Zion Williamson: Hustle

Our scouting grades represent the composite opinion of at least three different scouts. Each category is graded based on how we view a player’s current ability level relative to NBA players at the same position (guard, wing, forward or big). A grade of 1 indicates replacement level, a grade of 5 indicates NBA average, and a grade of 10 indicates historically elite. Our composite scouting notes help provide context for our grades.

 

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Motor

Like many young players, Zion’s motor is inconsistent. He plays with intensity in close games, and his effort peaks when he has the ball (offense) or is near it (defense). However, his effort can wane during the blowouts that Duke regularly inflicts. Zion can lose focus, particularly in off-ball situations on either end. That said, Zion is a force to be reckoned with when engaged.


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Offensive rebounding

An underrated skill, Zion has a nose for the offensive glass, utilizing an array of blow bys, swim moves, spins, and rips to avoid being boxed out. He is the best second jumper in the NCAA and can often use this ability to clean up his own (rare) misses around the rim. He is usually locked in on scoring when he gets an offensive rebound, so he can sometimes miss relocating teammates who have freed themselves up along the arc. NBA teams who have skilled offensive rebounders train shooters to relocate in the chaos, and Zion will need to be able to identify and make quick decisions finding teammates in order to truly maximize his prodigious talent in this area.


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Defensive rebounding

Great at attacking and high pointing the ball off the defensive glass, Zion often steals defensive rebounds despite not being in the optimal position. While he is still an NBA-caliber leaper, his ability to beat opponents without being in the correct spot will be somewhat negated against higher level competition. He has excellent hand strength and often wins the ball away from potential offensive rebounders as a result. Defensive rebounding can be one of his greatest NBA skills, allowing him to pull the ball off the rim and get into the open floor, where he is most dangerous, immediately.


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Transition offense

Zion’s transition offense is directly related to his defensive rebounding ability. He is one of the best players in the 2019 class at pulling the ball off the rim and pushing ahead into the teeth of the unprepared defense. He is also a willing hit-ahead passer. Zion has a nice array of open floor dribble moves (relying heavily on inside-dribbles), but he’ll need to tighten his handle to truly become a devastating break leader. He is also an off-ball threat, sealing defenders and using his colossal vertical gravity to create above-the-rim opportunities which are nearly impossible to defend, or trailing behind in the traditional dunker spot to catch a defense over-rotating to contain penetration.


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Transition defense

One of his most variable areas according to our scouts, Zion is a potent transition defender whose motor can be used against him. He is an explosive leaper and can cover nearly unbelievable distances in the blink of an eye, making him a serious threat to create steals and blocks. He is a ball watcher, however, and smart teams can exploit his overzealous defensive style and lure him away from the basket. If he can reign in and focus his efforts, he has all the tools to make this one of his better skills at the next level.