Should Any Team Draft Zion Williamson with the First Pick if Given the Chance?

“1The NBA has possibly never seen someone with Zion Williamson’s gifts. Some people might say LeBron James when he first came into the league is comparable to Williamson, but James didn’t have a vertical leap surpassing 45 inches. Others might mention the likes of Vince Carter, Derrick Rose before the injuries, or Russel Westbrook when trying to find a player that compares to Williamson’s athletic ability. The difference is none of them were 6’7, nor have the aforementioned over 45 inch vertical leap, and none of these players weighed 285 pounds. That’s the thing that is really astonishing about this, Williamson’s weight. If he were in the NBA today he would have the second highest weight in all of the NBA. His second jump is amazing as well, once he hits the ground his 285 pound frame is right back up. Imagine someone weighing 20 pounds more than LeBron with a vertical near 50 inches. That’s scary!

Physical attributes aside there are some things that worry people about Williamson’s skill set, and for good reason. For one, his physical attributes may be his downfall. 285 pounds is a lot of weight, and it’s not like he’s a center. The more you weigh the greater the likelihood of a knee or leg injury because of the enhanced stress on your lower body. Williamson also has a tendency to play with reckless abandon. When a person who is 285 pounds can jump nearly 50 inches in the air, you have to cringe every time he leaves the floor.

The next thing that people worry about Williamson is his shooting ability and his ball handling ability. Williamson will likely play at the small forward and power forward positions. At Duke on fast breaks there have been plenty occasions in which Williamson will grab the rebound and start the break with his own dribbling, but you can tell his ball handling isn’t fluid. Against increased size, speed, athleticism, and quickness at the next level is that handle good enough?

At the college level Williamson is clearly a man amongst boys. Some may wonder is he really this good, or is it because he is bigger and stronger than everybody else. He will be undersized playing the power forward position at the next level. What is he going to do when NBA players clog up the paint, and a layup isn’t available? Williamson shoots an outrageous 76 percent from the field from two point range. Williamson also shoots 29 percent from three, and 67 percent from the free throw line. What will he do when he can’t simply out muscle someone? He hasn’t showed much of a skill set outside of the painted area.

There is also some fear that Zion might be a tweener. A tweener is a player who’s skill set is sort of in between that of two positions. In this case the two positions are small forward and power forward. Will his big body frame be able to keep up with a quick and nimble small forward at the next level? Will his height put him at a significant disadvantage at the power forward position? A coach may think that his handle isn’t good enough to play small forward consistently. With a shaky handle how will he score against a taller and bigger power forward that he can’t just muscle through? The eye test would scream for Williamson to be an elite small forward, but at this point he doesn’t have the shooting ability nor the handle to thrive there.

The next move would be to move him to power forward, many see him as a more athletic Larry Johnson, but he might not match up well against an even taller and bigger opponent. When he is forced out of the paint by a taller opponent, he has not shown a great skill set when layups and dunks are not available.

Yet still you would be a fool to pass on Williamson. All the doubts that people have on his skill set are just doubts on skill. Key word being skill. A skill is something that can be learned, so I wouldn’t worry about that because he hasn’t played an NBA game yet. Williamson’s upside is through the roof, and he has things that cannot be taught.

Be mindful that this is his skill set as a student athlete. Key word being student. Even though he may know that he is NBA bound in a few months, being a college student takes away from complete focus on enhancing one’s skill set. He still has homework, midterms, and finals on his mind. Once he is drafted he then has the opportunity to have complete focus on improving, with an elite level nutritionist, dietitian, trainers, and coaches at his disposal. Shooting, dribbling, and passing are all things that can be improved, and things that I expect to improve. Be patient with his handle, as he is probably just learning how to use it. Remember Williamson at the high school level was consistently playing the center position, and even at Duke he plays some center. When you are bigger and stronger than everyone on the basketball court from a young age, you might not see the necessity to work on your ball handling skills.

Imagine not drafting Zion Williamson with the number one pick in the draft, and he becomes not even a great shooter, just a shooter you can’t leave open. Imagine not drafting Zion Williamson with the number one pick in the draft, and he doesn’t develop a great handle, just a trust worthy one. With elite level athleticism, speed, and strength Williamson only has to be good in other categories, not great, to become a player a franchise can build around.

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