The NBA comparability sport is hard in any draft. No two gamers are similar, and it is easy to speak your self into or out of a prospect simply because he reminds you of another person.
However for a participant as distinctive as Duke’s Zion Williamson, comps are much more difficult. Williamson is that this 12 months’s consensus No. 1 decide, doubtless headed to the New Orleans Pelicans firstly of the 2019 NBA draft on Thursday (7 p.m. ET on ESPN). There’s additionally a powerful case that he is the perfect faculty prospect since Anthony Davis.
However Zion nonetheless has a number of doubters across the league, and people lingering naysayers usually pose the query, “Who’s he within the NBA?”
We have by no means seen a prospect fairly like Williamson earlier than. In making an attempt to image what precisely NBA Zion will appear like, we have to have a look at 5 gamers as an alternative of 1.
This is how standout points of the Duke phenom’s sport examine to totally different NBA gamers on the identical stage, and what it’d imply for Williamson at his professional peak.
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Schmitz: Zion delivers superb rim-rattling slams, but it surely’s his defensive versatility and willingness to work on that finish that make him the best trendy massive prospect, with the 1-through-5 switchability of Draymond Inexperienced. Williamson even produced a 7.2 defensive field plus-minus in his lone season at Duke — similar to Inexperienced’s defensive impression as a senior at Michigan State. Within the NBA, Inexperienced has persistently ranked among the many handiest stoppers within the league, in line with ESPN’s defensive actual plus-minus, regardless of his measurement.
Like Inexperienced, Zion performs far greater than his measurables counsel, permitting him to slip all the way in which as much as the middle spot, giving Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry final flexibility on the different 4 positions. Though Draymond (7-1½ wingspan, Eight-9 standing attain) is longer than Zion (6-10½ wingspan, Eight-7 standing attain), Williamson is near 50 kilos heavier, with far superior leaping means to go together with comparable defensive really feel and toughness.
Zion’s nuclear bounce permits him to play together with his head on the rim in verticality conditions, whereas his catlike quickness and motor assist him cowl floor within the blink of an eye fixed to rotate for blocks. Even when he’s tasked with checking extra conventional bigs, his body, low middle of gravity and competitiveness are sufficient to neutralize opponents.
Williamson comfortably checked all 5 positions at Duke, stifling level guards like Ky Bowman, wings like Jarrett Culver and facilities just like the 260-pound Steven Enoch. He can shift between anchoring a protection to switching to level guards, displaying nimble ft for a participant of his weight. Williamson additionally has excellent anticipation within the passing lanes, usually leaping routes with elite closing velocity.
He can stand to enhance his self-discipline, however Williamson covers up quite a lot of his errors with effort.
Goldsberry: Inexperienced’s distinctive mix of measurement, power, velocity and smarts has made him one of many definitive gamers of this decade. As NBA offenses embraced pace-and-space, defenses needed to adapt. Many conventional stoppers like Roy Hibbert have misplaced their jobs, as bigs at the moment are required to defend each the perimeters and the inside of the court docket. Inexperienced is so distinctive as a result of he can play nice protection all over the place.
He can change onto virtually any participant, from Chris Paul to Joel Embiid, and if Zion can do the identical within the NBA, his staff will likely be a nightmare. Inexperienced’s versatility as a person drive is arguably an important issue that has enabled Golden State to develop probably the greatest defensive schemes for the present period.
If there have been such a factor as a defensive quarterback in basketball, Inexperienced can be all-pro.
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2. Ben Simmons | Transition abilities
Schmitz: Like Simmons at LSU, Williamson is shifty within the open court docket for a participant his measurement, pushing off the glass and weaving via site visitors with guardlike agility earlier than exploding on the rim for tomahawk dunks. Each gamers are at their finest getting downhill in transition, and the unpredictability of those grab-and-go assaults is what makes positionless gamers like Simmons and Williamson so tough to protect in house.
