Zion Williamson has been described as ‘a once-in-a-generation athlete’ by Kevin Durant and could be a rare $1bn sports star… so who is the expected No 1 pick in the 2019 NBA draft?
- Zion Williamson is the general consensus for the No 1 pick at the 2019 NBA draft
- The 18-year-old averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists at Duke this term
- Despite his age, the highly-anticipated star has 3.2million Instagram followers
Zion Williamson. Two words eagerly anticipated in the NBA next season.
The 18-year-old is expected to take the NBA by storm to the extent that LeBron James did when he was drafted No 1 in 2003.
Sportsmail takes a look at the highly-rated talent and why the basketball world is excited to see him ball professionally.
Zion Williamson is expected to take the NBA by storm next season after shining at college level
Why is he so highly rated?
At 6ft 6in and 20st 3lbs, Williamson is a physical freak. Watching him play for Duke University in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) this season it’s been a case of men against boys at time – with the teenager very much the former. His stats prove that where he averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists – while 68 per cent from the floor.
Last summer Williamson posted a staggering 40-inch max vertical in Duke’s combine test. Ally that to his ball-handling skills and spectacular dunks then he is a highlight reel in the making and a generational talent indeed.
A dunking highlight reel, he averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists at Duke this season
Who is he expected to join?
Following Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery standings he is expected to go to the New Orleans Pelicans. It seemed set that he would end up in New York with the Knicks but that proved otherwise as the Pelicans somehow ended up with the No 1 draft pick despite entering the lottery with a six per cent chance of doing so.
Speaking after the draft lottery was completed, new Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said: ‘I don’t believe the universe makes mistakes. I just think we have something special going on.’
New Orleans Pelicans won the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday – after being given the No 1 pick
When will his move be officially confirmed?
The NBA draft takes place on June 20 so expect the forward’s name to be called out first – unless New Orleans are offered some amazing trade offer between now and then.
What have current NBA stars said about him?
Three-time champion James is a clear fan stating in February: ‘What strikes me? His agility and his quickness. For his size, how strong he is, to be able to move like the way he moves, he’s very impressive. I mean, everybody can see the athleticism. That’s obviously, that’s ridiculous. But the speed and the quickness that he moves [with] at that size is very impressive’.
Two-time winner Kevin Durant is another admirer. ‘He’s a once-in-a-generation athlete, I’ve never seen somebody like that before,’ he said in December. ‘Zion Williamson, I’ve never seen anybody that’s lefty that can dunk with his right hand like that, and cock the ball back so far and jump so high off two feet. I’ve seen people jump high, but not that way, you know what I’m saying?’
UCF center Tacko Fall, the 7-foot-6 draft hopeful, played against Williamson in the second round of the NCAA tournament – a 77-76 Duke victory that went down to the very last moment, a game where Williamson scored 32 points. Fall was asked on Tuesday who he would take with the No. 1 pick in this draft, and he did not hesitate for even a second before answering.
‘Zion,’ Fall said. ‘He’s a once-in-a-generation player. I’d seen him on TV a lot, but when you play against this kid, you just see it. He’s different.’
LeBron James (left) and Kevin Durant have both praised Williamson ahead of the NBA draft
Who does he compare to?
Such is the forward’s skillset he has been compared to many greats of the modern game. Charles Barkley, Blake Griffin and Shawn Kemp are names that have been bandied about. But such is Williamson’s uniqueness that it’s nigh-on impossible to compare to him anyone. As Durant said he is a ‘once-in-a-generation athlete’ and it’s more likely to be that in 10-20 years’ time we’ll be comparing the latest NBA hopefuls to him.
Detroit Pistons star Blake Griffin is someone the 18-year-old’s style has been compared to
Williamson has been tipped to join the rarefied air of becoming a $1billion dollar athlete – a club that includes the likes of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Floyd Mayweather. An exciting player on the court and a charismatic figure off it, the 18-year-old already has built a mass following already – boasting 3.2million followers on Instagram, for example.
It is unclear who he will join in terms of a shoe deal but it is likely that Williamson could command a $100m-deal straight out of the gate. Nike, despite their shoe exploding on him, and adidas are seen as the two frontrunners but Under Armour, Puma, New Balance and Anta have all registered an interest.
Williamson saw his Nike shoes inexplicably fail on him during a NCAA game in February
Despite not playing professionally, he has already amassed 3.2million Instagram followers
Who have previously been chosen as No 1 picks?
The last 10 No 1 picks have produced modern-day greats of the game but also some players who have not lived up to the hype. For every Kyrie Irving (2016 champion), and Anthony Davis (six-time All-Star) there have been severe disappointments – think Anthony Bennett (currently in the NBA G League) and Markelle Fultz (looking to rebuild at Orlando Magic).
All eyes will be on Williamson to see whether or not he lives up to his expected hype in the NBA
LAST 10 NBA NO 1 DRAFT PICKS
2009 – Blake Griffin (LA Clippers)
2010 – John Wall (Washington Wizards)
2011 – Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
2012 – Anthony Davis (New Orleans Hornets)
2013 – Anthony Bennett (Cleveland Cavaliers)
2014 – Andrew Wiggins (Cleveland Cavaliers)
2015 – Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)
2016 – Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers)
2017 – Markelle Fultz (Philadelphia 76ers)
2018 – Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns)