I was wrong on Luka and Zion

I was wrong on Luka and Zion
March 10
15:20 2021

Before I retire, I would love to become a scout for an NFL or NBA franchise. I pride myself on the ability to gauge how well a college player will fare as a professional and most often I am right. But sometimes I’m not. When it comes to Zion Williamson and Luka Dončić, it appears I missed the mark on both.

When it comes to recent NBA draft classes, I have been right about several players that I felt would transition well to the league, like Ja Morant, Coby White, Darius Garland, Trae Young, Collin Sexton and Jayson Tatum. I have also picked certain players who were either drafted too early or would not live up to their pre-draft hype, like Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson, Frank Ntilikina and Mo Bamba.

That leads me to the players that I felt were too overhyped coming into the draft and would not pan out but did, and then surpassed expectations. The two most glaring examples of this would be Williamson and Dončić.

When it comes to Dončić, who was drafted third overall in the 2018 NBA draft, I didn’t think he was athletic enough to transition to the league the way he has. Admittedly, I was not able to see much film on Luke outside of the highlight reels on the Internet that showcased his flashy handle and ability to finish at the rim.

Being such a young player when drafted, coupled with the fact he was coming over from Europe and the lack of top shelf athleticism, I thought he would be a good player that would be a good role player and stay in the league for a decade or more. He was also not a great three-point shooter, which I also thought would hinder him in the league.

Boy, was I way off on that assessment! Not only has Luka established himself as one of the top five or six players in the game, he is looking like a perennial MVP candidate that could win multiple championships if put in the right position.

The thing that impresses me the most about the kid is that he is not afraid of any moment that is presented to him. He is not afraid to take the big shot in the final moments of the game, nor is he afraid to play against the best of the best in the league.

As a rookie, Dončić showed me that he was ready for primetime and made me eat my words. He averaged 21 ppg., 7.8 rbs., and 6 ast. Those are some impressive numbers, especially coming from a 19-year-old foreign player. He showed me that he did not need elite speed, athleticism or shooting to be a good player in the league.

Over the past season and a half, he has just continued to progress his game. His numbers have increased every season in almost every statistical category. It’s hard to believe that Dončić just turned 22 on Feb. 28. He is not even close to reaching his full potential and that should scare the rest of the NBA.

Recently, I heard Stephen A. Smith say that Dončić reminds him of Larry Bird. I would have to disagree with that statement. While parts of their games are similar, Dončić reminds me more of Paul Pierce than Bird. I think Dončić has a higher ceiling than Pierce and when his career is over, he could be one of the all-time greats.

Williamson was an internet sensation years before he even put on an NBA jersey. His monstrous dunks were all across the internet while he was still in high school. The talk began then about what type of player he would be in the NBA.

His one year of college at Duke, which was cut short due to injury, did nothing but give even more hype to Williamson. Of course, he was taken number one overall in the 2019 NBA draft. He did not start the season playing as he was recovering from injury and the New Orleans Pelicans wanted to make sure he was 100 percent healthy before entering him into the starting lineup.

He drew comparisons to Charles Barkley, Shawn Kemp, Blake Griffin and Dominique Wilkins. The thing about Zion is that he is similar to those players, yet something about his game is different as well. I think he can, and will, become more than just a dunker. 

Williamson only played in 24 games as a rookie, although he made an immediate splash once he arrived. I anticipated he would put up good numbers as a rookie solely based on his superhuman athleticism, leaping ability and quickness for his size. What I didn’t expect was how easy the game came to him. He averaged 22.5 ppg and 6.3 ast. in his rookie season.

Zion has improved this year to average 25.5 ppg and 7.2 ast. so far this year and earned his first All-Star appearance. Like Dončić, Williamson is not even entering his prime and is already one of the best players in the league.

The only concern I have about Williamson is if his body can hold up year after year at that size. At 6’7 and 284 lbs., Williamson is one of the biggest players in the league. He has the weight of a seven-footer, but is not as tall. If he remains healthy, the sky’s the limit.

I will never be correct on all my predictions, but those were two of the most misguided assessments I have made recently. I am man enough to admit when I am wrong and when it comes to these two players, I am glad I was because they are a joy to watch. I can’t wait to see how both players develop their games and add to their offensive repertoire. Five years from now, they will be the faces of the NBA, along with a few others.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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