Zion Williamson’s greatness, in 7 stats

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The only per-game stat Zion Williamson currently leads Duke in his rebounding. The Blue Devils have players who average more points (R.J. Barrett), assists (Tre Jones), steals (Cameron Reddish), and blocks (Marques Bolden). They even have a rotation player who shoots a higher percentage from the field in Javin DeLaurier.

But there is no player in all of college basketball who is as impactful as Williamson when he takes the court. He is the epitome of efficiency, a versatile forward who imprints his will in every game on both ends of the floor. You might think the Duke forward is just a dunker if you spend all day looking at social media, but he’s spent his freshman season proving his game is so much deeper than that.

Even on a team that includes two other possible top five NBA draft picks in Barrett and Reddish, Williamson stands out. His jaw-dropping highlight-reel plays only show a fraction of his overall contributions to Duke this season. Here are seven stats that show just how exceptional he’s been.

74 percent: Williamson’s two-point field goal percentage

Williamson isn’t totally allergic to three-pointers, like, say, Ben Simmons, but he prefers not to take them. Instead, Williamson wants to do his scoring in the paint, where he can leverage his immense physicality and show off his soft touch. Williamson has made a habit of getting wherever he wants on the court this season. And when he gets in close, he almost never misses.

Williamson has taken 152 field goal attempts this year, and 131 of them have come from two-point range. He’s making 74 percent of those shots so far. Good luck stopping this man:

That sparkling two-point percentage ranks No. 7 in the country. He’s the only player listed shorter than 6’8 in the top 10.

7.1 and 4.2: Williamson’s block and steal rates

Williamson is a stud on the defensive end. He wrecks havoc off the ball, trapping vulnerable ball handlers, darting into passing lanes, and swatting shots to turn into one of the best defensive playmakers in the sport despite only standing 6’7.

The stats back it up. Williamson is one of 17 players in D1 right now to post a block rate better than seven percent and a steal rate better than four percent. He ranks in the top 100 in the country in both categories.

If you have the basketball: Zion is coming for it, and he’s going to get it. You already know what happens next.

20.8: Williamson’s box score plus-minus

BPM is arguably the best all-in-one stat college basketball has for determining a player’s total impact on the floor. You can read a full explanation of it here. Essentially, it estimates the number of points contributed by a player vs. an average player, per 100 possessions.

Right now, Zion Williamson doesn’t just have the best BPM in the country, he has the No. 1 BPM of the decade, according to sports-reference. Here are the top 20 BPM seasons since 2010-11:

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It will be fascinating to see if Williamson can outpace Anthony Davis’ freshman season at Kentucky as he goes through the ACC gauntlet. Davis helped his team win the national title. Can Zion do the same?

.391: Williamson’s win shares per 40

Win Shares is another fancy stat that tries to quantify a player’s total impact on winning. It’s an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player due to his offense and defense. You have seen similar stats if you follow the MLB or NBA. You can read a full explanation here.

Win shares are cumulative, so running the stat per-40 minutes is the best way to look at single season impact. So far, Zion Williamson leads the country in win shares per 40 by contributing almost four full wins to Duke.

Like BPM, he is also currently posting the best win shares per 40 mark since sports-reference started collecting data. Here’s a look at the best individual seasons according to the metric this decade:

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76.6: Williamson’s defensive rating

Defensive rating is a common metric that tries to distill a player’s overall defensive impact. It estimates how many points a player allowed per 100 possessions he individually faced while on the court. You can read a full explanation here.

Williamson is currently No. 4 in the country behind two Texas Tech players (Tariq Owens and Matt Mooney) and Virginia’s Braxton Key.

Williamson’s incredible individual defense is lifting Duke up as a team. You’ll remember the Blue Devils struggled to defend last season before moving to a zone and ultimately finishing No. 9 in the country. This season, Duke has experienced no such slump while the mostly playing man-to-man. Duke is No. 2 overall in defensive efficiency so far.

1.198: Williamson’s points per possession on offense

Williamson has had 202 possessions this season that have ended in a bucket, miss, turnover, or free throws. He’s scored 242 points, good for 1.198 points per possessions. That ranks in the 97th percentile nationally.

What does this mean? Simply that Williamson is one of the most efficient players in the country. Scoring this many points per possession is even more amazing when you consider he’s only made 4-of-21 three-pointers this season.

1.409 and 1.5: Williamson’s points per possession in isolation and as a pick-and-roll ball handler

It’s easy to see Williamson’s incredible efficiency and think it all comes from transition. Williamson is excellent in transition (1.381 PPP), and it accounts for 20 percent of his offense. But even more impressive is how good Williamson is in the half court. Even when the game slows down, he can’t be stopped.

These two numbers prove that. Williamson has had 22 isolation possessions this season and has scored 31 points. That’s 1.409 PPP and in the 98th percentile nationally. Williamson also has serious potential as a ball handler in the pick-and-roll. Though only five percent of his possessions have come in those situations, he’s scoring 1.5 PPP, the best in the country.

Williamson’s production and the efficiency with the ball in his hands bodes well for his NBA future. It’s just more evidence that there’s so much more to Zion than highlight dunks.

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