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Winning the 2019 NBA draft lottery could change a franchise’s identity overnight.
Zion Williamson should be the consensus top prospect on boards across the league. And there are a handful of teams that others will be rooting against when the pingpong balls are drawn.
Based on rosters, rebuilding situations and fit, adding Williamson to these select lineups could turn them from afterthoughts into feared up-and-coming teams.
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Odds to win No. 1 pick: 14.0 percent
Signing Kevin Durant and another star are the New York Knicks’ obvious steps toward returning to prominence. But teams should really start fearing this franchise again if it wins the draft lottery.
Williamson on a rookie contract still allows for two max free-agent slots, meaning the Knicks could quickly go from no stars to three or possibly four, depending on Mitchell Robinson’s development and trajectory.
Assuming Durant and Kyrie Irving will be New York’s primary targets this summer, Williamson would even fit the hypothetical best-case-scenario roster playing power forward.
Re-entering the playoff picture will still depend on the Knicks’ ability to sign star free agents. But adding Williamson should only make them more attractive before July 1.
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Odds to win No. 1 pick: 10.5 percent
A third consecutive big draft for the Atlanta Hawks could put them on a similar path in the East blazed by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Adding Williamson to a lineup with Trae Young and John Collins could mean three potential stars, each younger than 22. The game slowed down for Young in the final months, as the rookie point guard averaged 23.6 points and 9.1 assists over his last 34 games. And Collins became a 19.5-point-per-game scorer with a 21.9 player efficiency rating (top 30) by year No. 2, per ESPN.com.
Williamson would give Atlanta an explosive punch of off-ball offense. He’d benefit from a setup man and shot-creator like Young, while the development of Collins’ three-point shot should create more space and a suitable fit with the 6’7″, 285-pounder.
Few opposing frontcourts could ultimately match up athletically with a Collins-Williamson duo.
The projected No. 1 pick would also add needed defensive activity and versatility.
With a roster that already has star-caliber prospects and no long-term contract commitments, the Hawks would become one of the East’s teams to start fearing by acquiring Williamson.
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Odds to win No. 1 pick: 6.0 percent
The Dallas Mavericks lose their pick to the Hawks if it falls outside the top five. They’ll still be in the lottery with a 6.0 percent chance to add Williamson.
At the least for Dallas, winning the No. 1 pick means moving to the top of the League Pass rankings. With Williamson, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, only a select few teams would possess more star power. And it should quickly translate to wins based on the situation and fit.
Doncic and Porzingis would help take pressure off one of the most hyped No. 1 picks the NBA has seen.
And because of Porzingis’ three-point shooting and rim protection, he is the ideal big to pair with Williamson, whose power around the basket and defensive quickness/switchability are also strengths that KP doesn’t offer as much of.
With two stars under 21 and Porzingis at 23, Dallas would again become a desirable free-agent destination and the West’s next team to fear.
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Odds to win No. 1 pick: 3.0 percent
Winning the lottery would be enormous for a Minnesota Timberwolves team that will be committing a minimum of $54 million to Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins every year until the conclusion of the 2022-23 season.
The only way for Minnesota to keep its core and add game-changing talent will be by catching a break in the draft.
Williamson would give the Wolves a needed edge in terms of toughness and competitiveness.
Opposing frontcourts wouldn’t look forward to matching up against Towns and Williamson. The projected No. 1 pick would fit nicely at the 4 between Towns and Robert Covington, shooters who can open up the floor.
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Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
Odds to win No. 1 pick: 2.0 percent
The Los Angeles Lakers are far more likely to acquire Anthony Davis than win the lottery, but they’ll still have their hat in the ring after missing the playoffs. And that means it’s at least worth addressing the frightening possibility of a lineup that includes Davis, LeBron James and Williamson.
That team would obviously strike fear in opponents who won’t have answers for the trio’s athleticism and versatility at both ends. The Lakers would have to consider playing Williamson at small-ball 5 with James and Kyle Kuzma at the forward spots.
Regarding Davis, it will be interesting to see whether the Lakers propose another deal with core young players like Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingramr or wait it out and look to sign Davis outright in 2020. Although, that would mean wasting another year on James’ contract with the King turning 36 early in the 2020-21 season.
Even if they can’t land Davis, Williamson would still be enough to push L.A. up the Western Conference standings. It would seem safe to assume, however, that the team will still be able to sign someone noteworthy during Williamson’s early years and James’ final ones.