Zion Williamson: On-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.
Zion is a strong ball-handler for his position who displays good speed and control with the ball. He doesn’t have a plethora of dribble moves, but he uses his limited repertoire effectively (crossover, in-and-out dribble, kick-out dribble). Combined with his burst and his strong frame, these dribble moves enable him to create space. He utilizes his handle to attack closeouts in spot-up situations, in transition, and in the occasional pick-and-roll or isolation.
Zion displays good passing ability for a big man. He shines in transition, where his ability to grab a defensive rebound, dribble once or twice while reading the defense, and then hit ahead where the opposition is weakest greatly increases the efficacy of the Duke transition offense. His strength helps considerably, enabling him to connect on outlet passes out of range for most players. A good system passer in the half court, Zion tends to have blinders on as he rolls downhill, frequently missing open shooters in the weakside corner. Zion has the strength to deliver accurate crosscourt passes to the weak side, but learning to make these reads consistently will be a prerequisite to adding value in this facet of the game.
Shooting off the dribble
Despite having enough ball-handling skill to create space for jump shots, Zion does not display the ability to make pull-up jumpers right now. His mechanical issues start with poor alignment, with feet, hips, and shoulders not being squared up with the rim. An acute elbow angle contributes to the flat trajectory of his shot, and often the elbow is flared outward as well. His extension is reminiscent of a catapult: stiff, jerky, and more out than up, also contributing to the flatter arc on his shots. His flexed wrist leads to a more forceful motion, robbing him of a meaningful shooter’s touch.
Finishing off the dribble
Zion is one of the better finishers on the planet at any level. His strong frame enables him to create space effectively around the rim. His explosiveness enables him to elevate much quicker than his competition, and he even displays strong leaping ability off the wrong foot. He has good body control while in the air, and his frame allows him to absorb contact and still finish the play. He displays good technique and a soft touch when he’s unable to dunk. If you exclude his 55 dunk attempts, he’s still finishing 76 percent of his shots around the rim.
Finishing in the post
What Zion lacks in technique in the post, he makes up for with power and explosiveness. He’s great at using his strong frame to seal defenders and create space. He has a quick and powerful spin move. His touch in the post isn’t stellar, lagging behind his finishing in other situations. Still, his explosiveness enables him to create high quality looks and his second jump ability means he’s always a threat to put back any miss. Face-up situations tend to play more to his strengths than back-to-the-basket, giving him the opportunity to play north-south rather than east-west.