On the collegiate stage, Simmons was used as extra of a standard massive man within the half-court whereas being given the liberty to carve up defenses in transition, resulting in a number of SportsCenter High-10 performs. Each gamers love to make use of highly effective in-and-out dribbles to catch defenders off stability, taking part in high-to-low and altering speeds impressively, making them practically unattainable to cease with a head of steam. Williamson is an underrated ball handler, with nice physique management, permitting him to take care of stability whereas taking off of both foot.
Though Simmons is a far superior passer who has clearly been groomed as a jumbo lead guard, Williamson’s court docket imaginative and prescient equally expands within the open court docket. Whether or not it is via a Hail Mary outlet excessive of the protection or an aggressive push right into a thread-the-needle bounce cross, Zion is a heady facilitator towards a scrambling protection, one thing that ought to come alive much more within the NBA when surrounded by athletes and shooters.
Goldsberry: All people likes to level out that Simmons cannot shoot 3s. Whereas that is true, it is also deceptive, as a result of Simmons is a prolific Three-point creator as a passer. Contemplate these two info, through Second Spectrum:
Simmons ranked third within the NBA in Three-point assists this season with 255 (Klay Thompson made 241)
Simmons led the NBA in complete transition assists
It is not simply that Simmons has a knack for creating pictures — he ranked second within the NBA in passes to shooters this season, per Second Spectrum monitoring, trailing solely Russell Westbrook — it is that he has a knack for creating among the finest pictures within the sport: those in transition and those from past the arc.
Through the common season, Simmons created a whopping 12.1 Three-point help alternatives per 100 possessions, per Second Spectrum. His imaginative and prescient and really feel for the court docket is world-class, significantly in transition, however these passes are doable as a result of defenses must honor his personal means to assault the rack.
The world’s finest transition playmakers are in a position to each create for themselves and for teammates within the open flooring. One purpose Zion has such excessive expectations is as a result of he has the potential to verify each packing containers at a really excessive stage. He cannot match Simmons as a transition distributor proper now, however his scoring risk offers him an opportunity to generate practically as many nice appears to be like for teammates in time.
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Three. Blake Griffin | Playmaking athleticism
Schmitz: We have by no means seen a 285-pounder who can sky for dunks fairly like Williamson, however Griffin (248 kilos as a 20-year-old) was a detailed reproduction. Like faculty Griffin (6-11 wingspan), Williamson is an influence dunker set to tear down the rim on each try, doing so regardless of mediocre positional size. He appears to get simply as a lot carry off one leg or two and is difficult for any shot-blocker to problem when he will get to his launching pad. However it’s not simply the dunks that make these two comparable.
They’re each extraordinarily agile, with certain handles and spectacular purposeful athleticism. They drop fluid spin strikes, crossovers, hop steps and low-to-the-ground drives uncommon for gamers that sturdy. Given his power and coordination, Griffin has developed into fairly the shot-creating massive, with the flexibility to even play some Four-5 pick-and-roll, one thing we noticed usually with DeAndre Jordan throughout the Lob Metropolis days.
Zion figures to search out comparable success, as we noticed Duke use him as a mismatch ball handler in pick-and-roll conditions, scoring 28 factors on 22 such possessions. He likes to reject ball screens however may use the decide to both get downhill and assault or gradual up and discover an open teammate.
Zion makes use of devastating lateral hop steps, and like Griffin, his mixture of sheer power, ballhandling, imaginative and prescient and shiftiness makes him a tricky cowl in house. Williamson can be a snug publish passer, and his facilitating is probably going his most underrated talent. A barely superior passer on the identical stage of improvement, Williamson ought to ultimately develop into an much more dynamic playmaker and driver than Griffin as his profession progresses.
Goldsberry: Think about if Dominique Wilkins might cross like Vlade Divac. That is what Blake Griffin has develop into — an unprecedented mixture of scoring, spotlight dunks and artful passing. The 2013-14 model of Griffin, when he completed third in MVP voting, confirmed that one of the best ways to discourage overzealous assist protection and double-teams is with good dishes.
