What would it take for Duke freshman Zion Williamson to end up with Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs next season?
Picture this – Gregg Popovich gets another chance to select from the top of the lottery, securing another franchise-altering linchpin to begin the next generation of Spurs basketball. For the first time during his tenure in San Antonio, Pop gets to coach a high octane group of athletes and complementary skill players with transcendent prospect Zion Williamson leading the charge.
The tandem of All-NBA shooting guard DeMar DeRozan and a revitalized Dejounte Murray hold down the perimeter as LaMarcus Aldridge controls the paint with Williamson providing switchability and weak-side help defensively.
Now Pop has a modernized version of the ‘Twin Towers’ dynamic with a lockdown defender at point guard and two effortless scorers on the wing in DeRozan and Rudy Gay. With this new cast of characters and a year of experience, San Antonio returns to the top of the western conference and competes for another championship.
Sounds perfect, right?
Williamson has come out of the gates strong in his freshman season as a Blue Devil. The high school phenom took the basketball community by storm with his sheer athletic dominance of high school competition. The athletic freak of nature that many knew from viral dunk videos is on to the next stage of what has the potential to go be a historic career.
ZION WILLIAMSON JUST TOOK FLIGHT
— FOX Sports South (@FOXSportsSouth) November 15, 2018
For many top recruits transitioning to collegiate competition, their level of authority over the court dwindles. Though the sample size is small, it seems as though Williamson’s presence remains as strong as ever.
Duke has played eight games and a scrimmage so far this year but only three have come since the beginning of the regular season. In those three, Williamson has connected on 32-of-39 attempts for a field goal percentage of 82.1 percent. Besides his 25.3 points per game, Zion is adding 10.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and three blocks per game thus far.
There’ve been many extremely talented players to come through the draft over recent years but Williamson’s emergence has put the world on notice in a way that no one else has. Fans have watched in awe as his unfathomable physicality is complimented by a tight handle, solid court vision and soft jump shot.
In many ways, Williamson embodies the new direction of the league. His dynamism and versatility at the forward position make him a threat to influence a game in every possible way.
Even Zion Williamson’s rebounds are viral-worthy highlights!
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) November 9, 2018
For this reason, many fans across the world are calling for their teams to punt the season and aim for a high draft pick. Now that San Antonio has dropped four of their last five against poor teams, the fan’s call for a rebuild has grown louder.
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Tanking, in theory, is an easy route to building a more complete team through the draft. In a ‘post-process landscape’ with Philadelphia turning their years of sorrow into an All-NBA calibur big three, the art of the tank has become glorified.
To truly commit to a rebuild, a team needs to shed it’s players for assets and build based on an outlook for the future, not the present.
The logistics of the San Antonio Spurs tanking complicate the situation much further but the most pressing hurdle to overcome is their pride. Gunning for a top draft pick is no easy task, especially for an organization so dead set on competing over the years.
Even when point guard Dejounte Murray suffered his season ending injury, San Antonio brushed off the difficulties and embarked on the new year with swagger and confidence.
With five months of basketball left to be played, it’s way too early to call for a tank. For the sake of Gregg Popovich’s legacy alone, the Spurs likely won’t be headed for the top of the lottery until his eventual retirement. Even if the team fails to put the pieces together and the Spurs drop out of the playoffs, they’ll go down swinging.
A Zion Williamson-led Spurs team doesn’t seem to be in the cards for next season but it’s a nice fantasy