At this point in the season, Zion Williamson is considered the unanimous number 1 overall pick around the league for the upcoming 2019 NBA draft.
A franchise changing the talent, with an infectious aura that will immediately bring more attention to an organization and fans to the seats, the NBA has never seen a player with Zion’s unique skill set in league history.
So we’re going to take a look at how every current lottery team would look if they got the number 1 pick and Zion went to their team. This upcoming draft will change the outlook of the NBA for years to come and as you will see the domino effect of wherever Zion Williamson will end up could be drastic.
1. Phoenix Suns
The Suns finish with the worst record in the NBA and for the 2nd straight season get the number 1 pick.
Suns fans are not happy with the outcome of this season so far and the spotlight is on owner Robert Sarver. The team has been the joke of the NBA for a few seasons now but being atrocious for one more season to get Zion Williamson would 1000% be worth the short term step back.
A trio of Zion/Devin Booker/DeAndre Ayton has the potential to be the start of a future dynasty. Phoenix could become the Golden State Warriors of the 2020’s decade if they happened to get Zion.
Even with Zion, there would still be one giant gaping hole on this roster: the lack of a long-term point guard.
Elie Okobo and De’Anthony Melton have shown some promise although both likely would be better suited and more effective as 2nd string options behind more talented veterans.
So if the Suns get Zion, they have two options:
1. Sign a free agent
2. Trade either Josh Jackson/Mikal Bridges/TJ Warren for a point guard.
Here are the top 8 point guards that are set to be unrestricted free agents in 2019:
1. Kemba Walker
2. Derrick Rose
3. Ricky Rubio
4. Darren Collison
5. Rajon Rondo
6. JJ Barea
7. Ish Smith
8. Jeremy Lin
The obvious standout here is Kemba Walker, who as of right now probably would not consider Phoenix but in this scenario, he might give them a serious look. The early indications are he would like to still be the face of the Hornets franchise, but if I were the Suns I would make an all-out pursuit for Kemba in this scenario. The signing of Kemba Walker to combine with the trio of Zion/Booker/Ayton would make the Suns immediate playoff contenders in 2019-2020.
If they strike out with Kemba there are still some decent options. I think Rubio is the safest bet for a 2-3 year stretch, as he’s not a primary scorer but has always been an effective passer and would fit in well with the other players in the starting lineup looking to get buckets. Derrick Rose would be exciting and help bring fans to the arena but this option is high risk/high reward. If Kemba/Rose/Rubio doesn’t work out then Darren Collison would be a safe one year option. Finally, if you want to think outside the box Jeremy Lin would be a clear upgrade over the point guards they have now.
Another other option is for Phoenix to trade one of their wings for a point guard. Josh Jackson is the likely candidate here as TJ Warren is signed to an extension and Mikal Bridges is likely higher on the front office’ priority list. However, as it’s not a secret around the league the Suns need a point guard trading Jackson for one might be difficult.
I am the most excited about this potential landing spot for Zion. In the very least, him/Booker/Ayton would be an absolutely scary thought in 4-5 years if they all reach their potential. Throw in Mikal Bridges as a nice long-term peace and the future in Phoenix could take a 180 real quick in 7 months.
2. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks finish with the 2nd worst record in the NBA. However, they get lucky in the lottery and get the number 1 pick for the first time since 1975. That year, the Hawks picked David Thompson and he decided to go to the ABA instead. Thompson said the Hawks seemed uninterested in him and even took him to McDonald’s for a meal (this is not a joke).
Atlanta, in this scenario, does not take Zion to McDonald’s and instead to Ruth’s Chris Steak House. The Hawks pick Williamson and the trio of Zion/Trae Young/John Collins looks nasty going into the future. John Collins has made incredible 2nd-year improvement and hopefully Young will do the same. I also low key really like the long-term potential of Kevin Huerter as a shooter. Those 4 going forward will give Hawks fans high hopes heading into next decade.
As for what to put around these players, the Hawks will also get the number 20 pick in the draft from Dallas in this scenario. They pick Zion’s teammate Tre Jones to backup Trae Young. Trae/Tre becomes the hottest combo in Atlanta since Kris Kross.
