Tuesday morning, an interesting question came over the wire on Twitter.
Who is the BEST FORWARD currently in the NBA that Zion will instantly be better than once he gets drafted.
— Justin Grant (@ThePackageJG) May 14, 2019
“Who’s the best forward that Zion Williamson will already be better than when he gets drafted?”
And I thought about it for a minute. Because Zion is, of course, so obvious a lock for Rookie of the Year that they might as well just engrave the trophy now and hope he doesn’t blow out his ACL like Blake Griffin.
And then I got to thinking that the NBA is a young man’s game, that a guy on a bad enough team—and once they trade Anthony Davis, who seems to still want out of New Orleans despite his new teammate, the Pelicans will be a G-League team even more than they already are—can rack up quite the usage rate, and that Zion’s natural athleticism and NBA-ready body mean he won’t run into the same problem Kevin Garnett did as a rookie when he was too skinny for the pros…
Point is, Zion’s going to instantly be an All-Star caliber player.
So we presume he’s better than everyone who didn’t make the All-Star Game in 2019, and the forwards on that short list of people who did?
Let’s assume that centers are a completely different argument.
That’s…let’s see. Dirk’s retired, Middleton is a role player, and Aldridge is a midrange jump shooter in a pace-and-space league.
So that’s what, six guys left. Zion is, at the barest of bare minimums, the seventh-best forward in the NBA before he’s even played a game.
Now it comes down to ranking those six guys, and since it’s up to me to do this since it’s my show, here’s my ranking of the top six forwards in today’s NBA, on May 15, 2019 as this goes to press.
Again, one man’s opinion, and based purely on the players ranked as of right this exact minute. Sure, LeBron is my choice for the GOAT, but he played only 55 games last season, he’s 34 years old, and he’s got over 56,000 career minutes combined in the regular season and the playoffs. After 16 seasons, LeBron is starting to go the way that every great NBA player before him went.
Consider that Michael Jordan was 35 when he hit the Last Shot in the 1998 Finals, and he didn’t come directly out of high school, nor did LeBron take two years off to play baseball. Jordan’s odometer in Chicago only had about 43,000 minutes on it.
If LeBron ends up washed as early as next season (I don’t think it’ll be that sudden a decline, but I do think he’s truly entering the downside of his career), that only further reinforces that he’s not the best anymore.
So let’s just go down the list and ask if Zion is better than the guys I named in order.
Is he better than Giannis? Oh man, go home, you’re drunk. Giannis is the MVP. He does things that baffle even a guy whose job it is to compile NBA highlights. I have literally seen it all and even I’m gobsmacked by the Greek Freak. Zion is not the MVP right out of college. Give him a few years, but not yet.
Is he better than Durant? Look, Stephen A. Smith said it best.
The “Stay off the weed” by Stephen A is so legendary 😭 pic.twitter.com/ABIoxigTVJ
— Jay 🐲 (@IamJNE) May 3, 2019
KD is at the apex of a career that has a very real chance to put him in the same conversation as the likes of LeBron and His Airness before he retires. He could be the Finals MVP for the third straight year by the time these playoffs are done. Zion is not Kevin Durant, not until his rookie deal is up, he threatens the Pelicans by saying he’ll play in Europe if they match his offer sheet as a restricted free agent, then he ends up on the Warriors, who will by then still be assembling stars even though Stephen Curry will be out of the league and Durant will be the elder statesman of the franchise.
Is he better than Kawhi? Look, give Zion a couple of Defensive Player of the Year nods and one of these before we anoint him as the league’s third-best forward.
Kawhi Leonard’s game winner to the Avengers music is the most satisfying thing I have ever seen pic.twitter.com/IopFLXTHlf
— Ryley (@PrimetimeRyley) May 13, 2019
I could end up looking like the biggest idiot who ever lived if LeBron comes back with a vengeance, pulls one more masterpiece of a season completely out of his rear end with the Lakers next year, wins the MVP, and carries Los Angeles through the most improbable playoff run in NBA history…
…but I’m going to go out on a limb and say the man with 56,000 regular-season and playoff minutes and 16 seasons and nine NBA Finals and years and years of carrying bad Cleveland teams has finally reached the end of his useful life as an NBA player, destined to have his time with the Lakers go down in the same kind of inglorious history as the career of Michael Jordan on the Washington Wizards.
But right this very moment, he ranks fourth, and that makes him the answer to Justin Grant’s original question, who is the best current forward in the NBA who Zion Williamson is already better than.
Williamson plus whoever the Pelicans get for Anthony Davis (rumors are swirling like mad about the third pick coming over from the Knicks as New York desperately tries to attract Kyrie Irving and Durant to their dumpster fire franchise) instantly make the Pellies better than they were when they had the Brow on their team, so that debate is much easier to settle.
And PG13? Yeah, no.
So there you have it. Zion is better than LeBron. Please, roast me on Twitter @RealFoxD, stay tuned to Pace and Space for some much less SCORCHING HOT TAEK content as I get off this weird high horse of mine, and thanks for reading!