6 NBA Teams in Desperate Need of Zion Williamson

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterDecember 3, 2018

6 NBA Teams in Desperate Need of Zion Williamson

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    By June, it wouldn't be shocking if every NBA team had the same player at No. 1 on its draft board.

    Duke freshman Zion Williamson seems to be separating himself from teammates RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish and every other prospect in the country. 

    Per 40 minutes, he's averaging 31.8 points, 13.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 3.4 blocks and 3.1 steals and shooting 67.7 percent from the field. And the 18-year-old still has an enormous amount of room left to improve skill-wise.

    Early signs are pointing to a future franchise player with an unmatchable mix of power, explosion and quickness, plus ball-handling and passing ability, post moves, shooting potential and unique defensive playmaking.

    He should fit into any frontcourt that needs a 4 or 5 and help jump-start a number of tanking teams' rebuilds.

Phoenix Suns

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    Optimal Phoenix Suns Frontcourt

    C: Deandre Ayton

    PF: Zion Williamson

    SF: Mikal Bridges

    Even with Devin Booker and Ayton, who is averaging 16.2 points per game on 59.9 percent shooting as a rookie, something is missing in Phoenix.

    A point guard is an obvious answer but not the only one. Phoenix ranks No. 29 in defensive efficiency (111 points allowed per 100 possessions) and No. 28 in offense (100.6 points scored per 100 possessions). And while the Suns would benefit from adding a floor general, it's difficult to overlook their hole at power forward after former general manager Ryan McDonough whiffed on Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss in 2016.

    Williamson, 6'7", would give Phoenix a high-energy defensive playmaker (combined 4.3 steals and blocks per game) alongside Ayton, who averages just 0.8 blocks and 0.6 steals in 31.7 minutes per contest.

    And unlike Ayton, Williamson offers more scoring versatility with his ability to put the ball on the floor. 

    Adding a stud point guard to the Suns roster seems like a long shot through trade or free agency. Assuming Phoenix (4-19) finishes with a bottom-four record, Williamson represents its most obtainable ticket back to relevance.  

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Optimal Cleveland Cavaliers Frontcourt

    C: Kevin Love

    PF: Zion Williamson

    SF: Cedi Osman

    The Cleveland Cavaliers won't be worrying about filling any specific hole or need in the draft. Fit, even alongside Kevin Love, shouldn't be taken into account during the search and selection. The only criteria worth considering is talent, which would lead the Cavaliers to Williamson. 

    Collin Sexton has had an impressive month (16.1 points per game, 48.1 percent from three), and he's a building block. But Williamson has the chance to be a centerpiece franchise player the Cavaliers won't land in free agency. 

    Even if Love returns from his toe surgery, stays healthy and remains in Cleveland's long-term plans after signing a five-year extension in July, he and Williamson should coexist without problems, given the veteran's ability to stretch the floor and the 285-pound teenager's unique two-way effectiveness around the rim (65.3 percent FG at rim, 3.4 blocks per 40 minutes).

    Either way, with Love now 30 years old, battling injuries and 4-18 Cleveland second-to-last in the NBA standings, the Cavaliers roster desperately needs to hit big in the draft. And Williamson looks like this year's prize. Cleveland will take one in whatever shape it comes.

New York Knicks

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    Optimal New York Knicks Frontcourt

    C: Kristaps Porzingis

    PF: Zion Williamson

    SF: Kevin Knox

    The New York Knicks (8-16) have made strides toward returning to relevance, though to get there, their roster still requires a significant upgrade. Right now, they're presumably banking on signing a star over the summer, which is no sure thing.

    Catching a break in the lottery would greatly expedite the rebuild. Williamson could give New York's core a difference-making boost while also enhancing its attractiveness to free agents.

    But he'd also fit right in between Porzingis and Knox, players who, like Williamson, are interchangeable. The Knicks wouldn't need to label them with specific positions. Each offers enough versatility to allow head coach David Fizdale to mix and match based on New York's opponent. 

    Williamson's explosion and power around the basket would complement Knox's perimeter-oriented attack. And with Williamson (3.4 blocks, 3.1 steals per 40 minutes) and Porzingis, the Knicks could employ two of the game's most disruptive defensive playmakers.

Atlanta Hawks

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    Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

    Optimal Atlanta Hawks Frontcourt

    C: John Collins

    PF: Zion Williamson

    SF: Taurean Prince

    The Atlanta Hawks took a step in their rebuild during the 2018 draft, particularly by adding point guard Trae Young. But a nucleus of Young, Prince and Collins won't be enough. Williamson takes the roster to new heights and gives it a centerpiece Atlanta presumably wouldn't land in free agency. 

    Few opposing frontcourts would be able to match the athleticism of Williamson and Collins. The Hawks should also be salivating at the idea of adding the Duke freshman to a lineup with Young, who has his team No. 1 in the league in pace (108.4 possessions per game). A one-of-a-kind athlete, Williamson ranks in the 99th percentile in transition scoring (1.73 points per possession).

    He fits with Atlanta's uptempo style, and he gives Young an elite finishing target in the open floor and off his dribble penetration. 

    Williamson's fit in Atlanta would go even smoother if Collins continues to develop into a three-point shooter, which the Hawks coaching staff seems interested in pushing since he's taking two triples per game as a sophomore.

Washington Wizards

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    Optimal Washington Wizards Frontcourt

    C: Zion Williamson

    PF: Markieff Morris

    SF: Otto Porter Jr.

    Whether the Washington Wizards choose to rebuild or move forward with John Wall and Bradley Beal, they should be dreaming about Zion Williamson.

    He's an answer in either scenario. 

    If Washington (9-14) blows up the roster—a sensible move based on the franchise's lack of progress over the years with the same core of players—Williamson would give the Wizards a new A-plus prospect to market and build around.

    But they'd ideally keep their core intact and add to it, given the challenge of trying to acquire stars and the fact that they are already set with two. 

    Markieff Morris will be entering free agency, and the organization can't rely on Dwight Howard, who is now out for months after back surgery. The Wizards would get their third star with Williamson, whose frontcourt versatility would also allow Washington to play small and fast or big and strong.

Brooklyn Nets

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    Optimal Brooklyn Nets Frontcourt

    C: Jarrett Allen

    PF: Zion Williamson

    SF: Caris LeVert/Joe Harris

    The Brooklyn Nets haven't had a top-20 pick since 2010. General manager Sean Marks has kept hope afloat by acquiring Caris LeVert, drafting Allen and adding D'Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie. But Brooklyn (8-16) has been stuck in the same rebuilding stage.

    Marks would likely do flips for Williamson, a potential franchise player who'd fill a gaping hole between Allen and Brooklyn's guard-heavy attack.

    The Nets frontcourt lacks pop, with Allen and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson both limited as a scorers. Head coach Kenny Atkinson would value Williamson's ability to handle the ball in space and get his own shot while posting up.

    Either way, the team should be in talent-acquisition mode. And Williamson's ceiling exceeds that of any current Nets by multiple stories.


    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports and ESPN.