The one glaring hole remaining is the center position. Dewayne Dedmon’s contract expires after this season and the Hawks could use an upgrade. Here are the top 7 free agent centers in the 2019 offseason.
1. DeMarcus Cousins
2. DeAndre Jordan
3. Nikola Vucevic
4. Willie Cauley-Stein (RFA)
5. Enes Kanter
6. JaVale McGee
7. Brook Lopez
Cousins might be too much of a headache and I’m not sure DeAndre Jordan leaves Dallas. Nikola Vucevic would be very intriguing. He’s having a career season and a starting lineup of Young/Huerter/Zion/Collins/Vucevic would be very scary on offense although not so much on defense. Enes Kanter could be intriguing as well, and Brook Lopez would be a safe dependable option.
Adding Zion would also raise the value of Taurean Waller-Prince. He can score, but he’s better suited for a 6th man role and he would be more effective.
Long story short, Zion to the ATL would be almost just as exciting as him to Phoenix. At the very least, with the combo of Trae/Zion a good percentage of the younger generation of NBA fans will be hopping on the Hawks bandwagon ASAP.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs finish with the 3rd worst record in the NBA, and you’ve got to be kidding me they get their 4th number 1 pick in 9 years. Rumors circulate in the month before the draft starts that Zion doesn’t want to play in Cleveland and the team is seriously considering picking RJ Barrett number 1. Ultimately, the franchise comes to their senses and picks Zion.
The combo of Zion/Sexton is somewhat exciting if we’re being quite honest. I’m not as excited about him going to Cleveland as the previous 2 teams but this fanbase needs a burst of energy after LeBron leaving again. They also have Kevin Love which is easy to forget at this point in the season since he’s only played a couple of games, but I stand by that the Cavs would have a better record right now if he had been healthy the whole season.
As for after the draft, they could for sure use an SG to pair with Sexton/Zion/Love as Jordan Clarkson is better suited off the bench.
Problem is besides Klay Thompson (and he is NOT leaving California for Cleveland) the options are slim.
You could either sign JJ Redick to a one year deal or take a look at a Jeremy Lamb/Tyreke Evans type talent. Or re-sign Rodney Hood.
Overall, I’m really just not excited about Zion potentially going to Cleveland. It would bring fans to the arena but the team would still have a lot more to fix over the next 2-3 seasons and the energy of him mixed with the other players on this team just seems kind of weird.
4. Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls finish with the 4th worst record in the NBA and beat the odds to get the number 1 pick. Jim Boylen represents the Bulls at the lottery and after winning immediately adds Zion to the leadership committee.
I’m more excited about the prospect of Zion going here than Cleveland though. Maybe not as much as Phoenix/Atlanta but there’s some potential here. The fearsome foursome of Zion/Markannen/LaVine/Wendell Carter Jr. is exciting. They might not have much success year one but they will sure as hell be fun to watch.
Chicago is a big market as well and Zion would be an immediate force there. But quite simply, outside of the fearsome foursome, the team would pretty much have to change everything up and put the right pieces in.
I would keep Robin Lopez as a backup and sign him to less money. He seems like a good veteran to have. Similar to Phoenix, the team will have to take a look at the point guard position. The good news is Kris Dunn is more promising than Melton/Okobo but they could still use an upgrade.
Would Kemba take a serious look at Chicago? It’s a bigger market but you also have the MJ being the owner of the Hornets factor and you bet MJ will do everything in his power to list all the negatives of playing under the dysfunctional Bulls front office.
Kris Dunn has shown some talent, and with him being signed through 2019-2020 my educated guess is the Bulls roll with him as the starting PG.
What I’d do is give an offer to Delon Wright who is going to be a restricted free agent. Arcidiacono is fun to watch, but Wright is a clear upgrade on the 2nd string. The Raptors have both Lowry/VanVleet at the point guard position so this puts the Bulls in a nice position to get him. Bobby Portis will likely get a bigger offer elsewhere, and for the sake of Markannen’s development, I’d get a backup PF that fits better chemistry wise. I’d take a serious look at JaMychal Green and Al Farouq-Aminu.
