Zion Williamson entered the NBA with unreasonable hype piled on his shoulders — and then he exceeded that hype. Williamson averaged 23.6 points a game on 58.9 percent shooting, plus pulled down 6.8 rebounds a game.
In the 19 games he played. He missed 45 games due to injury.
That, and the fact that Luka Doncic is playing at a level that will earn him MVP votes at age 20, has the Mavericks star on top of a straw poll conducted by ESPN. Tim Bontemps asked 20 people — executives, scouts, and coaches — who they would build around between Williamson, Doncic, Ja Morant, and Trae Young, and Doncic was the runaway winner.
“Luka is a known quantity as a total stud,” one Eastern Conference scout said, “so you have to take the sure thing.”
“Luka has size and elite playmaking and shooting right this second,” a Western Conference executive said. “He impacts winning. I believe his game is not only sustainable, but has the ability to continue to get better.”
“I’m only taking Luka because of health concerns about Zion,” said one Western Conference coach who had Doncic and Williamson first and second, respectively. “If [Zion’s] healthy, I think he’ll win an MVP. That’s how good I think he is.”
Interestingly, a number of the executives had Morant in front of Williamson and even Doncic, seeing upside as the Memphis point guard gets stronger and improves his shot.
Again, the concern with Williamson is health — was last season’s injury issues a fluke, or should there be a lingering concern about chronic health issues? It is those risks that had executives taking Doncic or even Morant ahead of him.
Young was a relatively distant fourth and the reason was his defense — he is currently one of the worst defenders in the league. While Young’s offensive skill is unquestioned, it is a challenge to build a title team around him because he hurts the team so much on one end of the floor.
Most teams, however, would love to have any one of the four of them. They are the future of the league.