Zion Williamson Among NBA's Best Finishers Behind LeBron, Giannis, Says NBA Exec

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2020

FILE - In this March 6, 2020, file photo, New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson walks onto the court during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat in New Orleans. A Florida appeals court has granted Williamson’s motion to block his former marketing agent’s effort to have the ex-Duke star answer questions about whether he received improper benefits before playing for the Blue Devils. The order Wednesday shifts the focus to separate but related case between the same litigants in federal court in North Carolina. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza, File)
Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

Zion Williamson might only have 24 games under his belt, but one NBA executive is already prepared to group the New Orleans Pelicans rookie in with some of the league's best scorers inside. 

"He's just a special player inside the arc who's an elite finisher," the executive said to HoopsHype's Michael Scotto. "Offensively, he can finish at an elite rate. He's one of the best finishers behind Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and LeBron [James]. He can hit the open man. He's so physically dominant. His shooting shouldn't be a problem, but we'll see. I think he's always going to be hurt, though."

Williamson shot 68.0 percent from the field and 74.7 percent from inside the arc during his one season at Duke. At 6'7" and 285 pounds, he was simply too big and strong for the competition at that level.

One question was whether Williamson's physical tools would be as much of an asset right out of the gate in the NBA. He answered the skeptics by hitting 58.3 percent of his shots and averaging 6.3 rebounds, including 2.7 boards on the offensive end.

According to NBA.com, he shot 62.3 percent in the restricted area. That's a few percentage points lower than James (68.7 percent) and well below Antetokounmpo (74.2 percent). Still, nobody should expect Williamson to be at that level already.

The 20-year-old showed how he wasn't merely a battering ram in the post. He's also developing the skills to make the most of his gifts.

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The executive referenced the biggest variable for Williamson going forward. Between his frame and his above-the-rim style, the 2019 No. 1 overall pick could put a significant strain on his knees. He already underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus last October.

A GM concurred with the executive's assessment on both fronts: "I think Zion is a superstar unless he suffers injuries, which is possible. I didn't like how he moved in the bubble."

The Pelicans made a concerted effort to monitor his workload to avoid another injury, and it's impossible to say how long that strategy will be required. Two years removed from his quad injury, the Los Angeles Clippers have continued to carefully manage Kawhi Leonard's minutes.

Williamson's effectiveness on the court will be somewhat muted if the Pelicans feel the need to proactively rest him to preserve his long-term health.