That all being said, a Zion/Markannen/LaVine/WCJ leaves a lot of room for excitement and gives this team a very nice long-term core going forward.
5. New York Knicks
The New York Knicks finish with the 5th worst record in the NBA, and it’s about time they got lucky and get their first number 1 overall pick since Patrick Ewing in 1985.
This would be a big time, there is zero doubt. The hype around a Zion led Knicks team would be through the roof. A Zion/Kristaps duo going forward gives this team a lot of options. You’ve also got Tim Hardaway/Mitchell Robinson/Kevin Knox/Allonzo Trier/Emmanuel Mudiay to go along with those 2.
Fit wise, the team is going to need to figure some things out though. Porzingis/Robinson is the likely starting frontcourt next year unless they re-sign Enes Kanter (I’m assuming they won’t in this scenario). So Zion starts at SF, but I’m interested to see how this would affect Kevin Knox’s development. He has the green light right now, would being demoted to the 2nd string negatively impact his growth? Would they move him to SG? We’ll see. I’d also re-sign Emmanuel Mudiay, he seems to have made real progress finally and he’ll still only be 23 this offseason.
But the real X Factor? Does Zion going to the Knicks make Kevin Durant seriously look at this team in the offseason if he turns down his player option? Is Zion enough to entice KD to come to the Big Apple? My gut says no but KD will at least think about it for a second if only that.
6. Washington Wizards
The Wizards finish with the 6th worst overall record, and what do you know despite all the dysfunction around this team they get lucky with the number 1 overall pick.
There’s a lot of factors here right now, as it’s yet to be seen if one of the Wall/Beal/Porter Jr trio gets traded before the deadline. In this scenario not to confuse things too much, we assume they are all still in Washington.
And if that’s the case, Zion adds a completely unexpected dimension that could change the direction of this franchise.
The only players on this roster signed past 2020 are Wall/Beal/Porter Jr./Troy Brown. Putting Zion on the Wizards could re-energize Wall/Beal big time. They still need to figure out what to do with Porter Jr. as he’s a max contract player performing undervalue. Other than that, putting the rest of the pieces together on this roster is a quite literal free for all.
I would for sure try and extend Trevor Ariza another year or 2, he’s good depth. I’d also take a look at Rodney Hood for the 2nd unit.
Finally, unless they want Ian Mahinmi or Thomas Bryant starting at center next year as with the Hawks I’d take a look at the Vucci Man. Washington is not an enticing free agent destination right now, adding Zion to the mix will make it one. Enes Kanter could be a good option at center as well, and going after RFA Willie Cauley-Stein could add excitement.
Zion to the Wizards isn’t as exciting as Phoenix/Atlanta/Chicago/New York. But he would make this team better and there are at least two top 30 talents overall on the roster to pair him with.
7. Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets finish with the 7th worst record, and after the few years of torment the fans have been through because of the Celtics trade karma comes back around and the number 1 pick goes to Brooklyn.
This is big, the Nets are a team with a competent front office and players who like playing for the team. Having a clear number 1 potential superstar to go along with these nice pieces would even things out a lot. It’s a nice situation for Zion too, maybe not as sexy as Phoenix/Atlanta, but he’s the clear number 1 superstar and you have talented pieces around him who would be fine with that.
The only player signed to big bucks after 2020 on this roster is Spencer Dinwiddie. In this scenario, I’m going to assume they re-sign D’Angelo Russell as well. If he comes back healthy, they will likely look to sign Caris LeVert to a long-term extension and Jarrett Allen is a very nice center with potential.
So the core is Zion/LaVert/Allen/Russell/Dinwiddie/maybe Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Rodions Kurucs looks like he has serious potential as a role player too.
They also get Denver’s 1st round pick. In this scenario, they pick Simi Shittu out of Vanderbilt.
I honestly wouldn’t spend big bucks in free agency. That being said, I could for sure see them giving a nice contract to Marcus Morris to be a DeMarre Carroll replacement though.
