Stuckey: Quantifying Zion’s Impact, And How I’m Betting Duke-North Carolina

Mar 15, 2019 6:07 PM EDT
Credit:

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Zion Williamson

  • Zion Williamson returned for Duke on Thursday night and scored 29 points on 13-of-13 shooting from the field. He added 14 points and five steals.
  • Stuckey again attempts to quantify just how much Zion is worth to the point spread, and gives his take on tonight's Duke-UNC line.

As I said several times over the past few weeks, I thought oddsmakers and bettors were underestimating the value of Zion Williamson, refusing to believe one player could be worth so much to the spread in a college basketball player. But Zion is an anomaly.

His value was priced at around 5 points, which is historically high. I still think it’s too low.

I think he’s worth close to 7 points, which sounds crazy to say out loud. But this is the most dominant college basketball player we have seen in the modern era.

He’s elite in every single phase of the game and brings a physicality and swagger to the game that Duke sorely lacks without him.

And every time I watch him play — and especially after his almost-perfect performance in his first game back last night — I want to bump up his value even more.

Quantifying Zion’s Impact for Duke

I’ve already been over Zion’s historically great PER, which currently sits at 42.8. That’s on pace to shatter the current single-season PER record of 36.93, per Sports Reference (full data goes back to 1992-93 season).

Well, let’s look at another metric that paints the same picture. The Box Plus/Minus is an estimate of the points per 100 possessions a player contributes above a league-average player, translated to an average team.

Here is how Zion matches up with the current single season leaders in that category since 2010-11:

  • Zion Williamson (Duke, 2018-19): 21.8
  • Anthony Davis (Kentucky, 2011-12): 18.7
  • Brandon Clarke (Gonzaga, 2018-19): 18.6
  • Karl-Anthony Towns (Kentucky, 2014-15): 17.3
  • Victor Oladipo (Indiana, 2012-14): 17.0

Decent company. (How about Brandon Clarke, by the way? He deserves some love that he doesn’t get nationally.)

For reference, Dean Wade is an excellent college basketball player and essential to Kansas State’s success in making a run this year but his BPM is exactly half of Zion’s at 10.4.

How I’m Betting Tonight’s Duke-UNC Game

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