Zion Williamson is almost a certain lock to be the No. 1 pick in this summer’s NBA Draft. He is the superstar forward for the top-overall seeded Duke Blue Devils in the NCAA Tournament, scoring 22.5 points per game and adding 8.8 rebounds per contest.
His 32 points, including a layup through contact in the final seconds, lifted Duke to a 77-76 squeaker last weekend against No. 9 Central Florida. Even amongst such bodies like the Knights’ 7-foot-6, 310-pound Tacko Fall, Williamson still looked like a man amongst boys.
Some have even gone as far to say that Zion is a better asset to a franchise than someone of the caliber of a LeBron James. Fox Sports Radio’s Colin Cowherd said as much on The Herd.
“LeBron’s better than Zion,” he said on Wednesday’s show. “Since when in the history of business has a rising asset been the only choice a grownup would make. LeBron is a declining asset…it’s not just that (Zion) is great, but that he’s better in person.”
His Fox Sports peer Doug Gottlieb took time today to put the brakes on the hype train a bit, taking the opposite extreme that Williamson wouldn’t even be a top-50 player in the league right now.
“Name me a Golden State Warrior that Zion is better than today,” Gottlieb said on his Friday afternoon show. “What we’re doing here is conflating an argument: Would you trade an All-Star to get Zion Williamson? Maybe…maybe yes.
“But Colin said he’s a top-20 player right now, and I’m going to need you to take a breath. You have to stop and tell me who he’s better than.”
Gottlieb proceeded to rattle off a who’s who list of NBA talent, ranging from LeBron James to Paul George to Jimmy Butler to Kyrie Irving and many more.
“There’s a legit argument being had by NBA execs asking if Ja Morant is a better overall prospect than Zion,” Gottlieb continued. “Zion is a happening. He makes basketball fun. He makes the impossible seem possible…but you have to understand what Zion is competing against. He’s a man amongst boys because he’s playing against boys.”
He finished his point by saying he doesn’t want people to think that he thinks Williamson “stinks” or that he won’t eventually be an All-Star.
“At 18 years old with 20 games under his belt playing for the Duke Blue Devils as an under-sized power forward who continues to improve and impress,” he said, “let’s catch our breath. In order for him to be a top-20 player in the NBA, he has to be better than 2/3 of the league’s best players…
“Look at De’Angelo Russell, the No. 2 pick in the draft who absolutely dominated college basketball, he comes out and it’s not until year 4 that he’s an All-Star.”
Russell scored 19.3 points on 41 percent 3-point shooting for the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2015. His final game was a 9-point outing versus Arizona in an NCAA Tournament loss.
Williamson has scored at least 20 points in 7 straight games (excluding his brief appearance in the first game against UNC). One of those was against another NBA-laden North Carolina team in the NCAA Tournament, where he tallied 31 points in a win.