NBA Draft 2019: Zion Williamson and three other instant-impact picks

Here are four players who could make an immediate impact in the NBA ahead of the June 20 draft. Also a look at the teams who could all see their fortunes heavily impacted by this year's NBA Draft.

Zion Williamson will be must-watch TV when he makes his NBA debut.   -  AFP

Zion Williamson is receiving most of the attention ahead of the 2019 NBA Draft, but there are plenty of players who could make their mark early.

There are obvious ones like RJ Barrett, who finished 14th in the nation in points per game with 22.9 for Duke in 2018-19, and other guys like Coby White out of North Carolina – who has a lot of De'Aaron Fox to his game.

Those are the easy ones. We decided to look at the one at the top of the draft but then also a little further down the list to see who could play some good minutes and make more of an impact than maybe you would have thought.

Here are four instant-impact picks in the 2019 NBA Draft, with the New Orleans Pelicans poised to select first on June 20.

Zion Williamson

Did you think we would do a draft list without Williamson? Of course not. But it is like that for good reason. Williamson has LeBron James' athleticism and a work ethic that might (maybe) even exceed the Los Angeles Lakers superstar.

The young man loves the game and competes hard every night, though it remains to be seen how an 82-game NBA schedule will wear, especially as a rookie.

But, seriously, he is a big body who is very hard to stop going to the basket and when he is being stopped there he finds a way to alter shots at the rim and get out in transition and wear teams out. Zion will be must-watch TV when he makes his NBA debut.

Grant Williams

Williams is similar to Williamson in that he is a player who influences the game in multiple ways that cannot really be quantified strictly by numbers. He hustles constantly, always appears to be in the right place to make a play and grabs a lot of offensive rebounds that give his team second chances.

Grant Williams during a media interaction.   -  AP

 

And he is a better shooter than people give him credit for. He is not that big and he is not that athletic, but to use a cliché, the whole is greater than the sum of his parts. He is a mature player who was part of a team that helped Tennessee win again. He could be very valuable in the late first round or even go higher than you might think.

Carsen Edwards

Sure, Edwards can get knocked for being a ball hog (nearly 20 shots per game for Purdue last season), is not all that tall (6-1) and makes some silly mistakes. But he can shoot like crazy, has athleticism off the charts and plays really good defense, too.

Carsen Edwards speaks to the media.   -  AFP

 

He could instantly be a sixth man who produces offense. Think Fred VanVleet of the Toronto Raptors but with more athleticism.

If he were 6-4 he might be a top-10 pick.

Dylan Windler

Likened to Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles, once you watch Windler play, that comparison cannot be unseen.

Windler averaged 21.3 points while shooting 42.3 per cent from beyond the arc for Belmont this year. He is tall (6-9), lanky (6-11 wingspan) and oddly slippery and more than good enough on defense.

He may look a little awkward, even goofy, but he finds a way to help his team, accumulates points quietly and has all of a sudden dominated a game.

A team that drafts him in the second round will be very happy, and having played four years in college will only help Windler, who will turn 23 before the NBA season starts. His maturity will be a huge asset coming off the bench in 2019-20.

NBA Draft 2019: Which teams have the most on the line?

This year's NBA Draft could help a number of teams accelerate their progress toward success - or set them back.

Just a few picks could change the direction of a franchise and some of them have a lot on the line in 2019.

A look at three such sides ahead of Thursday's draft.

New York Knicks

New York had their sights set on getting the top pick and selecting Zion Williamson, but things did not shake out that way. Instead, the Knicks ended up with the number three overall pick and are expected to select RJ Barrett, another Duke star.

The Knicks appeared to be front-runners to land Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency this summer, too, but recent reports suggest otherwise.

The team were also was reluctant to part with young assets to land the New Orleans Pelicans' Anthony Davis in a trade and missed that train, as the Los Angeles Lakers forked over a massive hall to secure the superstar.

In a market that emphasises going for championships as soon as possible, making the right selection on Thursday is imperative.

Phoenix Suns

Yet another victim of unexpected draft lottery results, the Suns were banking on landing in the top three. They instead sit at sixth. 

Phoenix are in dire need of a point guard, with their makeshift depth chart at the position causing the young team plenty of problems last season. It seems unlikely that the Suns will get a chance to select Ja Morant, though, 2019's most coveted floor general.

Darius Garland could be a good consolation prize, though. He was productive at Vanderbilt in a limited college career hampered by an early knee injury. However, reports suggest Phoenix would also be willing to trade for a veteran guard who is ready to play now.

The Suns' assortment of combo wings has not led to much success so far, so they need to discover some sense of direction, especially since they have a new coach and general manager.

Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets could this offseason lose what has brought most fans to games. Kemba Walker is coming off a career year in which he averaged 25.6 points per game and was third-team All-NBA.

Walker, 29, qualified for a supermax deal, which could cripple Charlotte and limit their ability to build a better team around him. He is willing to take less, but he also wants to win - very soon.

The Hornets have significant money tied up in players like Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nic Batum and Bismack Biyombo, who have not contributed much of late. But they also have young assets like Miles Bridges and Malik Monk that could be used for leverage in a big trade.

Charlotte have the number 12 pick in Thursday's draft but are reportedly looking for a way to move up. The Hornets will have to do so to get the game-changer they need.

Additional inputs from Ameer Tyree