Zion Williamson has been the talk of college hoops before he even committed to Duke. He’s been the consensus No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft as well.
Analysts and scouts say he’s a generational talent, something we haven’t seen since LeBron James was drafted. Teams realize this may be a once in a lifetime chance to grab this type of player, and they’ve acted accordingly.
Teams like the New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers have thrown their season away to try to get a chance at Williamson. The thing is, many people don’t want to see a talent like Zion go to a team that may waste his talent – like they wasted their season.
Insert the Atlanta Hawks, who have been a bottom-5 team on paper this season but have shown a bright future, unlike the other teams. Coach Lloyd Pierce has guided this young squad through ups and downs.
The way they’ve responded during the second half of the season gives the team hope that they’re just a couple of pieces away to being back in the postseason. The Hawks have been playing exciting basketball with Trae Young and John Collins leading the way. Fans are itching at the thought of adding Zion to this dynamic duo.
It’s not just fans of the team either, but outsiders are starting to like the idea of Zion to the Hawks.
Honestly, Hawks is for Zion and Zion is for the Hawks.
— Winslow & JRich SZN (IFB) (@PointJustiseSZN) March 22, 2019
Please send Zion Williamson to the Hawks, basketball gods.
— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) March 16, 2019
It’s understandable in two ways. The Hawks have been the only lottery team this season actually competing and not “tanking”. If you watch the games, you can see that they have a will to fight every night. The Hawks are also the only team that shows promise to a player of Zion’s caliber.
They have always been good at maximizing talent and adding him would do wonders for his development in the future. Yes, everything points to the Hawks deserving Williamson, but what many people aren’t seeing is the big picture: the Hawks don’t need him.
Going away from the philosophy
Coach Pierce cares about defense first, but second on his list has to be shooting 3s. The Hawks have attempted the third-most 3-point field goals in the league so far. They have looked better hitting them in the second half of the season. Every player that has received meaningful minutes this season can shoot behind the arc (except Miles Plumlee). When your entire starting five can space the floor, it opens up the offense for more opportunities.
Williamson has shown a willingness to take perimeter shots, but he does all his work inside the paint. He’s currently shooting 31 percent from 3, which doesn’t fit into the Hawks offensive mold.
His inability to hit a consistent jumper can make defenses adjust and sag off which could hurt the Hawks. Now we’ve seen players like Ben Simmons and even Draymond Green struggle at the perimeter, but their teams are still effective for two reasons.
1) The rest of the lineup can shoot and 2) Green and Simmons don’t have to shoot because they’re great playmakers for their respective teams.
You’re not drafting Zion to strictly be a playmaker, not with the all the other things he excels at on the court. If the Hawks do draft him, they’ll be expecting him to develop his jump shot, and who knows if it it’ll ever be consistent.
Forced to play small ball
In today’s NBA of positionless basketball, you can plug almost anybody at any position. Zion is listed as a forward, but can play any position on the floor. In the Hawks case, this could hurt them more than help.
His frame and size could mean he could be a power forward (and maybe center), but the Hawks already have Collins. This would mean that Collins would have to move to center, something he’s done before but isn’t ideal. There are many more centers in the league bigger and stronger than Collins. It would be hard for him to defend and get going on the offensive end.
Also, Collins and Williamson are basically the same type of player, with Zion being more developed. Why would the Hawks draft somewhat of a clone of the player they already have on the team?
Excitement over results
From what I’ve seen from many people is that he should go to the Hawks because it would be exciting. They see what Collins and Young do when it comes to their chemistry on lobs and dunks. They want to see the same thing with excitement.
But when it’s all said it done, will this maximize their ability to winning games? It’s okay to be “cute” on the court, but will it translate to winning? The Clippers had the label of “Lob City” once upon a time. An elite point guard in Chris Paul, and two players in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan that were known for their amazing dunks.
Yes, they won games, but that team never made it to the Conference Finals and look how that entire core has been dismantled. The Hawks should be focused on finding players that they can plug in and would fit immediately.
There’s no doubt that Zion is the best player in the draft. There’s also no doubt that he’s one of the best players we’ve seen in the draft in years. If the Hawks somehow get the first pick, drafting Zion should be a no-brainer. If you really think about it though: do the Hawks really need him?
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