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So...What If Zion Williamson Is A Bust?

Seems unlikely but you never know until you do.

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NCAA Men’s Final Four - Previews
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - APRIL 05: Zion Williamson of the Duke Blue Devils speaks during a press conference after being awarded the AP Player of the Year award prior to the 2019 NCAA men’s Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 5, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images

This guy poses an interesting question: what happens if Zion Williamson isn’t as good as people expect him to be?

To be clear, having watched him for a year, we think he’s going to be great. If anything, people don’t yet understand his potential.

Everyone can see him dunk and jump and do amazing things.

Not everyone understands what LeBron James just pointed out though: Williamson’s energy means he can change the game at any point. And aside from that, people are so focused on his physical talent and charisma that they overlook his basketball and social intelligence.

We saw the basketball intelligence - or at least you did if you looked - on multiple occasions. You saw it in the bounce passes. You saw it in the extraordinary shooting performances where he pretty consistently took about 16 shots and hit 10-12 of them.

But there were more subtle signs of a significant intelligence at work. It amazes us that more people didn’t realize what he did with RJ Barrett.

Barrett needed to have the ball a lot to be successful. Williamson not only let him, he became great friends with him and said “it’s RJ’s team” when he was at least as dominant.

It takes a lot of confidence to do that and a lot of intelligence and awareness of someone else’s needs.

He showed that in high school, too, when he had to sit out a summer event and was willing to serve water to the guys who competed. Or the time he gave an MVP trophy to a kid who hit his first shot of the season. Or how he incorporated walk-on Mike Buckmire into his post-game routine.

His energy was a huge asset to Duke but his ability to mold and subtly lead a group was astonishing for an 18-year-old who could easily have gotten a big head.

He has skills to work on, without question. But whoever gets him is going to get a major upgrade and not just on the court.

Watch his teammates. They’ll have more fun and he’ll make them feel part of something great. And that team’s rise will start as they coalesce around him.

Watch and see.

The corollary to that is this: lots of sure bets have missed. Consider Greg Oden but the list is endless.

If something goes wrong and he does miss, our guess is that he’ll get on with his life, do something else interesting and useful to other people, and live a wonderful life.

Others might define him by failure in basketball but we’re pretty sure he wouldn’t.

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