- Duke’s Zion Williamson is the overwhelming favorite to win the Naismith Award as the country’s top player.
- Williamson is shooting an astonishing 65% from the field.
- He scored 28 points against Kentucky in his first ever NCAA game.
Broadcasters are running out of superlatives and NBA scouts are running out of comparables when it comes to Duke freshman Zion Williamson.
Like I've said before, Zion Williamson is Larry Johnson 2.0
— Pierce Simpson (@PierceSimpson) November 7, 2018
He’s been called the next Charles Barkley, the next Larry Johnson, and some are even willing to make the leap to suggest that Williamson will be the next LeBron James.
No wonder Bovada has established Williamson as the overwhelming favorite to earn the Naismith Player of the Year Award.
Odds to win Naismith College Player of the Year in 2018-19
|Player||Team||Odds to win Naismith Player of the Year at Bovada|
|Kyle Guy Jr.||Virginia||+1800|
*Odds taken Jan 5.
The most recent Naismith winner from Duke was guard J.J. Redick in 2006.
What’s Not To Like About Williamson?
He makes more than 72 percent of his two-point field-goal attempts. These are his averages per 40 minutes played: 30.3 points, 14.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 3.2 steals and 2.9 blocks.
He’ll beat you with his speed, or utilize his 6-7, 285-pound frame to dominate you physcially, or elevate beyond you via his 45-inch vertical leap. On top of that, you can make the case that Williamson just might be the best defensive player in the nation.
His player efficiency rating, – which sums up the entirety of a player’s contribtion on the floor into one digit – is 42.18, which is off the charts. The next-highest NCAA player is Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke (37.01) and only one other player in the nation is above 34.
That’s Quite A List
The roster of Naismith Award winners reads like basketball royalty. Michael Jordan. Tim Duncan. Lew Alcindor (before he became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). Bill Walton. Larry Johnson. Larry Bird. Pete Maravich.
Zion Williamson is currently averaging 19.8 points and 9.4 rebounds on 65% FG pct.
In the past 20 seasons, only two D-I players finished a season averaging 19 PPG and 9 RPG on at least 65% FG pct: Oklahoma's Blake Griffin in 2008-09 and Villanova's Michael Bradley in 2000-01. pic.twitter.com/SyVwJP5k2R
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 5, 2019
Should Williamson join this list, he will be the eighth member of the Blue Devils to be honored. Along with Redick, there’s also Jason Williams (2002), Shane Battier (2001), Elton Brand (1999), Christian Laettner (1992), Danny Ferry (1989) and Johnny Dawkins (1986).
Can Anyone Top Zion?
The consensus to be selected first overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, if Williamson turned the Naismith Award-NBA first overall choice double, he’d be the first to do so since Kentucky’s Anthony Davis in 2012.
Is there a player out there capable of derailing the Zion train? Well, one possibility out there might be that he and teammate R.J. Barett split the votes and a third candidate slips ahead. But that seems unlikely.
— The Crossover (@TheCrossover) January 4, 2019
Trying to make a case for anyone else is difficult. You have a dilemma at Gonzaga determining who’s the best player between Rui Hachimura and Clarke. Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ simply doesn’t bring the whole package to the floor.
This is Williamson’s award to win, and it doesn’t hurt that he plays for the best team in the nation.