This was supposed to be a coronation. This was supposed to be a redo of Patrick Ewing and the frozen envelope. This was supposed to be Phoenix with a new coach and an already potent lineup with Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton adding a point guard. This was supposed to be the beginnings of a Kyrie-KD-Zion trifecta. And then all hell broke loose.
Shout out to Kyle Kuzma and his half poker face as the Lakers, who had the fourth best record among lottery teams, vaulted up to the 4th pick and Kuzma was like, whatever bruh it’s like I expected. But no one won like the Pelicans won. With their former number one pick Anthony Davis almost out the door, they get Zion Williamson. The Pelicans had a 6% chance to win the lottery.
It was what Adam Silver wanted when he redesigned things. Disgusted at how the Sixers manipulated the system to get Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, Silver made a change to the 34 year system that rewards the pathetic. Instead of the worst record having a clear advantage, the top-3 teams (when measuring futility) had the same chance to win the top pick. And none of them did.
The Knicks did the best, finishing 3rd, but it feels like a loss. This was supposed to be their moment. They were going to remind the city who they are, particularly after the Nets gained some fans after their playoff season. Whether Zion is going to be an elite player or not, the perception of Zion rules the day and, of course, the passion of suffering fans had their New York hopes on Zion.
The Cavaliers were hoping for another first round number one stunner, but that was just basketball gods. Why reward Dan Gilbert (shout out to Dan’s son in his brain surgery recovery) when all their picks desert them. The Cavs had a 14% chance for the number one pick and ended up 5th. The Suns were 6th. The Bulls were 7th and the fans in the house booed. Chicago was hoping for a Derrick Rose moment.
Math is a beautiful thing. Adjust odds and it trickles down to craziness and all in a Zion year. After the Pelicans, the Grizzlies will pick second which is a near perfect outcome. They want to move Mike Conley and can for a talented playmaker in Ja Morant. The Knicks will probably chose Zion’s teammate R.J. Barrett which is the irony of life. It was Zion who was preparing for New York; now it is his best friend who will probably get there. And if the Knicks do indeed land Irving and Durant (and draft Barrett) they will have point guard, shooting guard and power forward covered.
The Knicks not getting the number pick can work well for them. They won’t have to come up with a strategy to manage moody free agents reluctance to play with an untested NBA player who gets just as much attention as them. Barrett is a nice player but the NBA has shooting guards like him. He is not a generational talent. Stars can go to New York and still be themselves.
The Lakers must have been channeling the spirit of Dr. Buss for their lucky night. They can keep the pick or package him with a couple of their young players for Anthony Davis.
Phoenix took a gut punch. They need a point guard bad. They might settle for the Carolina guard Coby White, a De’Aaron Fox prototype. They need a playmaker who can run pick and roll. The ball has to be out of Devin Booker’s hands.
If the Draft Lottery was the prologue, the main event is the draft. After the first two picks, it could be bedlam. The Knicks are unpredictable. The Lakers might be picking for the Pelicans. The Cavaliers just hired a college coach. The Bulls need help everywhere.
I don’t know if Zion won on Tuesday night. But the NBA sure did.