Zion Williamson is a Breath of Freshness and Old School Basketball
After 10 NBA games in which he gave us many highlights and wonderful moves with phenomenal numbers, we already have enough games, data and actions to analyze Zion and his style.
First, I have to say that the level of hype around Zion before, during and after the draft was definitely the highest in the last ten years. The one closest to Zion is probably Ben Simmons with comparisons to LeBron, but it still seems to me that Zion and the story around him is much bigger than Simmons.
Powering through his Weaknesses
When I read his draft profile now, the most commonly mentioned negative sides were:
Bad mid-range, three point shot.
Poor when playing back-to-basket.
Relying on strength in offense (alluding to the fact that this will not be possible in the NBA league).
Bad efficiency from FT line.
And now that I’ve looked at the first ten games and watched Zion in great detail on how he plays, I can safely say that this is still true. Relying on strength is obviously not a problem, because he has absolutely blown by everyone in front of him so far.
There is no shot from the mid-range/three-point range, it looks weird and he doesn’t shoot that much (those 4 3PT made against the Spurs in the first game is a huge anomaly obviously).
If you look at the Shot Chart, you will see that Zion scored all but 8 shots from the Restricted Area. This is quite worrying to me, but on the other hand, very fascinating. Free throws have also remained a problem, with 65.4% being a fairly low percentage, and given that he is 9th in the league in free throws per game, this skill would greatly help him and his team if he were at an even higher percentage.
I would attribute the poor play of the back to the basket to the fact that he is not very skilled with the right (weaker) hand. This was most prominent against the Bucks (well, it is true that they are by far the best defensive team in the league) when Brook Lopez and Giannis shut him down. He was constantly directed at using his right hand, to which he responded with spins to his left hand and excellent pump fakes. But the ability to finish with the right hand is essential, especially with his style of play.
But all of these things are correctable, as many players have shown, it is possible to learn to shoot efficientlyeffectively. Right hand and post play can be straithened up through one summer. But those things that can’t be learned, which you either have or don’t have, Zion has in huge quantities.
Zion does not give up when he misses a layup or shot and fights to get offensive board. He’s scary in that segment. He is 8th in the league in offensive rebounds per game, with all players ahead of him being at least roughly 3 inches taller than him.
As you can see in the second picture, there is no other player who is shorter than 6 foot 7 and has more than 2 offensive rebounds. The will, motor and the constant work is something that is visible “from the plane” with Zion, and it is the right recipe for the road to success.
Also, when looking at the ratio of offensive and defensive rebounds (third graph), Zion has almost more offensive rebounds than defensive.
Only a handful of players came close to such feat along with him, and one of them is Montrezl Harrell. Harrell is the player who currently most resembles Zion with his style of play, constitution, athleticism and skill. Both are awesome athletes and undersized Big Men, Harrell is 6ft 7 and Zion is 6ft 6. They both score most of their points from the restricted area (as you can see in the last graph). Both are also technically capable and know how to drive to the hoop. The only difference between the two is perhaps that Harrell relies more on Pick And Roll, and Zion relies more on Post game.
Play Style and Conclusion
If you were to draw a parallel with some of the older players, Charles Barkley is a perfect comparison. The same height as Zion and very similar physique and athletic ability, Barkley terrorized the NBA while in a Philadelphia jersey. If someone were to offer the Pelicans Chuck’s career in the form of Zion, of course with a couple of titles ;), I doubt they would complain.
As the first sentence/title says, Zion brought a touch of freshness and old school basketball, and it’s really a treat to watch a 19-year-old play around with experienced NBA players like he does. All I want is for him to stay healthy and then he will surely show his full potential, which is already present and visible.