When healthy, New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson is one of the top 15 players in the NBA, as evidenced by the fact that he was chosen to be an All-Star starter last season. But as one of the most-hyped prospects since LeBron James, there is another gear Williamson can hit.
One player that we’ve often seen Williamson compared to is the great Charles Barkley. At his best, Barkley was one of the top 5 players on the planet, even earning the MVP award in 1992-93. And Williamson can get to that level someday, too (maybe even this year). He just needs to make a few more improvements to his game.
This one is the most obvious. The discourse about Williamson’s weight has always been overblown (I’d kill to be built like him), but it is true that he hasn’t been maximizing his conditioning the way he should. Even he has admitted that, and he’s taken steps this offseason to change that.
Improving his conditioning will not only give him a better chance of staying healthy, but it will also make him a better defender.
The tradeoff of being built like a wrecking ball is that it does put a ceiling on your defensive ability. Defense will always be Williamson’s weak point, but that doesn’t mean through hard work he can’t be serviceable.
This maturation will likely be a multi-season process, but based on how agile he looked in the Pelicans’ last preseason game against the Orlando Magic (tallying five steals in less than 16 minutes) there’s reason to believe he could improve on that end this season.