Upcoming Match-ups

Zion Williamson Odds-On Favorite to Be Picked 1st in 2019 NBA Draft

Ryan Murphy

by Ryan Murphy in NBA Basketball

Updated Dec 19, 2022 · 3:33 PM PST

Zion Williamson
Things are looking up for Duke freshman Zion Williamson. Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire.
  • Zion Williamson has emerged as the overwhelming favorite to be selected first overall in the 2019 NBA Draft
  • Will RJ Barrett push his teammate out of the top spot?
  • Will Duke freshmen go 1-2-3 in the upcoming draft? 

Zion Williamson is everywhere you look these days. He’s on the cover of Sports Illustrated glaring menacingly into the camera. He’s on SportsCenter fiercely defying the laws of gravity. He’s on Instagram swatting shots into the fourth row of Cameron Indoor Stadium.

In another six months he’ll also be front and center at the 2019 NBA Draft, where oddsmakers believes there’s a 75% chance that he’ll be chosen first overall by one very lucky team. Williamson’s -300 odds place him comfortably ahead of fellow Duke freshman RJ Barrett and Cameron Reddish.

2019 NBA Draft Odds

Who Will Be Selected First in the 2019 NBA Draft? School Odds
Zion Williamson Duke -300
RJ Barrett Duke +125
Cameron Reddish Duke +1000
Nassir Little UNC +1600
Keldon Johnson Kentucky +2000
FIELD N/A +2000

It may not seem surprising that Williamson is atop the list after watching him make mincemeat of the ACC, but it would have been considered blasphemy more than three weeks ago when every draft board in the country had RJ Barrett as the unanimous number one pick.

The 6’7″ Barrett entered Duke as the consensus top recruit in his class, and had been on everyone’s radar since 2017 when he led Team Canada to a gold medal at the 2017 FIBA Under-19 Basketball World Cup.

Williamson, meanwhile, was little more than a viral sensation best known for dunking over cowering 16-year-olds. No one knew for certain whether he had a genuine feel for the game or if he could function within Mike Krzyzewski’s highly structured offence.

That isn’t a concern anymore. The 6’7″, 285 lb. Williamson is averaging 20.8 points on 67.7% shooting and is a big reason why Duke is 7-1 and favored to be the last team standing at the 2019 Final Four.

His aerial game has been every bit as good as advertised, but Williamson has proven himself to be far more than just a dunker over his first eight games. The North Carolina native is also a superb ball handler and creative playmaker who uses his size and vision to set up his teammates.

YouTube video

Williamson ranks third on the Blue Devils in assists, but he could easily average another five dimes a game were it not so easy for him to get to rim and finish the play himself.

Williamson’s offense is so impressive that it sometimes overshadows his tremendous contributions on the other side of the ball. The 18-year-old forward leads Duke in steals and blocks per game and is already one of the most fearsome defenders in the country thanks to his extraordinary instincts and athleticism.

Williamson is shooting just 66.7% from the free-throw line and 16.7% from beyond the arc.

The one knock on Williamson has been his touch. He’s shooting just 66.7% from the free-throw line and 16.7% from beyond the arc. His lack of range hasn’t impeded his productivity thus far as he’s bigger, faster, and quicker than virtually everyone he matches up against, but it could cut into his numbers in the pros once he faces beefier opponents and defenses designed to keep him out of the paint.

2018-19 NCAA Basketball Statistics

Zion Williamson 20.8 8.8 2.4
RJ Barrett 23.1 6.3 4.0
Cameron Reddish 16.3 3.4 1.5
Nassir Little 11.8 4.8 0.8
Keldon Johnson 15.9 6.1 1.5

Is Zion a Slam Dunk at No. 1?

Williamson has been a revelation this season, but you won’t find any value in his ridiculously short -300 odds. You’re far better off banking on Barrett instead. The Canadian guard is leading the Blue Devils in scoring and is shooting 45.9% from the floor and 34.8% from deep. He may lack Williamson’s size and once-in-a-generation athleticism, but he’s an exceptionally polished player who can easily slide into any NBA backcourt.

Williamson has been a revelation this season, but you won’t find any value in his ridiculously short -300 odds.

It should be noted that although Williamson has more upside, he also carries more risk. What position will he play in the NBA? How will his body hold up over time? Will he ever develop a reliable outside shot?  Those questions may make NBA general managers think twice, making Barrett the safer – and more logical – choice at no. 1.

Author Image