The past, present and future of Duke freshman Zion Williamson will all be topics of discussion for the next several months. As the nation’s top college basketball player and the likely No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Williamson is going to constantly be in the news cycle.
Former Chicago Bulls legend and Basketball Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen became the latest to create a stir on Wednesday as he thinks Williamson might be smart to sit out the rest of his college career. Although Williamson is likely guaranteed as an All-American, and Duke is competing for an ACC and national title, he also has a lot to lose with a potential injury.
“I think he’s locked up the biggest shoe deal, I think he’s definitely going to be the No. 1 pick, I think he’s done enough for college basketball that it’s more about him personally,” Pippen said Wednesday on ESPN’s “The Jump.” “I would shut it down. I would stop playing because I feel he could risk a major injury that could really hurt his career.”
While Williamson is very unlikely to shut down his college season, given his competitiveness and Duke’s national stature and title chances, Pippen has some intriguing points about Williamson.
The shoe contract part of things (and other endorsements) in particular. We know the number an NBA team has to pay Williamson as part of the league’s rookie salary scale. We have no idea what shoe companies and other businesses could be looking to pay Williamson.
Even though Williamson’s occupation will technically be, basketball-player-for-NBA-franchise, his biggest employer will be the apparel companies and other businesses that sign him to instant, massive endorsement deals. Pippen is right to say that Williamson needs to protect those business interests while also thinking of his playing career.
But Williamson could also earn an injury while training for the draft and sitting out actual games. And Williamson’s upside for playing the rest of the season could also be enormous. What happens if Williamson sustains his current pace and sweeps the awards circuit while leading Duke to a deep NCAA tournament run? Williamson will receive a massive amount of positive attention for those things while also continuing to build on his future.
It’s definitely an interesting point that Pippen brought to the table. College football players sitting out meaningless bowl games before the NFL Draft has increased in frequency. But Williamson still has plenty of real things to play for and he’s not going to slow down.