Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press
The NBA’s draft lottery Tuesday will fix the positions of the 14 teams that did not make the playoffs this season.
That event is always a big night on the NBA calendar, and perhaps it will be even more memorable than usual because of the prizes at the top.
Duke’s Zion Williamson, Murray State’s Ja Morant and Blue Devil RJ Barrett appear to be the three players who will go at the top of the draft on June 20.
Williamson appears to be a generational player who combines eye-catching power with leaping ability, athleticism and a huge amount of basketball talent. The freshman dominated games throughout the 2018-19 season, and there was an unstoppable characteristic to his game.
The lottery system gives the teams with the three worst regular-season records an equal chance to come away with the top pick.
The New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns each have a 14.0 percent chance of coming away with the No. 1 pick and a 52.1 percent chance of coming away with a pick in the top four. Those teams had the worst records in the NBA this season.
Every team that did not make the playoffs has a chance to win the lottery. Here’s a look at this year’s odds, per Tankathon.
Team, Regular-Season Record, Top-4 Pick Pct., No. 1 Pick Pct.
New York Knicks, 17-65, 52.1%, 14.0%
Cleveland Cavaliers, 19-63, 52.1%, 14.0%
Phoenix Suns, 19-63, 52.1%, 14.0%
Chicago Bulls, 22-60, 48.0%, 12.5%
Atlanta Hawks, 29-53, 42.1%, 10.5%
Washington Wizards, 32-50, 37.2%, 9.0%
New Orleans Pelicans, 33-49, 26.3%, 6.0%
Dallas Mavericks, 33-49, 26.3%, 6.0%
Memphis Grizzlies, 33-49, 26.3%, 6.0%
Minnesota Timberwolves, 36-46, 13.9%, 3.0%
Los Angeles Lakers, 37-45, 9.4%, 2.0%
Charlotte Hornets, 39-43, 4.8%, 1.0%
Miami Heat, 39-43, 4.8%, 1.0%
Sacramento Kings, 39-43, 4.8%, 1.0%
In this mock draft, we work under the assumption that the team with the worst record will end up with the No. 1 pick.
2019 NBA Mock Draft
1. New York Knicks: Zion Williamson, PF, Duke
2. Cleveland Cavaliers: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
3. Phoenix Suns: RJ Barrett, SG, Duke
4. Chicago Bulls: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
5. Atlanta Hawks: De’Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia
6. Washington Wizards: Rui Hachimura, SF/PF, Gonzaga
7. Memphis Grizzlies: Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
8. Atlanta Hawks (from Dallas): Cam Reddish, SF, Duke
9. New Orleans Pelicans: Sekou Doumbouya, PF/SF, Limoges CSP (France)
10. Minnesota Timberwolves: Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga
11. Los Angeles Lakers: Coby White, PG/SG, North Carolina
12. Charlotte Hornets: PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky
13. Miami Heat: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
14. Boston Celtics (from Sacramento): Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC
15. Detroit Pistons: Bol Bol, C, Oregon
16. Brooklyn Nets: Nassir Little, SF, North Carolina
17. Orlando Magic: Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
18. Indiana Pacers: Keldon Johnson, SG/SF, Kentucky
19. Boston Celtics (from Los Angeles Clippers): Mfiondu Kabengele, C, Florida State
20. San Antonio Spurs: Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee
21. Boston Celtics: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech
22. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky
23. Utah Jazz: Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington
24. Philadelphia 76ers: Cameron Johnson, SF, North Carolina
25. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Houston): Talen Horton-Tucker, SF, Iowa State
26. Portland Trailblazers: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland
27. Brooklyn Nets (from Denver): Luguentz Dort, SG, Arizona State
28. Golden State Warriors: Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue
29. San Antonio Spurs (from Toronto): KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford
30. Milwaukee Bucks: Goga Bitadze, C, Buducnost (Montenegro)
.@KingJames spent a lot of time watching @ZionW32 this year and liked what he saw 💯 https://t.co/e69T6333pi
Zion Williamson, New York Knicks
How quickly can the New York Knicks turn things around?
If the Knicks can add Williamson and also pick up a top free agent or two, they could become an impressive team overnight.
Does that mean they will be championship contenders? Very unlikely because it will take time for new arrivals to learn their teammates’ nuances and play consistently, but the Knicks’ improvement seem inevitable.
Williamson averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds for the Blue Devils last season, and he appears to have the makeup to start his professional career in impressive fashion. He is a 6’7″, 285-pound force, and there is an unstoppable characteristic to his game. Williamson shot 68 percent from the field this year, the best-ever mark for a freshman.
While his build and power give him an edge, he has been a hard-working and fast-learning player throughout his learning years in high school and college. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski says that Williamson has a remarkable attitude in addition to his remarkable ability.
“There are sunshine people and cloudy people,” Krzyzewski said, per Mina Kimes of ESPN.com. “He’s brilliant sunshine.”
The Knicks are facing a critical offseason, and winning the draft lottery with the opportunity to bring in Williamson is the first step in returning to contention.
Ja Morant, Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA title in 2016 and played in the NBA Final in 2017 and 2018, but they are in the rebuilding stage.
Once LeBron James left the Cavs and joined the Los Angeles Lakers last summer, it was clear that the Cavaliers would be headed downhill.
Falling into a tie with the Suns for the second-worst record was brutal, and the Cavs are a broken team.
Adding a point guard like Morant would give the Cavaliers a building block for the future. Morant led the Murray State Racers to the NCAA tournament, and it was clear he was one of the top players in college basketball as the season progressed.
Morant averaged 24.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and an eye-catching 9.9 assists last season. The 6’3″, 170-pounder is a remarkable player who can dribble the length of the court with either hand, rise up and power down dunks.
He explained his ability to distribute the ball to Sports Illustrated earlier this year. “Sometimes I see things that most people don’t see,” Morant said, per Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated.
He can also hit his outside shots, and he clearly knows how to get the ball to his teammates. That could be an excellent starting point for the Cavaliers, a team that ended the season on a 10-game losing streak and needs to find legitimate building blocks.
RJ Barrett, Phoenix Suns
RJ Barrett, together with Williamson and fellow freshman Cam Reddish, gave the Blue Devils one of the most talented teams that Krzyzewski has had at the Atlantic Coast Conference school.
Barrett is a shooting guard who has the size at 6’7″ and 202 pounds to get the best of most defenders. He has surprising strength, knows how to get his own shot and excels at finding his opponents’ weak spots.
If he joins the Suns, he will be able to team with high-scoring shooting guard Devin Booker, who averaged 26.6 points last year, as well as center DeAndre Ayton, the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft.
New Suns head coach Monty Williams should have an opportunity to help turn around this team if Barrett dons a Phoenix uniform in the fall.
Barrett averaged 22.6 points last season and added 7.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. Perhaps his best assets are his aggressiveness and killer instinct. Once he finds something to exploit, he will continue to take advantage of it while looking for other areas that he can exploit.
Much of his ability to attack on the offensive end comes from his ability on defense. He has the skills to be an excellent one-on-one defender, and that may make him as valuable as any of this year’s rookies.
“From start to finish, RJ was there every second,” Krzyzewski said in a statement (h/t USA Today). “He played the most minutes, broke scoring records and was consistently excellent. … It was so special to have RJ in our program.”