Duke’s Exit Leads To NBA Projections For Williamson, Barrett

With all that Zion has accomplished this season, some question his NBA compatibility.

The hype and the accolades bestowed upon Duke freshman phenom Zion Williamson couldn’t help his team defeat Michigan State in a 68-67 Elite Eight loss.

When it was all said and done, the “8th Wonder of the World” managed only two points over the final six minutes of action. Michigan State and Tom Izzo shocked the world by defeating what is possibly the greatest compilation of freshman to ever hit the college stage in Zion, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones.

Zion is probably the most heralded freshman since Patrick Ewing.  His PER is the highest in the history of college hoops. He swept the ACC conference awards and in the postseason, he averaged the most points per game by a freshman in NCAA Tournament history with a minimum of 2 games played.

His 26.0 ppg average is second only to Kevin Durant’s 28.5 with Texas in 2007.

 

Despite the way Zion dominated the sports landscape, generated record revenue and ratings and captivated the masses, questions linger about his future in the NBA. There’s precedent that suggests his wing man Barrett will be a better pro.

 

Fit. Fit. Fit.

There are some sports analysts who suggest that Zion’s game isn’t suited to today’s NBA and that he may struggle to find a position and team with a style that fits his skill set.

ESPN’s Jalen Rose thinks that Zion may have some problems fitting into certain teams.

“I don’t want to see him playing for a situation where he has to play quality minutes at the five or at the four because that’s going to expose some of his weaknesses.” said Rose this morning.

Together, both of these blue-chippers accomplished something that hasn’t been done in the history of college basketball.

 

Both guys averaged 22.6 points per game this season. As far as having the killer instinct and confidence to take over games in the final minutes, we haven’t gotten a chance to see Zion do it as much as we’d probably like because Barrett was usually the guy at least attempting to take over close games in the closing minutes.

 

So that tells us that Barrett probably should have deferred to Zion more at those moments. It also reveals the level of Barrett’s confidence. He had the guts to take the big shots, knowing that he had one of the most unstoppable forces in college basketball at his disposal. He whiffed a critical free throw in the closing minutes against Michigan State, but that’s because Coach K drew the play up for him. Not Zion.

 

Zion seemed willing to be used as more of a decoy in those minutes. It’s odd that the unstoppable force became the consummate team guy when Duke needed him the most against Michigan State. Zion’s crunch time ineffectiveness also supports those who say Barrett will be a more impactful NBA player, simply because he’s a guard and controls the ball.

If Zion is going to be drafted No. 1, it’s going to be by a team that isn’t very good. A team that will need him to be an Alpha baller and accept the responsibility of carrying his team down the stretch. The verdict is still out on whether or not he’s that guy, despite his early anointment.

A record-breaking sneaker deal awaits Zion.

The NBA is licking its chops to start promoting Zion as the heir apparent to LeBron James as the league’s brand name. His jersey sales are sure to rival Steph Curry’s.

As the NBA Draft draws closer, Zion will be dissected by teams more than ever before. While there’s no doubt, he will go No. 1 because he’s the biggest star in college basketball, there’s a growing contingent of pessimists that feel his future as a “generational player” isn’t a slam dunk.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.