Zion Williamson's 2019 NBA Draft Scouting Report: Analysis of Pelicans Pick

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJune 20, 2019

Duke forward Zion Williamson (1) dribbles the ball during the first half of a second-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 24, 2019, in Columbia, S.C. Duke defeated Central Florida 77-76. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)
Sean Rayford/Associated Press

The New Orleans Pelicans have selected Zion Williamson with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA draft. 

One of the most hyped, captivating prospects in recent memory, the Naismith Player of the Year had a legendary freshman season, finishing with the highest player efficiency rating of any NCAA player in more than a decade. Williamson will be tasked with rejuvenating the Pelicans franchise while representing it in All-Star Games for years to come. 


Quick hitters

Size: 6'7"

Weight: 285 pounds

Wingspan: 6' 10½"

Reach: 8' 7"

Pro player comparison: Larry Johnson


Offensive strengths

An unprecedented mix of power, explosion and quickness gives Williamson a special advantage, which helped him shoot 73.5 percent at the rim for Duke this past season. He's a dominant finisher around the basket off transition (92nd percentile), cuts (85th percentile) and putbacks (97th percentile). His speedy first and second jumps plus spectacular bounce and strength should continue translating to easy baskets. But he's also flashed budding scoring skills with back-to-the-basket moves (99th percentile) and pick-and-roll ball-handling (99th percentile). 


Offensive weaknesses 

Williamson mostly relies on his physical tools and athleticism for generating offense. He needs to improve his shot-creation in the half court, particularly given his suspect shooting stroke. Williamson made 24 threes in 33 games (1.0 per 40 minutes), 64.0 percent of his free throws and only 2-of-12 pull-ups all season.


Defensive outlook

Williamson's muscle, quickness and intensity fuel exciting defensive potential and the versatility to guard bigs and wings. His lateral foot speed is unique for a player with his frame. Williamson's ability to anticipate and make plays with speed gives him elite playmaking potential, as he averaged 2.8 steals and 2.4 blocks per 40 minutes. 


Rookie-year projection

Williamson figures to start the season as the heavy Rookie of the Year favorite. He'll play starter minutes and continue punishing defenses at the rim just by running, jumping, cutting, spinning and hustling. Williamson won't be as efficient as he was at Duke without an NBA-ready jumper, but he projects as an immediate-impact player, capable of matching or surpassing Deandre Ayton's rookie-year scoring and rebounding numbers (16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds) while adding more value on defense.


Projected role: All-Star starter

Williamson could eventually become a fixture on the All-NBA first team. Whether he does so will come down to how much he improves his shooting and half-court shot-creation. Even if those skills don't take off the way they did for Anthony Davis, Williamson has an All-Star floor based on his remarkable talent, competitiveness and effort.

Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports and Sports Reference.