Whether or not within the pick-and-roll or within the publish, for Zion to succeed in his full potential he must develop into an awesome half-court passer on the NBA stage. Because the league tendencies an increasing number of towards perimeter scoring, ball-dominant bigs are more and more uncommon, and those who persist can facilitate like Griffin, who averages greater than 5 assists per sport.
As Zion leaves the crowded scoring areas of the ACC, his imaginative and prescient and passing will likely be important within the spaced-out world of the NBA. Whereas the mix of inside prowess and perimeter shot creation might appear to be an odd system, it is one which rests on the core of some of the league’s finest superstars, together with LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
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Schmitz: Barkley developed into one of many higher undersized rebounders the sport has ever seen, so this comp is excessive reward, however Williamson is deserving.
Zion has persistently proved to be some of the efficient offensive rebounders in faculty basketball, using fast, highly effective swim strikes or aggressive spins to beat opponents to the ball usually. Not solely can he sky in a crowd and snatch the ball at its highest level with sturdy fingers, however he’ll additionally throw his weight round, voluntarily crashing towards the hardwood to create additional possessions.
Like Barkley, he’ll additionally use his low middle of gravity to wedge opponents out of the play on the defensive glass earlier than attacking rebounds in a rush. The nastiness with which he performs on the glass resembles the NBA legend, too.
Williamson is a thankless famous person who does not want performs known as for him to have an effect, and his rebounding prowess and motor on the backboards are the primary purpose why.
Goldsberry: The Spherical Mound of Rebound is likely one of the most evocative nicknames in basketball historical past, but it surely additionally doubles as a really transient scouting report for Barkley. Regardless of his relative shortness and roundness, Sir Charles grew to become probably the greatest rebounders in his period because of his mix of motor, boxouts and smarts.
Zion has a much bigger body than Barkley, however his power is comparable, and that is a significant praise. The pace-and-space period has lowered the variety of goliath bigs even making an attempt to get boards, which ought to profit Zion. If he can study the NBA arts of boxing out and again faucets, Williamson will develop into some of the formidable bodily forces chasing rebounds across the NBA.
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5. Julius Randle | Posting scoring fashion
Randle vs. Zion
Julius RandleZion Williamson2013-1412 months2018-196-7¾Top6-6250Weight2857-ZeroWingspan6-10½
Schmitz: Williamson was some of the environment friendly post-up scorers in faculty basketball, punishing switches or much more conventional bigs with a reasonably easy strategy. Much like Randle on the identical stage, Zion has great drop-step footwork, erasing defenders together with his mixture of physicality and quickness, turning over his proper shoulder earlier than exploding to the rim for brief push pictures or layups.
Like Randle, Williamson is a bit undersized for his place, with common size and attain, which helped him develop contact pictures from all totally different angles to fight superior size. Each are left-hand dominant, though Zion already was much more environment friendly on the identical stage. Williamson shot 74.7% on all 2s at Duke, whereas Randle transformed 57.1% at Kentucky.
Will Williamson keep that stage towards NBA bigs? I am not bought that he’ll function on the block as usually as he did at Duke. He’ll definitely have so as to add counter strikes, like Randle did, working extra out of midpost face-up conditions. He is nonetheless a little bit of a clean slate by way of his post-up assault, however the substances are there to make it work.
Goldsberry: The Randle comparability is sweet, particularly stylistically. I additionally see quite a lot of Toronto-era Chris Bosh right here if we’re speaking effectivity.
To begin with, Zion is an absolute beast within the paint. He made 76% of his pictures inside 10 ft — that is LeBron-in-his-prime-level effectivity, and by far the best such mark of any lottery prospect. However his shot exercise close to the basket additionally displays his dominant left-handedness.
That mixture of quantity and effectivity is one thing Randle might solely dream about when he was 19. If Zion can prolong his Duke-era inside dominance into the NBA, we may be the best southpaw since Bosh was at his most ferocious with the Raptors.