It’s funny how quickly things move in the NBA.
Just last Thursday we were watching the final game of the 2018-2019 NBA season, as the Toronto Raptors hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy after defeating the Golden State Warriors in 6 games.
Two days later the offseason officially took off as Anthony Davis was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Now, the NBA Draft is essentially upon us.
This won’t be too much on an analysis, but more so just the top headlines heading into Thursday. Plenty of smarter people than myself do great coverage on specific players in the draft, and I suggest you follow them (I’ll name some later).
With that, lets see what you should get caught up on for Thursday.
If you were wondering who the first pick in the draft would be, don’t.
It’s Zion Williamson.
Zion is 6’7″ and 285 lbs. An athletic marvel, he’s built more like the ideal TE than the ideal basketball player, but don’t make that a reason to doubt him.
“Zion has no archetypes. He has no predecessors. Every game that he plays in from now on will immediately cease being a normal basketball game and instead a Zion Williamson game.”
Zion has an amazing motor, and for someone that will be one of the heaviest players in the NBA the second he walks through the door, he already has learned how to utilize the strength he has built through building up muscle.
He’s a wrecking ball, and has the potential to become a tremendous defender.
We’ve said this about people like Andrew Wiggins before, but Zion is truly the most hyped talent to enter the draft since LeBron, and may have the closest chance of reaching his stratosphere that a number 1 pick has had since 2003.
For a team that just traded Anthony Davis, being able to pick Zion on Thursday will surely help the Pelicans get over it.
The Other Two
Zion Williamson has distinguished himself as the top prospect in this year’s draft, but behind him are Murray State PG Ja Morant, and his teammate at Duke, forward R.J. Barrett.
“… he (Morant) is dynamic and relentless getting to the rim and should thrive in an NBA spread pick-and-roll system”
-Ricky Scricca/The Stepien
Morant, who was a sophomore this year, took a giant leap, averaging 24.5 PPG and 10 APG. he has been compared to players such as John Wall and Russell Westbrook, and looks to be considered the likely pick for the Memphis Grizzlies, the team with the second pick in the draft.
“At 6-foot-7 with solid functional quickness and coordination, Barrett has the tools to be a strong playmaking wing at the next level”
-Trevor Magnotti/The Step Back
Barrett, who’s godfather is NBA legend Steve Nash, was considered on the same level as Williamson in terms of potential heading into the college season. Barrett’s game showed some flaws, but he is still considered a talented player. He could still go second, but it is assumed he is the third best player of the Morant and Zion, and that means he would head to the Knicks.
The New York Knicks
The Knicks have the third pick in the draft, but it has been rumored they are shopping it.
The early rumor was that they wanted to move back and find players that could better compliment the games of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, the two free agents they have been tied to for months. However, with Durant’s injury, and the recent news of Kyrie being more enamored with the idea of playing in Brooklyn, those plans might be changing.
The Knicks have a path to two max free agent slots this summer, but this draft pick is vital. They have young players such as Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Alonzo Trier, Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina, but the last draft pick they truly hit on was Kristaps Porzingas, and he was shipped to Dallas in February in order to help clear cap space to bring in Durant and Irving. If Porzingis comes back from his knee injury and develops alongside Luka Doncic, and the Knicks don’t land top talent this summer, either in the draft or free agency, it will be yet another stain on the track record of the team.
The team the Knicks were rumored to want to trade down with were the Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks come into this year’s draft with a ton of ammo.
Outside of the 3 players discussed above, there is thought to be a drop off in terms of talent, and one where the next dozen or so players aren’t that much different in the eyes of scouts across the league.
The Hawks seem to be interested in parlaying their picks and trying to get a crack at Barrett or Morant, but they could also trade out of this year’s draft and get future assets.
Atlanta is thought to have one of the best young cores in the NBA, and if they can continue to build around Trae Young and John Collins, they could find themselves back in playoff contention before long.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans are in an a great spot right now.
The previous regime blew it in terms of building a team that could flourish around Anthony Davis (some of it was due to injuries), but they got an absolute blessing when they landed the first pick in this year’s draft.
Heading into the lottery, they had a 6% chance of landing the first pick, the 7th best odds of any team. Luck, and a new odds distribution, was on their side, and because of it, a grim future of losing Davis does not look as bad, as they now have the right to draft another generational talent: Zion Williamson.
The team also acquired the 4th pick in the draft on Saturday when they traded Davis to Los Angeles.
As said above, this draft has been considered a three player draft. You obviously cannot be certain which players will pan out before they’ve ever played a game in the NBA, but with this information, that means the Pelicans have the first crack at… the rest.
The team has been rumored to be shopping the 4th pick, and had allegedly wanted the Lakers to get a better asset with the pick before agreeing to deal Davis due to it’s perceived value; maybe a deal with Atlanta? They are also reportedly interested in moving up to the second pick and drafting Zion’s former teammate, R.J. Barrett.
However you slice it, a young core centered around Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart is a great spot to be in, and whatever happens with the 4th pick should only help them.
No this isn’t me being a homer.
The Celtics currently have the 14th, 20th, and 22nd picks in this year’s draft.
Prior to Saturday they may have been destined to be included in an Anthony Davis trade, but now, they might need to be reallocated due to the size of the roster.
Woj has reported the team is shopping some, maybe all of their picks.
Could they move up in the draft? They have the pieces for a deal if they want (and rumors have them interested in moving up to the 4th pick). Could they trade out of this year’s draft? More likely. Could they target another player in the league and use a first to enhance the offer? Sure. Could they go full rebuild and attach a first to the contract of Gordon Hayward? I doubt it, but it’s not completely impossible.
The Celtics will probably draft at least one player they envision coming onto the team next year, and after that, they’ll probably draft someone to play internationally for a year so they won’t count on the team’s roster and salary cap (similar to Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic in 2016).
As you’re preparing to learn more about the draft, here are some people and websites who’s coverage you should look into:
When and Where to Watch
When: Thursday at 7:30 PM
Where: ESPN, NBATV
Credit to photo above goes to Lance King of Getty Images
Follow Nick on Twitter (@Nick_Collins14)