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The 2019 NBA Draft Lottery opens tonight and the anticipation for who lands the coveted No. 1 overall pick, aka Zion Williamson is gut-wrenching for fans and GM’s alike.
The Zion sweepstakes has gone on for the better part of the college basketball season when he first exploded on the scene (literally) with a jaw-dropping 28-point performance over the Kentucky Wildcats in his collegiate debut.
The questions surrounding Zion coming into college were not whether he could, but if he would — that is dominate — players who were not three to four inches shorter and 100 pounds lighter than he was. He more than answered those questions immediately, and parlayed that into an impressive freshman season en route to a Naismith Award, John R. Wooden Award, and AP Player of the Year, effectively completing the sweep.
With all of that said, the pressure is on whoever lands the top spot tonight to take Zion, but what if he’s not the best prospect despite the accolades?
For one, I personally believe Zion will succeed and not be a bust in the NBA. I believe his skill set will carry over and he will be a great player in time. Just not right away.
The immediate impact seen by who he is being compared to with the hype in LeBron James, may not happen in the same way for Zion. Standing at about 6-foot-6 and an insane 285 pounds, his size and strength immediately makes him NBA ready, and can compete with players who have been in the league for years.
However, my concerns are while his brute strength allowed him to manhandle college players, this asset won’t have the same immediate impact as it did at Duke. The difference between he and James is the height. Those three inches may not seem like much, but for the style of play in which he’s most comfortable, he must be able to do more than bully his way to the basket to be effective on the offensive end of the floor.
I don’t trust his shot, despite the 68% on field goals and his 33.8% on 3’s. The bevy of talent surrounding him allowed him to take uncontested, set-shot 3-pointers, which will not be the case for whichever team he winds up going to in less than two months.
This again is why it is incredibly difficult to be an NBA GM. All of the signs point towards taking Zion. The ticket sales, the nationally televised games, the merchandise — all palatable and enough reasons alone to take what could be a transcendent player.
The most head-scratching, and one that may have the one GM who can’t sleep 48 hours before the draft, is Zion’s teammate, R.J. Barrett.
It is quite possible Barrett ends up being what everyone thought he would be (which ended up being Zion this year) in the NBA. His game translates immediately with no major questions other than his boneheaded decision making down the stretch in games. Not only him, but Murray State point guard, Ja Morant had a phenomenal year and some believe he is a can’t-miss prospect who deserves No. 1 consideration.
Even with all of this speculation, all signs point to taking Zion No. 1 overall. With any top selection, the risks are always there and buyer’s remorse can ensue at any given moment. The less scrutinized choice is to take Zion. Just be prepared if he’s not everything he’s built up to be.