New Orleans Pelicans: Sit back and enjoy Zion Williamson’s dominance

Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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New Orleans Pelicans, Zion Williamson
Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson is one of NBA’s best in isolation

One particular stat that I think does deserve a closer look, though, is Williamson’s utter superiority in isolation plays. The extent to which Williamson outdoes his opponents in these situations is laughable—especially when you consider he hasn’t even played the equivalent of a full NBA season.

Williamson is in the 93rd percentile of players whose possessions are made up of at least 10 percent isos. That’s just below Kevin Durant and better than James Harden, the NBA’s elite isolation scorer. In layman’s terms, Williamson is close to unguardable when he is one-on-one. That can be attributed to a few reasons.

Williamson is a walking mismatch or, as pro wrestler Scott Steiner would say, a genetic freak. He’s faster and more explosive than most bigs, while being a lot stronger than any other type of player. Williamson’s handle is also fairly tight for his size, having developed that part of his game when he wasn’t yet a force of nature, and difficult to stop because of his low center of gravity. Lastly, Williamson is an elite finisher, regularly displaying his dexterity at the basket. When he’s near the rim, you don’t expect him to miss.

In the Pelicans’ loss against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday, Williamson’s entire arsenal was on display. In one of his best plays of the game, Williamson faces up Kristaps Porzingis. Let’s not forget that Porzingis is 7-foot-3, but Williamson goes around him like he’s not there, finishes with the beautiful reverse dunk, and gets the and-one.

Williamson is extremely nimble for someone with his build and his athleticism will probably only improve as the season continues. The difference between how he looked last season, at the start of this year, and now is night-and-day.

The Pelicans forward had a similar finish against Mavs center Willie Cauley-Stein earlier in the game, who is no small man in his own right. Cauley-Stein is a legit 7-footer at a sturdy 240 pounds, but Williamson goes around him like he’s not there. His body control is legit.

But Williamson can also go through players. No matter how tall Porzingis is, he can’t stop Williamson once he gets into his body. The former Duke star invades his defenders’ space and absorbs contact easily. In the Pelicans’ game against the Mavericks, Williamson shot eleven free throws and had three consecutive and-one plays.

In isolations, Williamson scores 65 percent of the time and he attempts free throws 23 percent of the time. Those are inhumane numbers for anyone, but especially for someone with Williamson’s amount of experience.