The Zion Williamson hype train was at full steam ahead on Thursday in Chicago.
After giving the NBA a sneak peek of what to expect from New Orleans basketball this upcoming season (16 points and an array of highlights) in a 133-109 win against the Atlanta Hawks a couple of days ago, the No. 1 overall pick flexed a more complete game during his second preseason outing.
Zion led the Pelicans in a 127-125 comeback victory over the Bulls with 29 markers, four rebounds, four assists, and a steal on 12-of-13 shooting, despite only playing three quarters and 27 minutes.
His signature high-flying assaults were still there, but what was more striking was that this almost flawless performance magnified the overlooked parts of his game.
Much has been said about Zion's uncanny ability to finish at the rim, which is largely attributed to his otherworldly explosiveness and strength. None of that would be possible, though, if he doesn't have such good hands that translate to exceptional ball handling and security (as seen on the 1:36, 1:50, and 2:23 marks of the video below). Even as a rookie, he's already as effective as the best receivers in the league.
Alongside unselfish teammates like Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball, whom he seems to be forming a strong connection with, Zion is poised to eat on the offensive end.
Graceful rack attacks
The man-child may be equipped with a dunk package that can make a Harlem Globetrotter green with envy, but it would be wrong to reduce him to another Blake Griffin — before the latter fell in love with the three. Zion's acrobatic layups and transition baskets are nothing but a thing of beauty. The way he adjusts in the air and barrels down the lane makes his drives look smooth despite his infamous heft.
Eyes in the back of his head
Zion's willingness to make the extra pass is indicative of his overall decision-making and potential as a playmaker. Those sweet dishes to Lonzo (0:15 of video below), Frank Jackson (0:34), and Derrick Favors (1:48) don't just add to his assist totals, but are also a testament to how he has totally bought into coach Alvin Gentry's system. He fully understands and is fine with not getting the usual free rein that most top selections enjoy.
At the same time, Zion exhibits excellent court awareness and creativity if Coach Gentry decides to ditch the clipboard and run the offense through him.
Right place, right time
He's quite nimble and adept at picking his spots for someone his size (6'6", 285 lbs). That's the thing with Zion — unlike most young stars, the physical marvel doesn't need the ball in his hands to maximize each possession. When he isn't making the right reads, he utilizes his freakish qualities to carve out space for himself and teammates, as well as disrupt passing lanes on defense. Too strong for guards and too fast for bigs, Zion is truly a matchup nightmare.