunks, while as thunderous as ever, clearly lack the outlandish verticality he became known for in high school and college.
If this is merely Zion holding back to reduce his risk of further injury or a by-product of having been injured remains to be seen. What is clear is the on-court chemistry between Williamson and former number two pick Lonzo Ball. Lonzo’s outstanding court vision and ability to thread difficult passes makes him a perfect partner for a two man game with Zion.
Despite Stan Van Gundy recently indicating that he does not wish to pigeonhole Zion into a specific position, real questions about fit do exist going forward. Ostensibly, both Ingram and Williamson are natural 4s. They are also both versatile players, so the line-up is somewhat fluid, but one must question how this will affect the long term growth of Zion.
Concern trolls continue to muse about how Zion’s weight could potentially affect him for the worse. These analyses are particularly perplexing when one considers that his considerably muscular frame is precisely what makes him a unique talent to begin with.
What makes Zion particularly dangerous is the ridiculous ease with each he scores. As a rookie he averaged 22.5 points per game as essentially a role player. He caught lobs, had a few post ups, and even hit a few open threes. He has not yet been had plays drawn up specifically with him in mind as the primary scoring option.
Zion steps on the court and practically stumbles into buckets? How is this possible? Well, it is not easy to guard a human locomotive. Williamson has not come close to tapping his full potential as an offensive player from a skills standpoint.
Physically, Zion has already peaked. He will not get much stronger, and despite hand-wringing, he likely will not get much bigger. He does not need to develop much an elite ball-handling repertoire, nor does he need to become a top level jump shooter. With a few go-to moves, a more well-rounded post-up package and shooters around him, Zion’s potential is almost limitless.
After losing Anthony Davis to the eventual NBA champions, the New Orleans Pelicans understand that Williamson is their top asset and best chance to obtain relevance over the next several seasons.
Clint is an avid fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, and contributed to various sports publications prior to his work with Upside Hoops.