With Zion to go along with the other nice young pieces on this roster to combine with a competent front office, I could see them getting a 4-5 seed in the East in 2019-2020.
8. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat finish with the 8th worst record in the NBA, and history is made as Miami gets their 1st number 1 overall pick in franchise history.
Miami is a fun city, not terribly far from his home of South Carolina as well. Zion will have fun there.
As far as his fit on the roster..it’s interesting. Going into the 2020’s decade, we are looking at the core of Zion/Josh Richardson/Bam Adebayo/Justise Winslow. In terms of free agency, they are a little bit short on cash this upcoming offseason with rather large player options for Whiteside, Dragic, and Tyler Johnson.
I would imagine this team being just about the same on paper next year besides adding Zion and Wade going into retirement. In the short term, Zion would allow Erik Spoelstra much more flexibility with the rotation. A starting lineup of Dragic/Richardson/Winslow/Zion/Whiteside with Olynyk moving to a more comfortable role off the bench and a very strong 2nd team unit.
A potential free agent to look at in this scenario: Kyrie Irving in 2020. With Goran Dragic off the books then, would the aura of Zion and the allure of Miami convince Kyrie to move down south?
Long-term, Zion will give Miami something that they need desperately: an identity. And by 2020/2021 Miami will be a very attractive free agent destination.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves have the 9th best odds, and oh my Minnesota gets the number 1 pick yet again.
Minnesota would be..an interesting fit. We’re looking at a core of KAT/Zion/Wiggins/Robert Covington going into the 2020s. You also have Gorgui Dieng signed for $17 million in 2020-2021. I can see them keeping Dario Saric in this core as well for a 4 year, 45 million dollar type contract.
Josh Okogie looks nice as well but knowing who the team’s coach is he probably won’t see any playing time until 2036.
Short term, I don’t see the roster changing that much going into the next season. In this scenario I doubt Taj Gibson is back, so we’re looking at a starting lineup of Teague/Wiggins/Covington/Zion/KAT with Saric, Dieng, Okogie, hopefully Rose coming off the bench.
Besides Cleveland, so far I’m least excited about this scenario. Seems like an odd fit but that being said, this could even things out with the team long term. Zion as the clear number 1 guy, KAT as the clear number 2 guy (which he’s better suited for), and Wiggins as the clear number 3 guy (which he’s better suited for). There is for sure some potential in Minnesota going into the 2020s in this scenario.
10. Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz have the 10th best odds, and they get the number 1 overall pick for the first time in franchise history. Holy Macaroni!
Long term, we’re looking at a Zion/Gobert/Mitchell core. If Zion reaches his potential, this could be enough to seriously contend for championship rings in the early part of the 2020s. I would also make an effort to get Khris Middleton in 2020 when he is an unrestricted free agent to make a fearsome foursome and then figure out the pieces chemistry wise to build around that.
Utah isn’t the sexiest destination for Zion, but it’s a stable franchise that has been consistent winners and they at least have two nice pieces to combine him within Gobert/Mitchell.
11. Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets have the 11th best odds, and it was all worth it because what in tarnation a year after nearly making the NBA Finals they get the number 1 pick. Life is simply not fair.
Goodness gracious, a fearsome foursome of Harden/Zion/CP3/Capela with Travis Scott tripping over himself during halftime shows while singing autotune is deadly. You wanna talk about a team that would become the most hated team in the NBA overnight in this scenario look no further partner!
So with Zion in Houston you’ve got an unquestioned core with potentially 4 top 40 players by the time 2021 rolls around. That’s enough to seriously compete for a championship.
If they get the pieces around them right. Which is why the Rockets are where they are at right now in this article. I think two players who are 2019 unrestricted free agents that would be affordable good fits on the Rockets’ 2nd unit are Terrence Ross and Dewayne Dedmon.
In this scenario, Houston has the core. And that core is downright scary enough to compete for championships rather quick. The rest is just finding role players who are good fits and want to win.
12. San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs have the 12th best odds, and you have got to be kidding me they are bad for one freaking year and they get the number 1 overall pick.
