Zion Williamson: Off-Ball Offense
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.
Movement & positioning
This is a largely neutral aspect of Zion’s game. He does a good job of lifting to create space for teammates, though defenses tend not to respect his shooting ability when he pops out above the break. He will move to provide a better passing angle or to seal a smaller defender in the post, but oftentimes he appears disengaged when performing off-ball actions. This area has clear potential for improvement, as he has the skill base to be a devastating cutter, but developing the desire to make an impact away from the ball is a necessary first step.
Duke’s offense doesn’t feature many ball screens, so there is not much direct evidence of Zion’s skill in this respect. However, indirect evidence strongly indicates that this will be a strength at the next level. The unparalleled strength of his frame makes him an immovable object, impossible to go through and difficult to get around. He puts this strength to work sealing his man in post-up situations on a regular basis. Moreover, the mere threat of him rolling to the rim has the potential to draw more attention in ball screen situations than actually guarding the ball-handler. He is a solid off-ball screener when engaged, although there is a tendency to be a little nonchalant when setting weak side actions.
Shooting off the catch
Zion’s shooting numbers are bad and his shooting mechanics are even worse. His base is almost never squared to the rim, with poor alignment in his feet, hips, and shoulders. An acute elbow angle contributes to the flat arc of this shot. His elbow tends to flare outward somewhat during his shooting motion, with a stiff and jerky extension that is more out than up. Finally, a flexed wrist prevents his jumper from having a shooter’s touch. The fact that his numbers are not worse speaks to his natural hand-eye coordination, but his jump shot needs an overhaul to have any hope of developing consistency.
Shooting off movement
Zion has not displayed this ability to date. When he catches the ball off movement, he rightfully looks to attack the basket. Accordingly, defenders typically give him plenty of space in these situations. If he ever develops an effective relocate and shoot ability he likely will have plenty of good looks available because of his downhill gravity.
Finishing off movement
Zion has excellent hands, displaying the ability to catch the ball on the move and explode toward the rim. His ability to hang in the air longer than defenders enables him to get clean looks most of the time. He also displays the ability to contort his body in traffic to find the right angle when unable to simply explode above the defense. He uses his frame effectively to seal defenders on the interior to set up lobs. His ability to finish above the rim in a variety of situations, even flat-footed and leaping off of two feet, makes him exceptionally dangerous as a finisher. Moreover, he displays a soft touch when unable to dunk.