While many have attempted to pinpoint one perfect NBA comparison for Duke Blue Devils star Zion Williamson, it’s proven to be a tall ask. The 6-foot-7, 285-pound 18-year-old phenom looks like a near-lock to be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. His dominance on both ends of the floor is unique in comparison to virtually any other single player.
Although I’m not interested in going as far as comparing Zion completely to Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, they do have some similarities. In turn, LeBron gets the nod as one of the multiple players who you can pull certain qualities from in order to create a strong comparison for the Duke star.
We’re going evaluate three different players and what aspects of their game help to create the best breakdown of Williamson’s potential NBA future outlook. There’s no better place to start than with James and his exceptional explosiveness.
LeBron James’ Explosiveness, Scoring & Dominance at the Rim
There will never be another player who mirrors James, so calling Zion the “next LeBron” isn’t fair to either one of them. That’s not to say that the way these two players attack the rim and explode off the dribble isn’t similar. The athleticism we’ve seen from the current Lakers star throughout his career provides glimpses of what the Blue Devils freshman brings to the table.
Obviously, it’s unknown whether Williamson can dominate at the NBA level the way that James does, but the upside is there. Beyond that, the scoring and shooting topics are interesting to evaluate, largely due to the fact that both players heard similar comments in the early stages of their careers.
Although Zion has averaged fewer than 2.0 attempts from beyond the arc per game through his first 25 collegiate games, he’s shooting just 29.2 percent from deep. When James entered the league, he made 29.0 percent of his 3-point attempts but has improved over the years, and it’s easy to make the case that Williamson will do the same.
Duke’s young playmaker has knocked down 66.9 percent of his free throw attempts thus far, a mark lower than any season of James’ career. With that said, the current NBA star has fallen below 70 percent from the stripe in three different years, including the current season in which he’s made 67.9 percent through 39 games.
Charles Barkley’s Height/Size, Rebounding & Style
Williamson’s size and has been compared to Charles Barkley often it seems, but the two both showcased exceptional talent as rebounders for their height. Barkley stands roughly 6-foot-6 but averaged 11.7 rebounds per game over the span of his NBA career. He fell below double-digits in only his rookie season (8.6) and while he wasn’t a consistent outside shooter, Barkley did post strong overall percentages.
The former member of the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets wrapped up his career by shooting 54.1 percent from the field over 1,073 games. Even more impressive is the fact that the number is pulled down a bit from his final four seasons in the league when he shot between 47.7 and 48.5 percent, which are still fine marks.
Williamson currently shoots 68.3 percent from the field on 12.8 attempts through 25 collegiate games. His numbers from inside the arc are superb, as he’s made 75.3 percent of his two-point attempts.
Blake Griffin’s Athleticism, Body Control & Aggressiveness
Credit for this one must go to NBADraft.net’s Evan Tomes on a scouting report which I saw months back (from 2018). Tomes put out the Blake Griffin comparison and it was something that’s stood out dating back to the start of Zion’s tenure with the Blue Devils. Although their games differ in many ways, they do have quite a few similar attributes and aspects in terms of style of play.
Obviously, the fact that the two players boast the size they do (Griffin stands roughly 6-foot-10) and are this athletic is impressive. LeBron falls into the “wildly athletic” category as well, of course, but the body control Griffin has while playing reminds me a bit of Williamson both around the rim and away from it.
The biggest thing I like with a potential Williamson/Griffin comparison is how aggressive both players are on either end of the floor. Specifically, when attacking the hoop, Griffin will attack and take advantage of any opening an opponent gives him. He can back defenders down or take them to the basket face up, and we’ve seen Zion show flashes of both during his freshman season.