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How Will Duke Use Zion Williamson This Year?

The YouTube star has work to do but no one can deny his raw talents or his ability to pump up a crowd.

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2018 McDonald’s All American Game
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 28: Zion Williamson #12 of Spartanburg Day School attempts a dunk during the 2018 McDonald’s All American Game at Philips Arena on March 28, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We’ve wondered about this too: how will Coach K and Duke use Zion Williamson?

“ESPN survivor Myron Medcalfe asks and he’s not really sure, saying this:

“The five-star recruit is an explosive (6-foot-6, 272 pounds) athlete who threatens to turn the 2018-19 season into his personal dunk contest.

“He can fly. His skill set seems limited, however, to fast-break acrobatics and dominance around the rim.

“With R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish on the perimeter, it’s unclear how Duke will implement Williamson into its offensive game and make sure he gets enough touches to make an impact.”

Well let’s start with two basics of Duke’s systems: players get to play to their strengths and players have to help the team be better.

So ask yourself, a bit counterintuitively, how Williamson might help on defense.

We expect Barrett and freshman point guard Tre Jones to be superb, committed defenders from Day One. Reddish, who has been called the model for positionless basketball, has the potential to be one too but even he says he has to work harder at it.

So what about Williams? We’ll have to wait and see. It’s a way for him to establish himself though and get more minutes.

Offensively, you want him flying around. We linked to some video earlier this summer showing in one-on-one drills and Barrett ate him alive.

The second thing that everyone understands he can do is to get out on the break and with Jones (and several other guys) to pass him the ball, he should have lots of chances. One dynamic which is going to be fun is that his teammates, like the rest of us, will want to see what he can do next. So they’ll likely be happy to give him the ball and see what the big guy can do.

At this point, Williamson’s skills may lag behind his talent but how long will that last? His skills will improve and soon.

For his freshman year though, keep in mind those first two points: what his strengths are and how he can best help his team. That will tell you how Williamson will be employed.

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