When you’re a generational NBA talent and all-but-certain first overall draft pick whose ceiling has been placed alongside the likes of Michael Jordan and LeBron James, it might be bordering on impossible to set goals that could be described as too ambitious.
But for Zion Williamson, that seems to be his plan as he prepares to accept a New Orleans Pelicans hat from and hear his name called by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver when the NBA draft starts up Thursday night.
Asked what his goals are during a predraft news conference Wednesday, Williamson told reporters, “Kinda everything, like MVP, Rookie of the Year and eventually possibly Defensive Player of the Year, Hall of Famer.
“I think if you don’t hold yourself to those standards or try to carry yourself as such, then I don’t know what you’re striving for.”
The funny thing is, by the standards of Williamson’s ceiling, that might just be “a nice start.”
His Airness did everything Williamson described — he was the 1985 Rookie of the Year, a five-time MVP, the 1988 Defensive Player of the Year and a Hall of Famer.
Williamson would exceed LeBron‘s legacy if he accomplished all four of his goals. James was the 2004 Rookie of the Year and a four-time MVP and is an absolute lock for the Hall of Fame, but he hasn’t won Defensive Player of the Year despite five appearances on the First Team All-Defensive squad and one on the second team.
Zion also said he wants to be the “face of the franchise” for the Pelicans after they traded Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers for the Lakers’ entire young core and enough future first-rounders to make former Nets GM Billy King’s fleecing at the hands of Danny Ainge in 2013 look like a reasonable exchange of assets.
“I don’t know if it was like a life-changing thing,” Williamson said about his reaction to the Davis trade, adding, “I’m ready to be the face of a team.”
Zion Williamson said he was at golf range when he heard about the Anthony Davis trade. “I don’t know if it was like a life-changing thing. … I’m ready to be the face of a team.” pic.twitter.com/V8xSafvPDc
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) June 19, 2019
Asked about his role as the franchise player, Williamson told reporters, “Honestly, yes. I do think I’m ready. You have to think that way. If not, you might be playing the wrong sport.”
The only downside to Zion’s ambitions, besides the curious omission of “NBA Finals MVP” from his list of hopeful accolades, was his cagey unwillingness to commit to entering the slam dunk contest at All-Star weekend.
After all, Williamson’s dunk reel, especially for those NBA fans who don’t watch a minute of college basketball, is probably how he’s best known:
Dick Vitale even says outright during that video that Zion was “getting ready for the NBA dunking contest,” so it would be a major disappointment for the league’s marketing arm if Williamson, like James before him, never entered the All-Star festivities’ marquee event.
Meanwhile, Williamson’s Duke teammate R.J. Barrett dropped in on the news conference to make the LeBron James comparison clear for everyone:
RJ Barrett stopped by to ask Zion a question. ?? pic.twitter.com/y23iSHW8Fw
— Chris Montano (@gswchris) June 19, 2019
If Barrett falls to No. 4 in the draft — the Knicks are expected to take him with the third pick, but it’s possible — New Orleans might keep those two college teammates and good friends together for their NBA journey.
We won’t know if Williamson will live up to the hype until he actually suits up for an NBA game — and hopefully he’ll have better shoes for it — but as the draft is only a day away, everything looks bright for one of the biggest generational talents to hit the draft since 2003.
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