My “What if?” game is inconsistent. Many of times, I’ll say F it and eradicate the question from my consciousness. As the Church of Nike preaches, I just do it. At other moments, I’m either too lazy or mental mind F myself to the point of paralysis. No bueno. Regardless, I am but a human, so even if I wanted to up my “What if?” game, my powers are limited. But the gods and aliens (maybe they are the same thing, but that’s a piece for another time) are not. Imagine their “What if?” game? Yo, Poseidon, what if you made the largest mammal to roam the sea without the ability to swallow a human? That would be hilarious! Oh, Jesus. You are a funny guy. What if you gave a tank the jumping ability of a flea? Think you could ask your pops to take care of that? And thus Zion Williamson was born. He’s a generational talent, already being compared to some of the greats in the game, but has the hype gone too far and is he being overdrafted in fantasy leagues?
Zion is 19 years old, 6′ 7″ and 284 pounds. He has a vertical jump of 40 inches! Tank morphed with flea is an impressive sight to see for sure. The last player with as much hype as Zion during high school was LeBron James. You know what’s crazy? ESPN showed LeBron’s high school games, but he graduated in 2003 while YouTube wasn’t started until 2005. He would have literally broken the internet. Anyways, this piece is about Zion.
After dominating the high school scene, AAU circuit, and being a YouTube sensation with his highlight clips, Zion chose to play at Duke under Mike Krzyzewski. In his lone season, he shot a ridiculous 68% from the field, grabbed 8.9 boards, dished out 2.1 dimes, stole 2.1 balls per game, and blocked 1.8 shots. He only shot 33% from downtown and 64% from the free throw line, though.
Fri Lavey of FloHoops.com wrote a great piece back in 2018 regarding how NCAA stats translate to the NBA. He found that NCAA shooting stats aren’t better predictors of NBA stats than EuroLeague stats. He did find that three-point shooting does translate well, though. For non-shooting stats, rebounding and blocks also seem to translate well.
So, don’t expect the 68% field goal percentage. I doubt anyone was, but I’ve learned to never assume anything. 9 boards and 1.8 blocks sound reasonable. The steals number is high, but mid-1s would be a great number. The 2 dimes seems well within the range of outcomes. Now, the shooting percentages from downtown and free throw line are/will be a problem. If he shot 33% from the college line, a sub-30% number from NBA range seems likely. In addition, sub-70% from the line is no bueno.
Zion is an amazing player. He will get plenty of dunks in the uptempo Pelicans system, grab a ton of boards due to his amazing athleticism, and provide D stats because he’s just that good. The non-stop Sportscenter highlights will also keep the hype machine going. BUT, he’s being way overdrafted in fantasy leagues. Currently on FantasyPros, he’s the #24 player being taken. That’s crazy to me. I have him as the #59 overall player. He’s going to be a negative in free throw percentage, tres, dimes, and turnovers. Ben Simmons, who has many of the same issues, at least has the potential to mess around on any given night, and he’s my 28th player and 19th according to FantasyPros.
Many will argue that Zion is already one of the greats and will be a fantasy force from day one. It’s possible, but let’s look at some of the players he’s being compared to and how they finished in fantasy their rookie year (9-cat leagues):