The Atlanta Hawks will enter the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery (on May 14) with only a 10.5 percent chance to secure the No. 1 overall pick. Even when taking into account the potential of a trade that would vault the team into the top spot before late June, the odds aren’t great that Duke freshman Zion Williamson will find his way to Atlanta, even as fans attempt to will the transaction into existence.
However, a panel of four analysts from ESPN — Jonathan Givony, Bobby Marks, Kevin Pelton and Mike Schmitz — set out to “rank the 14 teams with a chance at the No. 1 pick based on how likely they are to help Williamson reach his superstar ceiling” and the Hawks landed at No. 1 overall.
Pro: The Hawks finished first or second on every ballot, and for good reason. Having a pass-first point guard in Trae Young who can also play off the ball thanks to his dynamic shooting ability would make for an electric pairing with Zion. Williamson would be able to unlock his potential as a primary creator while also benefiting from the Hawks’ league-leading pace.
Con: Zion will need to improve his shooting and Young might need to dial back his usage to make this offense work. But Williamson is such an unselfish teammate and extraordinary talent that these things are unlikely to be major issues long-term.
First and foremost, it isn’t shocking to see the Hawks in the top spot and, frankly, this is a notion that has been floating in league circles for months. Williamson is an athletic force that would fit snugly in Atlanta’s high-tempo system and it would be hard to pair him with a better fit at the point guard position than Trae Young, with his elite-level passing and basketball acumen.
Elsewhere, Williamson’s biggest question mark might be his perimeter shooting but, in short, Atlanta has no shortage of floor-spacing with the way Lloyd Pierce’s offense is constructed and the presence of Young, Kevin Huerter and multi-faceted big men. Throw in the fact that Williamson and John Collins would form a highly interesting frontcourt tandem (particularly in finishing at the rim) and fireworks would arrive.
As noted above, there are always questions with any potential draft fit but, in this case, they really don’t manifest in any meaningful way. Williamson isn’t someone that needs the ball in his hands for the majority of the time and it is hard to avoid day-dreaming about what could be if Travis Schlenk and company can wiggle in to the top spot during (or after) the lottery.
Sometimes, it’s good to dream.