Zion Williamson is a freak of nature. No human being that big and strong should still be that explosive, quick, and skilled. The Duke freshman going first overall is practically a formality at this point— regardless of fit.
For those of you who pay no attention to betting, that would mean you would have to bet $200 just to win $10. But don’t just take it from me, here are just a few statements about Zion from some NBA talent evaluators:
“Will be one of the best athletes in the NBA right out of the gate…Possesses a freakish combination of power, explosiveness, dexterity, coordination and body control. Has a very high basketball IQ and is far more skilled than he gets credit for.” – Jonathan Givony, ESPN
“His combination of size, athleticism, power and uniqueness as a prospect will make whoever is picking here impossible to pass. He still hasn’t hit his head on the sky-high ceiling of his potential.” – Kyle Boone, CBS Sports
“Zion is a truly elite athlete with underrated feel and instincts, giving him the upside of a future NBA superstar.”- Mike Gribanov, The Stepien
Long story short: the guy is gonna be really good. Every team is going to want this guy—and because of the new lottery format that increases the odds of jumping to #1 for more successful teams—a lot of teams are going to have a real chance at him.
So for the purposes of this list, we can ignore the Bulls, Suns, and Cavs of the world. Those teams landing Zion would be boring. Let’s get weird with it and find the most fun landing spots for one of the most fun prospects in a long time.
So You’re Saying There’s A Chance
Los Angeles Clippers-
The Clippers are currently the 8th seed in the West but they will most likely fall out of the playoff race after trading away Tobias Harris for draft picks and Landry Shamet. The Clippers have some interesting pieces still: Danilo Gallinari, Montrezl Harrell, Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, and Shamet primarily.
That being said, the real appeal is adding Zion to a team that is a legit free agent destination. Imagine Zion, Kawhi Leonard, and Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. If anyone can resurrect Lob City, it’s Zion Williamson. Current #1 Overall Pick Odds: 0%
No, the Sixers aren’t missing the playoffs. Luckily for them, they own the Top-1 protected rights of the Sacramento Kings pick. Adding Zion Williamson to their team would create an embarrassment of riches situation for Philadelphia.
Assuming they are able to retain the services of impending free agents Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler, the Sixers would be able to throw out a Monstars-esque lineup of Simmons-Butler-Harris-Williamson-Embiid. Watch out. Current #1 Overall Pick Odds: 0.5%
Los Angeles Lakers-
LeBron wants Anthony Davis, but maybe he’d settle for Zion Williamson? Seriously, pairing LeBron James with maybe the most hyped prospect since…well maybe LeBron James would be must watch television. As a bonus, the Lakers could keep their current young core together and allow them to grow with Zion.
As awesome as all of this sounds, it’s hard not to see the Lakers just flipping Zion in a package for Anthony Davis anyway. Current #1 Overall Pick Odds: 1.0%
Karl-Anthony Towns and Zion Williamson would immediately become the most fun PF-C combination in the NBA. On top of that, KAT just turned 23 last November and Zion doesn’t turn 19 until July.
I don’t think you could ask for a quicker rebuild after the Jimmy Butler situation than Minnesota adding Zion in June. They would immediately be a force to be reckoned with even in a loaded Western Conference. Current #1 Overall Pick Odds: 1.5%
From Way Downtown
Just close your eyes and picture it. Luka Doncic has the ball at the top of the key. Zion comes up to set the screen. He rolls violently toward the rim. The defense collapses leaving Kristaps Porzingis open in the corner or the wing. The Mavericks owe their pick to the Hawks, unless they jump in the lottery as it has a Top-5 protection this season.
Maybe Porzingis sets the screen for Doncic, pops out, and Zion cuts behind the over-extended defense for an easy catch and flush from Doncic. I’m not sure there is a more beautiful on-court fit on this list than Williamson taking his talents to Dallas. Current #1 Overall Pick Odds: 4.5%
Nothing has gone right for the Wizards this season. The team struggled mightily right out of the gate and they have now lost John Wall to a devastating injury that might hold him out all of the next season as well.
Zion Williamson would be a perfect lob threat for Bradley Beal or Wall (once he eventually returns). Zion could start to get the team heading in the right direction once again, restoring Washington D.C. as an exciting and dynamic place to come watch professional basketball. Current #1 Overall Pick Odds: 7.5%
This Is Why We Tank
Jaren Jackson Jr. and Zion Williamson would compliment each other quite nicely—especially on the defensive end where the duo would rack up steals and blocks. Offensively, Jackson can stretch the floor making up for Zion’s shaky jump shot.
If the Grizzlies strike gold with the Duke freshman, it might make sense for them to hold onto Mike Conley and compete for a playoff spot. At the very least, they could wait until his contract gets closer to expiring to make him easier to trade. Memphis is a dangerous team moving forward with a Jaren-Zion pairing. Current #1 Overall Pick Odds: 9.0%
Next to Dallas and Memphis, Atlanta is right there as the best Zion Williamson fit. The Hawks have won 6 of their last 15 games—not horrible for a rebuilding that young. Trae Young and John Collins have the potential to be future All-Stars and Zion fits with both players.
Trae Young is emerging as a premier passer in the league and would be a perfect guy to set up Zion. Young and fellow impressive rookie Kevin Huerter’s outside shooting gravity would help to open up space for Zion on offense. The Hawks are moving in the right direction—they could be a playoff team next season with or without landing first overall—and Zion would do wonders to accelerate their rebuild. Current #1 Overall Pick Odds: 10.5%
New York Knicks-
The only truly terrible team to make this list is New York. This is all about one thing: free agency. Following the Porzingis trade with Dallas, the Knicks now hold enough cap space for two max-draft slots and have their eyes on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Some have speculated that the only reason they made that Porzingis trade was because the team has intel that both players are at seriously considering teaming up in The Big Apple. Add Zion Williamson to a team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and they are probably a title contender in year one. Of course, like the Lakers, if they do end up with the first pick in June don’t be surprised to see it moved to New Orleans in a deal to acquire Anthony Davis.
So there you have it folks. The implications this draft lottery will have on the NBA could be great because of a talent like Zion Williamson. Will we see him in one of the spots I just listed, or will we see Zion end up in a place like Cleveland, Phoenix, or Chicago? Only time will tell.