Zion Williamson: Intelligence
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.
Zion displays good court awareness, particularly on offense and in transition. He knows how to maintain team spacing, recognizing when to lift to open the paint for teammates. His court vision is solid, though it seems to diminish when he attacks downhill. On defense, he can lose track of his man while chasing impact plays. He has displayed flashes of impressive timing with his help rotations; however he will need to develop a more balanced approach to reach his potential on that end of the floor.
Offensively, Zion has a tendency to become locked into predetermined reads instead of reading and reacting. He needs to be more patient and let actions develop around him (though often Duke doesn’t call plays, instead letting the offensive action develop) but, because of his physical tools, Zion has never needed patience to get where he wants to go. He, like many freshmen, is guilty of ball watching when away from the ball on defense and smart cutters or relocators can take advantage of his loss of concentration.
Zion makes good decisions in transition, finding open teammates and typically making the right play. In the half court, he is more susceptible to bad passes. At times when trying to dunk in traffic, he will over-jump and draw back iron (six missed dunks to date). When defending off-ball, his decision-making is hit or miss. Sometimes he makes excellent help rotations, but other times he can help too aggressively and open up kick-out opportunities for the ball-handler.
Zion typically acts promptly when he receives the ball, either attacking the basket or making a swing pass before the defense has a chance to reset. However, sometimes he rushes and makes the wrong play quickly rather than slowing down a touch and making the right read. Defensively it is very similar: his help rotations are prompt, but not always correct. Still, this decisive style of play can cause chaos for opponents on both ends of the court.
Anticipation (A to C)
Zion seems to have above average natural feel for the game which shows up in several areas. He relocates well off-ball in anticipation of his teammates attacking. He has an intuitive understanding of where offensive rebounds are likely to land. He jumps passing lanes regularly. At times, he flashes good anticipation as a weak side help defender and, in concert with his physical tools, this enables him to simply blow up plays.