What I’m Hearing: HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy spoke with NBA league executives regarding Zion Williamson and they all felt that despite his large build, he will still be a force in the NBA.
With LeBron James gone, seemingly for good this time, the Cleveland Cavaliers are in full-on rebuilding mode once again. With a young and disjointed roster, the Cavs are a franchise in need of a foundation player. They’re in need of star power.
Enter Zion Williamson.
The presumptive top pick in June’s draft, Williamson would benefit every team in the league. But he would make an immense, immediate impact on a floundering Cavs team in search of a concrete direction forward. Williamson would instantly become the clear-cut cornerstone piece around whom to build.
Collin Sexton, drafted eighth overall last year, has shown promise while fighting through the typical ups and downs of an NBA rookie season. However, he’s better suited for a complementary role around a star. As the best college prospect to enter the league since Anthony Davis, Williamson is that star, the type of franchise player about whom Cleveland fans could really get excited.
GET MORE NBA: Exclusive content with our Click & Roll newsletter
TORCH PASS? Can Giannis pass LeBron as the face of the NBA?
6TH MAN? 7TH MAN? How Clippers are redefining NBA bench play
Beyond his box-office draw, Williamson fits well with the Cavs’ other pieces.
Cleveland has expressed interest in potentially trading Kevin Love, and given the team’s direction it makes sense to try to deal the 30-year-old for younger players and/or draft picks. But with four years and roughly $120 million left on Love’s contract, finding a trade partner could be difficult.
If the Cavs elected to keep him, Love pairs well with Williamson on paper. Love’s ability to stretch the floor and shoot from the perimeter would allow Williamson the space to wreak havoc inside with his 6-7, 285-pound frame. Williamson’s passing needs work, but collapsing defenses would leave shooters like Love and Sexton open on the outside.
Williamson also needs to improve his playmaking abilities, but he’s shown the raw talent at Duke and certainly has the athleticism to do so. He has the tools to be a secondary, and even primary, playmaker to compliment Sexton and take some of the pressure off him. Sexton has shown a tenacity that would pair well with Williamson’s all-out style of play.
It’s tough to forecast who else on the current roster will figure into the Cavs’ long-term plans.
Cedi Osman has shown he can be a capable 3-point threat and another shooter who could take advantage of open looks caused by defenses collapsing on Williamson inside. Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. are competent rim-runners who could gobble up rebounds and throw down lobs alongside Williamson.
Regardless of who else is on the team next season and beyond, winning the draft lottery and selecting Williamson would give the Cavaliers their highest-profile prospect since getting the hometown hero James at the top of the draft in 2003.
It’s certainly unfair to compare Williamson to an all-time great like James before he’s even played an NBA game. But he would get the fan base buzzing again and inject hope into the franchise on its road back to relevance.
Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.