Zion would rejuvenate a Spurs franchise that needs a mini-miracle right now. To be fair, I thought they could potentially make the Western Conference Finals before the DeJounte Murray injury but that’s changed.
We’re looking at a core of Zion/DeRozan/LaMarcus Aldridge/DeJounte Murray/Lonnie Walker IV going into next decade. Patty Mills is also signed for $13 million in 2020-2021.
The Spurs also get Toronto’s 1st round pick. Toronto shockingly wins the NBA Finals, and the Spurs pick Louis King from Oregon with the last pick of the 1st round.
In this scenario, the Spurs sign Bojan Bogdanovic away from Indiana. Rudy Gay is expiring and Bogdanovic/Belinelli making it rain from the 3 point line together would be fun to watch.
We’re looking at a starting lineup of Murray/DeRozan/Bogdanovic/Zion/Aldridge. Unlike when the Spurs got Tim Duncan in 1997 however, there’s no David Robinson on this roster. Point is, I do think the Spurs will be one of the top 4-5 teams in the West with Zion going into 2020 but they still need to get the pieces around them right.
But knowing this team’s past success, I wouldn’t doubt them.
13. New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans have the 13th best odds, and wow they shock the world and get the number 1 pick.
Something similar has happened with this franchise before though. In 1999, the Charlotte Hornets (technically this franchise) had the 14th best odds of getting the number 1 pick and moved all the way up to number 3 and got Baron Davis.
A trio of AD/Zion/Jrue Holiday is scary going into the next decade. Here’s what is also good in this scenario: New Orleans isn’t the most attractive free agent destination right now but with Zion on the team with AD, they will be. And they will have money to spend too with no long-term commitments other than AD and Jrue.
Here’s a free agent I haven’t mentioned yet that might be a good fit in this scenario: Tobias Harris is looking to potentially get a max contract, he’s a stellar player that is a number 1 option on the Clippers, that I feel would fit in incredibly well with AD/Zion/Jrue.
They’ll also need a point guard as they prefer to play Holiday at SG and Elfrid Payton is only signed for one year. For maximum excitement, let’s just say they throw the book at Derrick Rose for a 2-year contract. They let Mirotic go in free agency and sign Mike Muscala. Julius Randle declines his player option and signs elsewhere.
So we’re looking at a starting lineup of Rose/Holiday/Zion/Harris/AD with E’Twaun Moore, Mike Muscala, other role players coming off the bench.
I think they will be a 4-5 seed in this scenario right away, with further success the next 2-3 years once they get all the pieces together.
With Zion, the Pelicans would be talented enough to seriously compete for an NBA championship starting in 2020-2021.
14. Philadelphia 76ers
In the craziest draft lottery in NBA history, the Philadelphia 76ers enter with the worst odds out of anyone and walk away with the number 1 overall pick.
Sacramento barely misses the playoffs, and Boston has their 1st round pick. Unless that is, the pick goes number 1 overall. Then the pick goes back to Philadelphia and all is forgiven in the Markelle Fultz trade.
And oh me oh my would this team be ridiculous with Zion.
We are looking at a core of Embiid/Jimmy Butler/Zion/Ben Simmons. Meaning, there is a serious potential that the 76ers end up with 4 top 25 players.
This is a team that would compete for an NBA championship right away, zero questions about it.
The 76ers re-sign JJ Redick once again and choose not to re-sign Wilson Chandler. Thaddeus Young sees the potential with this team, leaves Indiana, and signs a 2-year deal to return to Philadelphia.
We’ll say Markelle Fultz somehow gets healthy and the 76ers decide to keep him. So we’re looking at a starting lineup of Fultz/Butler/Simmons/Zion/Embiid with Thaddeus Young, JJ Redick, Landry Shamet, Zhaire Smith, TJ McConnell coming off the bench.
There have been a lot of questions with how the end results of the process will be. This scenario would prove the process was not over.
I do have questions how Ben Simmons and Zion Williamson would fit together long term after 2-3 seasons. But they are both so unique that in a weird way I think it will work.
Landing Zion Williamson would make the Philadelphia 76ers the premier team going into the 2020s.