The REAL Reason Why Zion Williamson Is SO Good In The NBA (Ft. Lonzo Ball, Pelicans, & Rolls)
Zion Williamson has been so good in the NBA, dominating on the Pelicans but why?
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Of course, there are still moments where Zion’s athleticism makes up for a lot. I wanted to wait a few games before immediately calling Zion Williamson good in the NBA. Sure, there were already signs that he would be special from the first game, but to be doing it repeatedly almost every single game for 9 games warrants a much deeper look at his game to see how’s he doing this in the NBA. In 27 minutes a game, he’s averaging 21 points and 7.7 rebounds on 57.6% from the field.
If we take Zion’s per 36 minutes stats, it looks like a video game for a rookie, averaging 28 points and 10.2 rebounds. But that hasn’t slowed him down at all. He’s scored 20+ points in 7 out of his 9 games. The Pelicans have won 6 of their last 8. His teammate Lonzo Ball is one of those guys that knows his teammates strengths and where to give them the ball so that they succeed.
Lonzo said this about Zion. “Obviously, he is a freak athlete, but he's also very skillful," "You can give it to him on the break, postups, short rolls, so he can score in a lot of different ways. And that's why it's so hard to stop him."” A great abbreviated breakdown which we all know, but the inclusion of short rolls caught my eye.
Zion on the other hand uses that to get momentum. Other times which is what I find more important, is that when he is stopped by the defense and he doesn’t get what he wants, he’s patient in finding an opening through angles or upper body movement to lay the ball up. This is not easy at all. I’m being serious, that requires a tremendous amount of body control. For example on this play, it’s the classic pick and roll between Lonzo and Zion. Lonzo attacks, and dishes it off to Zion almost at the three point line. He puts it in a place that Zion can catch it in stride. A defender meets Zion, but since Zion has momentum, he’s able to bump away the defender enough, and then contort to take keep the ball away from the defender’s hand.
Zion is also surprisingly slippery. I know he’s a monster on the court, it’s hard to lose track of him, but Zion knows how to get open. Especially with this spin-off he likes to do. This spin-off move requires a quick burst of lateral quickness, not just raw speed, to get around his defender. We also see it on rebounds like right here when he gets better positioning against Giannis who’s averaging 13.5 rebounds. We saw this in Duke and he’s doing it in the NBA against bigger players.
Now this is a stat that shows Zion dominance on the court. In his first 7 games, 81.3 percent of Zion’s shots either go in the basket or are rebounded by Zion himself. That doesn’t speak to just Zion’s efficiency, that also speaks to Zion’s second jump.
But even without seeing him in action, Zion’s reputation already has a gravity on the court. Now that was his first game and that hasn’t necessarily changed. He gets double in the post, but what really caught my eye was the gravity Zion has off-ball without being a proven knockdown shooter. This is the first time Giannis has played Zion and again we’re talking about Giannis who has the best defensive rating in the league. So if Giannis wasn’t willing to help off Zion who was in the baseline-3 point area to defend an Ingram drive, that speaks to the gravity that Zion. That’s where that size and speed combination plays a factor because it’s a legitimate threat. If it was enough for the Greek Freak to worry about, it’s something the league has to worry about.
He’s still within the offense most games, and there’s a patience to him, not just forcing it every time and calmly assessing a situation but I gotta say that when Zion gets going, he gets going in stretches and turns it on. One thing the Pelicans have done well is run post-ups for Zion, he’s averaging 6.9 post ups per game which would put him at 9th in the league right now and Zion used his weight and lateral bursts extremely well to get into good position down low. From there, he makes decent passes if doubled, powers through defenders. Especially with Lonzo looking for Zion, these post ups also become lob opportunities. Zion Williamson is different, but not just because of his gifts. There’s so much that he does that can’t be explained by numbers, not a weight, not how fast he can get, or how high he can jump. It’s how he’s using his gifts, the small little details that make Zion so good. Can Zion win rookie of the year? All-star by next season?