NEW ORLEANS — Zion Williamson looks out of place.
At 6-foot-7 and listed at 284 pounds, Williamson looks more like an NFL defensive tackle than one of the NBA’s better players. Yet, as a second-year player, Williamson made his All-Star debut in March. He’s the face of the New Orleans Pelicans franchise and also one of the young faces of the NBA.
Not bad for a 20-year-old, who was offered a football scholarship to LSU despite his high school, Spartanburg Day School in South Carolina, not having a football team.
The Pelicans are fortunate that he never considered playing football collegiately.
Williamson was averaging of 26.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.0 steal a game going into Friday night’s game against the 76ers at Smoothie King Center. He was shooting 62% from the field, including 37.5% on three-pointers, as a point forward. Williamson has also scored 30 or more points 13 times this season.
“He keeps getting better,” Doc Rivers said of Williamson. “He’s so much more than a dunker. He’s a playmaker at this size. His speed and power is really unmatched in a lot of ways.”
The Sixers know they must contain the 2019 first-overall draft pick, who’s improved his 15-foot jumper.
“He’s just going to be one of these guys that’s going keep getting better and better and fast,” Rivers said. “It’s not like what he’s doing right now is his story, and it’s just going to keep happening.”
Williamson had a rough shooting night Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center. He scored 16 points on 4-for-12 shooting and made 8 of 14 foul shots while posting six assists and four rebounds in a 139-111 loss.
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That came one night after he scored 34 points on 12-for-18 shooting in a 123-107 loss to the Hawks in Atlanta. Tuesday night marked his first game back after missing the previous three with a thumb injury. However, the contest against the Hawks marked his 25th straight game of scoring at least 20 points while shooting 50% or better from the floor.
Williamson joins Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal as the only players since the shot clock era to have such a streak.
Williamson’s basketball IQ and passing ability are two of his better assets. A lot of that comes from his growing up as a point guard. He was actually a 6-1 pass-first point guard at Spartanburg as a freshman. He was moved to the post as he got bigger.
This season, he’s been the Pelicans’ primary ball handler under new coach Stan Van Gundy.
“The kid is literally one of one,” Pelicans Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin told Nola.com. “I think what you have seen is he is the most unusual, rare combination of traits as a basketball player.
“And because there’s only one like him, building around him is going to take some creativity, and it’s going to take a level of risk. You’re going to have to give into the notion that he is, in fact, one of one. This is not a big. This is a playmaker.”
Some around the league wonder if Williamson will have a long career without shedding some weight. Critics believe playing at 284 pounds will put too much stress on his knees. Some around the league think he can work harder on the defensive end and be better conditioned.
However, he has a shot at becoming one of the league’s most efficient players.