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Duke men's basketball 2018-19 player preview: Zion Williamson

<p>Zion Williamson was "contained" by the Aztecs Monday afternoon with 13 points and six rebounds.</p>

Zion Williamson was "contained" by the Aztecs Monday afternoon with 13 points and six rebounds.

Zion Williamson 

Year: Freshman 

Height: 6-foot-7 

Position: Forward 

Last year’s statline: N/A 

Game Breakdown: Standing at 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds, all the while having a 40+ inch vertical and the burst of speed of elite NBA point guards, Williamson is unlikely to be stopped by any college opponent this year. Coming into Duke as the No. 2 prospect behind RJ Barrett, the freak of nature made a name for himself during his campaign at Spartanburg Day School after his highlight reel dunks caught the basketball world by storm. 

But most of Williamson’s highlight plays tend to overshadow his versatility and all-around abilities. Yes, the South Carolina native can jump out of the gym, but he can just as well put the ball on the deck, play in the post, and make plays for his teammates. With the ability to play like both a guard and a prototypical big man, coach Mike Krzyzewski called Williamson “positionless.” 

However, the McDonald’s All-American still has some aspects of his game that he needs to work on. Williamson’s shooting ability is his game’s primary limitation. In four games since the Blue Devils first matched up against Ryerson back in August, he has had trouble finding the range, failing to knock down a single three in seven attempts. Williamson also needs to take care of the ball better, as he leads the team in turnovers. 

Role on the Team: Williamson, along with Barrett, looks to lead this year’s team and is expected to shoulder most of the load for the fast-paced Blue Devil offense. The two stars have consistently strung together games with twenty or more points, with Williamson boasting a 67.4 percent field goal percentage. In the matchups Duke has had so far, it’s clear that Williamson meshes well with whatever lineup is on the floor, and the forward should expect to play heavy minutes as the regular season begins. 

At his size and strength, it’s natural that Williamson will have a major presence in the paint for the Blue Devils this season, especially since the team doesn’t have the same one-two punch down low as it had last year with Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. In the preseason, Williamson led the team in both blocks and rebounds, and it’s likely that he will continue to do so. 

Of course, another more abstract role South Carolina’s Mr. Basketball will have is bringing energy to his squad by electrifying crowds across the country with his powerful dunks. 

NBA Comparison: While Williamson’s physical build and freakish athleticism raise comparisons to LeBron James, his style of play more closely resembles Pelicans forward Julius Randle. Coming out of Kentucky, Randle was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers with the seventh overall pick in 2014 and immediately put on display his ability to run fast breaks and weave through defenses with his ball-handling skills, a huge part of Williamson’s game. In addition, in his freshman year at Kentucky, Randle set a freshman record by producing 24 double-doubles, and it may be interesting to see how close Williamson gets to that benchmark given his heightened role on the glass for this year’s Blue Devils. 

Projected Stats: 16.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 34.2 MPG 


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