Best Landing Spots for Duke Star Zion Williamson in 2019 NBA Draft

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterApril 1, 2019

Best Landing Spots for Duke Star Zion Williamson in 2019 NBA Draft

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    After a historic season at Duke for Zion Williamson, the NBA awaits—specifically tanking franchises hoping to win the lottery and add a (super)star. 

    Williamson could use a little luck of his own, as certain teams would offer his game and personality a more suitable platform for development and success.

    Don't count on hearing from Williamson much during the pre-draft process, when he'll be expected to skip the combine and pass on workouts. For the heavy No. 1 overall favorite, there won't be anything to gain from participating.

    While only considering teams with at least a three percent chance of winning the lottery, our rankings are determined by Zion's fit with the roster, personal upside and team potential.

5. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    Three years from now, a Williamson and Jaren Jackson Jr. duo could compete for the NBA's top frontcourt. 

    Their fit together couldn't look cleaner on paper, with Jackson's shooting and rim protection complemented by Zion's explosiveness and power around the basket. 

    With both able to switch and slide around the perimeter, Memphis would have scary defensive versatility and playmaking from its back line. 

    It may take time for the Grizzlies to build out the rest of the roster, however. And it seems likely they'll trade Mike Conley in the near future. For Williamson, joining Memphis just means spending his first few years in the lottery.

4. New York Knicks

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    Sarah Stier/Getty Images

    The New York Knicks roster won't look so attractive to Williamson on draft night. But no team has more flexibility to build for the future. 

    Ideally for Zion, he goes to the Knicks and they sign a pair of max free agents, with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving the presumed primary targets. In that dream scenario, Williamson plays to his strengths throughout his rookie contract, running the floor, crashing the glass and scoring around the basket.

    Playing alongside another star or two, there would be less pressure on Williamson to develop his skills and generate his own offense. 

    Even if the Knicks can't add Durant and Irving, the idea of becoming New York's face would still be appealing from a brand-building standpoint. 

    He would also join a roster with cap space and young talent, including Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox, Allonzo Trier and Dennis Smith Jr. And there would be a clear path toward legendary status, given the praise Williamson would receive from guiding the Knicks back toward relevance. 

3. Phoenix Suns

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    With two potential All-Stars in Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, both under 23 years old, the Phoenix Suns could be an attractive landing spot for Williamson. 

    He would fit seamlessly between the team's lead scorer and center in the starting lineup. And, given his versatility, defensive upside and energy, he might answer some of Phoenix's problems.

    The Suns rank bottom three in the league in both offense and defensive efficiency, so adding the NCAA's national leader in player efficiency rating, who also averages 2.2 steals and 1.8 blocks, would be an obvious boost for the lineup. 

    If Phoenix can add Zion, a serviceable point guard and legitimate role players, the Suns could be next year's Sacramento Kings, another young team on the rise after years of struggling.

2. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Currently projected to snag the No. 10 pick, but with a 3.0 percent chance to win the lottery, the Los Angeles Lakers and Williamson would need some luck to come together. Both can still dream while the Lakers keep losing.

    Developing next to LeBron James, both on and off the court, would be a major plus for Williamson, who will endure similar pressure and attention upon entering the league. 

    It is worth addressing a potential Anthony Davis trade that could or could not include Williamson after the lottery or draft. LA would have to decide whether it is worth giving up the No. 1 pick for Davis when it could sign him outright in free agency the following summer. On the other hand, James will hit 36 in 2020, so the Lakers front office could be motivated to speed up the acquisition.

    Ideally for Williamson, he'd get drafted by LA and form a trio with James and Davis. Aside from their obvious talent, their versatility would mesh well.

    If AD winds up elsewhere, Zion still benefits from growing alongside LeBron until the king needs a successor near the end of his contract. And that could be just in time for Williamson's breakout from young, rising star to franchise player. 

1. Atlanta Hawks

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    Todd Kirkland/Associated Press

    The Hawks have something brewing in Atlanta with Trae Young, John Collins and Kevin Huerter. They also play at the NBA's fastest pace, a selling point for the ultra-athletic Williamson who, at 285 pounds, ranked in the 92nd percentile this season in transition scoring, per Synergy Sports.

    Williamson would benefit from having a playmaking passer in Young, a rookie tied for fourth in the NBA in assists per game (with 7.8).  

    Shooters around Williamson would be another plus—Atlanta ranks fourth in threes made per game, as both Young and Huerter rank amongst the top five rookies in three-pointers made this season. And that's with Collins just getting started. His development (35.8 percent on threes) and potential to evolve into a legitimate stretch big would lead to a smoother fit alongside Williamson.

    Either way, Collins and Williamson would form one of the league's most destructive, bouncy pairings around the basket.

    A franchise on the rise with a need for another big, Atlanta would be a perfect place for Williamson to play some small-ball 5.


    Stats courtesy of ESPN, RealGM


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