Zion Williamson on NBA future, comparisons to LeBron: ‘I’m just trying to be first Zion’

NEW YORK — Zion Williamson isn’t concerned about expectations placed on him by others.

“They can set them there, I don’t try to live up to them,” Williamson said. “I just try to be me, be the best version of myself that I can be.”

Williamson has his own lofty expectations he refreshingly wasn’t afraid to share.

“MVP, rookie of the year, eventually possibly defensive player of the year, Hall of Famer,” Williamson said. “If you don’t hold yourself to those standards or try to carry yourself as such, then I don’t know what you’re striving for.”

At 18 years old, he’s ready to be the face of a franchise.

“If somebody doesn’t have that mindset, then I don’t know if they’re playing the right sport,” Williamson said.

And which team will that be? Williamson tried to be coy, as if he didn’t know which NBA team planned to select him in Thursday’s draft.

“If they drafted me,” Williamson prefaced a question about the New Orleans Pelicans.

“If I come there,” he said at the end of another question about New Orleans.

Pressure? Zion doesn’t know what you’re talking about. #NBADraftpic.twitter.com/GNB5zRCMT6

If the Pelicans – and new executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin – don’t take Williamson with the No. 1 overall pick, it will be one of the biggest stunners in draft history.

The Pelicans are a team of the present and the future — perhaps with the brightest long-term outlook of any team in the NBA — and Williamson will play a significant role in both timelines.

“If I go there, I think I’ll like it,” he said.

What’s not to like? New Orleans reached a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers over the weekend to acquire Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three future first-round draft picks, including the No. 4 pick on Thursday, for All-Star center Anthony Davis.

That’s a lot of talent in the Big Easy, headlined by Williamson, who enters the draft with as much hype and excitement as any player since LeBron James in 2003.

But Williamson has no room for comparisons, either.

“Honestly, with the comparison stuff, it's nice, it's cool, but I don't look into it,” he said. “I just look to be myself. I'm not trying to be nobody. I'm just trying to be the first Zion.”

He captivated college basketball last season as a freshman at Duke with his high-flying,  powerful dunks. But his game is more than that – it’s a combination of strength, speed and agility and ability to rebound, block shots, dribble, pass and finish at the rim.

His game is not perfect, and his shot, especially from three-point range, needs to improve. He said he’s working on shooting better from long range.

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