While listed as a small forward coming out of high school, Zion Williamson has played most of his college ball as an undersized (height-wise) power forward. Coming into Duke alongside top recruit (at the time) RJ Barrett and fellow top-five recruit Cam Reddish, Duke had a slight logjam at the small forward position. Barrett was afforded the opportunity to get the lion’s share of minutes as the primary scoring option on the wing, which forced Reddish and Williamson into unfamiliar roles. Cam Reddish has struggled in his role as a floor-spacing wing option, however, Zion has seamlessly transitioned into a once in a generation talent at his new position.
This begs the question, what will Zion Williamson’s position be at the NBA level?
Duke’s Zion Williamson Position Prediction in the NBA
Despite only standing 6’7″ and standing much shorter than nearly every other power forward in the league, Zion weighs an astounding 285 pounds. That would put Zion as the second heaviest player in the NBA. At the college level, Williamson’s strength and athleticism have allowed him to dominate despite his lack of height. Especially on the defensive end, Williamson is an immovable force down low who can close out shots on the perimeter with lightning speed.
While it wouldn’t be realistic to expect Zion to physically dominate the game down low at the next level the way he is now, we really haven’t seen anyone with his physical tools before and he should be able to use those skills to his advantage from the jump. A lot of where Zion ends up finding himself playing depends on the team that ends up drafting him.
For example, if Zion were to be drafted by the New York Knicks, he would seamlessly slot in at the power forward spot in the absence of Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks already have promising young scorer Kevin Knox manning the small forward position and have a gaping void in terms of a presence down low should DeAndre Jordan walk in free agency.
On the other hand, if the Cleveland Cavaliers land the first overall pick, they already have an established All-Star power forward in Kevin Love. With a gaping hole at the wing, Williamson would fit the Cavaliers perfectly as an aggressive rebounding small forward whose defensive versatility could be deployed all over the court from his spot on the wing. Moreover, Williamson’s court vision and ability to collapse a defense would likely result in plenty of wide open looks (sounds like one of Love’s former teammates…) behind the three-point line for one of the surest shooting big men in NBA history.
Zion Williamson NBA Player Comparison
As far as a player comparison at the NBA level, there really isn’t any viable option as we haven’t seen anyone with the raw physical tools that Zion comes into the league possessing. Instead, you have to pick apart Zion’s game piece by piece to find a unique comparison for each aspect of his game.
Athleticism: LeBron James This one feels almost a little TOO easy. Zion’s ability to get up to his top speed, leaping ability and body control are all very reminiscent of the King. While it may take a year or two for him to get comfortable with the speed of the NBA, he should establish himself as the premier athlete in the league from the moment he steps onto the court.
Frame: Charles Barkley
Standing 6’7″, Zion Williamson’s frame basically looks like a jacked up Charles Barkley on steroids. A chiseled 285 pounds, comparing him to Chuck – who only weighed about 250 at his heaviest at Auburn – seems almost unfair.
Offensive Skillset: Blake Griffin
While shorter (and heavier/stronger/more athletic) than Blake Griffin, Zion and Blake attack the basket in a very similar way coming out of college. Known exclusively as a dunker coming out of Oklahoma, Griffin flashed the ability (in small sample sizes) that he could one day possess a well-rounded offensive game. Fast forward to 2019 and Blake Griffin is a dynamic scoring threat with an outside shot! Expect a similar trajectory for Zion.
Defensive Skillset: I honestly have no clue
This is where Zion loses me. From a defensive standpoint, there has never been a player with Zion’s physical tools that plays with such a high level of defensive intensity. Able to seamlessly transition between the perimeter and interior with the speed to cover guards and the size/strength to bang with the big men, Zion projects to be a once in a lifetime type of defender. His leaping ability gives him the chance to send back shots from players much taller than him while his initial burst of speed allows him to easily jump passing lanes and create turnovers in a variety of ways.