Duke basketball claims best NBA scorer in the paint

Duke basketball legend Zion Williamson (Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball legend Zion Williamson (Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports) /

One under-21 Duke basketball product is already making NBA bigs look small.

Based on his otherworldly highlights as a Duke basketball one-and-done, it was understood that Zion Williamson would face absurd expectations as a young pro.

He has. And then some.

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So considering the sheer amount of unfair criticism that 2019’s No. 1 overall draft pick attracts on a daily basis — ranging in topics from his weight and endurance to his defense and the poor 5-9 start of his New Orleans Pelicans — it’s only fair to continue pointing out Williamson’s ridiculous statistical achievements as well.

Nobody scoring more often down low than the Duke basketball legend

As the NBA on TNT broadcast pointed out during the Pelicans’ 129-118 loss on the road to the Utah Jazz (11-4) late Thursday night, the mere 20-year-old leads the league with 18.6 points per game in the paint. That average is more than three points higher than No. 2 on the list, 24-year-old Indiana Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis (15.4).

Also, speaking to one of the 6-foot-6, 285-pound power forward’s specialties as a viral sensation in Durham, Williamson sits No. 2 among his NBA peers with 4.2 second-chance points per game, barely trailing the 4.3 average of Denver Nuggets two-time All-Star Nikola Jokic.

Against the Jazz, Williamson hit a remarkable shot off the glass in traffic, played nice with the rim by softly laying in a halfcourt alley-oop pass from fellow former Blue Devil JJ Redick, and often acted like a bulldozer on skates while bullying his way to the basket.

Williamson was even able to splash his lone 3-point attempt — his first such make in four tries this season — and finished with 27 points, three rebounds, and two assists across 35 minutes on the floor while shooting 9-for-14 from the field and 8-for-10 from the charity stripe.

Now, through 13 appearances this season, Williamson is averaging 23.7 points and 7.6 rebounds while shooting 59.4 percent from the field.

Zion Williamson, JJ Redick, the third Bayou Blue Devil in 2020 All-Star Brandon Ingram, and the rest of the Pelicans next travel to play the Minnesota Timberwolves (3-10) at 8 p.m. EST Saturday.

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Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more on Zion Williamson plus other Duke basketball news and views.