Zion Williamson is among the most challenging players to rank on this list due to his talent and injury history. Williamson was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft out of Duke University. He was one of the most touted No. 1 overall picks in the past decade due to his unique combination of skill set, size, and athleticism.
Top 25 NBA Players Under 25: No. 6 – Zion Williamson
A Matchup Nightmare
Williamson is 6-foot-6 and 284 pounds. He has a highly explosive vertical and first step, making him a matchup nightmare. For context, Williason entered the draft recording a 45-inch max vertical leap at the combine. Despite only being 6-foot-6, Williamson is one of the league’s most dominant forces in the paint.
He gives off former Phoenix Suns legend and Hall of Famer Charles Barkley vibes in that sense. Barkley is also 6-foot-6 but played much bigger than his height suggested. One of the most evident stats to support Williamson’s paint dominance is his 61 percent shooting from the field. He’s so efficient and elite at getting to his spots.
To go along with the efficient field goal percentage, last season, Williamson averaged 26.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.6 blocks per game on 61/37/71 shooting splits.
Now, the unfortunate aspect of Williamson that has so far limited him from maximizing his NBA ceiling. Through his first three seasons, the former Duke forward has only played more than NBA 30 games in one season, in 2020-21. In total, he’s only played 114 NBA games. Last season, Williamson suffered a hamstring injury and only played 29 games.
One of Williamson’s best attributes is also, unfortunately, his worst. His 284-pound frame helps him in terms of being a dominant force on both ends of the court, particularly in the paint. However, it’s also undoubtedly played a role so far in his lack of availability. The fact that Williamson has played such few games is what makes him truly hard to rank.
When healthy, on a per-game basis, Williamson is easily a top-five talent and arguably closer to the top three. However, availability has to play a factor. The Pelicans have a lot of young talent, most notably in the Duke forwards Williamson and Brandon Ingram. But they have yet to reach their ceiling. The most significant reason is Williamson’s injury history.
Last Word on Zion Williamson
Williamson is currently in trade rumors. The Pelicans will have to make a crucial, potentially franchise-altering decision regarding what to do with their former No. 1 overall pick. Williamson’s stock and trade value will diminish if he continues getting hurt. Alternatively, if they trade Williamson and he puts together close to an entire season, he’s someone who is already talented enough to be an All-NBA level player who can help take a team deep into the playoffs.
Williamson is an exceptional talent that the league hasn’t really seen ever before. As a result, it’s unlikely that New Orleans ends up trading one of their foundational pieces. The Pelicans are betting on the skill set and athleticism, which could pay off if Williamson can figure out how to become more consistently available.