An NFL tight end … a man among boys … the next Lebron.
These are just some of the praises attributed to Duke’s 18-year-old freshman phenom Zion Williamson. Standing 6’7 and weighing in at 284 pounds, Zion would be the 2nd-heaviest player in the NBA right now behind 290-pound 7-footer Boban Marjanovic.
With a size advantage on most pros, college kids have no chance of muscling up the freakishly strong Blue Devil. It is easy to forget Zion is 100 pounds heavier than his peers when watching him do things like this:
— kerve-hiphopmix (@Hiphopmix2) January 6, 2019
Scouting reports on Zion range from NBA bust to yes … the next Lebron. Williamson is head-and-shoulders (literally) above the talent of the NCAA, but will his skills and playing style translate to the pro game? That is a question for the NBA scouts.
My goal is to feed you some statistics (plus a highlight or two) to illustrate how Zion Williamson is doing things on a college basketball court that the world has never seen before.
Zion Williamson’s Play Style
Because he is so much bigger than the players guarding him, Zion often utilizes what I call the “bully” approach to basketball. Bullying on the court consists of throwing your weight around, running through people instead of around them, and making opponents scared off getting in your path when you have a head of steam.
This sounds a lot like how *cough* Lebron plays. I hesitate to draw that comparison because no one knows if Zion will be able to bully NBA players on the court like Lebron has made a living doing. Most agree that Zion is the type of college player that Lebron likely would have been, and I concur.
In my mind, Zion plays a bit like a Shaq-Carmelo hybrid, with the flair of a Paul George. Of course, these are all elite players. I could have just as accurately stated that Zion plays like a Big Baby Davis-Derrick Favors-Lance Stephenson hybrid with some Marcus Smart physicality thrown in.
Ranking Zion Williamson’s College Stats
Before you look at these numbers, keep in mind that Williamson is an 18-year-old freshman. Here are the prospect’s 2018-19 stats at Duke.
Absolutely incredible, with one exception – his long-range shooting.
This is my fear about taking Zion first overall if I was a GM. You’ll fill up seats but what are you getting long term? #zionwilliamson
— ⛹🏽Julian ® ⚾️ 🏀 (@Just_Julian1) January 6, 2019
The young stud is shooting an astounding 66.4% from the field. Eliminate those dumb 3-point attempts and that FG% creeps up. Of all the D-1 players averaging 15-points per game this year, Zion has the 5th highest field goal percentage. Zion has the best field goal percentage of players averaging 20 points or more.
Scoring is not the only area in which Williamson contributes. He is 1 of just 6 players this season with at least 20 PPG and 9 RPG. Factor in his 2.2 assists per game, and Williamson becomes just 1 of 3 players with a line of 20-9-2 this season.
Also very active on defense, Williamson’s 2.1 steals per game create a unique statline of 20-9-2-2 that no other player this season is averaging. In fact, no player since the 2007-08 season has averaged that line. VMI’s Reggie Williams put up a phenomenal 27.8-9.7-3.9-2.2 that season en route to an undrafted, short, journeyman NBA career.
Where Zion Williamson Sets Himself Apart
Field goal percentage is what makes Zion’s statline unprecedented. With most of his looks coming from very close to the hoop, Williamson has an efficiency advantage over those who primarily shoot from the outside.
— Max Reichelscheimer (@maxxreichel) January 5, 2019
Since we have data back to 1992, Zion is 1 of just 3 players to average 20 PPG while shooting 66% or greater. Zion is 1 of 2 players to average 20 points on 66% shooting while also grabbing at least 9 boards per game (Villanova’s Michael Bradley did it in the 2000-01 season).
The difference – Bradley was a 6-10 center and banged in the post. Williamson can be seen handling the ball on the perimeter and, of course, getting the crowd on their feet with his 45-inch vertical on breakaway dunks.
There is not a player in our database that has averaged the same numbers as Zion in points, rebounds, field goal percentage, and steals for an entire season. To think he is doing this as a not-so-wide-eyed 18-year-old makes it even more impressive.
Even if we make the club more inclusive, Zion is the only freshman in our database to average 15 points, 60% shooting, 7 rebounds, and 1 steal per game.
So what? I’ll tell you what. Zion may not be the best NBA prospect in the nation, but he is the best college player in the nation. This fact alone makes Duke an extremely tough out in a tournament game. Do not bet against the Blue Devils as long as Zion is healthy.