So, does LaMelo Ball believe he should be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft? “Most definitely. I believe in myself and I’ve worked hard to get here,” Ball told Yahoo Sports. “The other guys at the top of the draft, James [Wiseman] and Anthony [Edwards], are very talented too. But just in the way I believe in myself, I think I’m the top pick.”
A few NBA scouts made the trip to New Zealand to see Ball play against potential first-round draft pick RJ Hampton and were impressed with what they saw. “This is LaMelo’s first real competition in his career,” an NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “The fact that he’s putting up numbers like this in a league full of former NBA players is forcing every team to look at him as a potential No. 1 pick.”
Contrary to some rumors, LaMelo told Yahoo Sports he is staying in Australia for the entire season despite his team’s last-place record of 3-9. “I don’t know where that rumor came from, but when I decided to come play over here, I committed to the whole season. I’m not leaving early,” he told Yahoo Sports.
While it’s clear Ball will end up an early selection in a relatively thin lottery, there are echoes of skepticism tied to his candidacy at No. 1. “[The No. 1 pick] shooting sub-40% from the field and sub-30% from three? That’s crazy,” one Western Conference executive emphasized. For all his highlight-caliber plays and big totals, Ball is shooting 38.9% from the field and just 27.9% on threes as of Monday, in addition to 70% on less than four free throw attempts per game. He shot 1-of-11 from three during Saturday’s triple-double against the Breakers and fellow projected lottery pick R.J. Hampton. Watch Ball play and you can tell he’s improved, but the greater statistical sample at the end of the season will tell a big part of the story.
An area in which there are still many questions, though, comes off the court. While the attachment to his father, LaVar, will always hang over him, it’s not the only area scouts and general managers have hesitations. In a piece on Sunday in which DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz discussed which prospect should top the 2020 NBA Draft big board, Givony talked about NBA teams being uncertain about whether they can trust Ball to lead the franchise. However, I believe that if the draft were held today, (Ball) probably would not be the No. 1 pick. Of course, that will heavily depend on the team that ends up winning the May lottery. But both Schmitz and I have just received a significant amount of blowback from NBA teams who say that they simply don’t trust Ball enough to hand him the keys to their franchise. They worry about what all the attention around him will do to their team culture, how strong his work ethic is and whether his father, LaVar, could become a distraction.
As NBA executives flock to college games to evaluate talent, the NCAA campaign so far has been overshadowed by the eligibility questions surrounding Memphis forward/center James Wiseman, the potential No. 1 overall pick in next June’s draft. Scouts and others would love to see him play, but NBA executives have told The Athletic that Wiseman’s draft stock is solidified from a talent perspective and that there is no sense he will fall out of the lottery picks, even should he miss the rest of the season. “Will him sitting the year impact him a spot or two? Maybe,” one high-ranking team official said. “But it isn’t impacting his financial base. He is known as a talent.”
Jeff Borzello: Penny Hardaway to ESPNU on why James Wiseman played: "That's just up to the school. We're just going to go about it legally moving forward. James has a right to do what he did, and we're moving forward." On whether he has a response to the NCAA's mid-game statement: "I do not."
The NCAA has officially addressed the situation, releasing its own statement on Friday evening in response to Memphis’ decision to let Wiseman play after being notified that he was "likely ineligible." “The University of Memphis was notified that James Wiseman is likely ineligible,” the statement read. “The university chose to play him and ultimately is responsible for ensuring its student-athletes are eligible to play.”
The Australian NBL would be interested in adding projected No. 1 NBA Draft pick James Wiseman if he’s declared ineligible for the season at Memphis. One source with the NBL told Forbes SportsMoney the situation “is a bit complicated with legal action” but that Wiseman would be “a logical fit for the NBL if he was interested.”
In a statement, NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said of interest in Wiseman: “Potentially, but it hasn't even been a discussion yet. These decisions require a lot of due diligence on both sides to ensure it's in everyone's best interests. He's exceptionally talented and of course we'd be interested, but honestly we haven't even had a conversation with him or his family. I have no idea yet as to whether or not it would suit his plans, his personality or his aspirations.”
Memphis attorney Leslie Ballin announced Friday the Tigers’ star freshman James Wiseman has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA. Ballin also said Friday that a Shelby County court judge ruled to put a hold on the NCAA's ruling, pending further litigation. Wiseman will be eligible to play Friday night vs. Illinois-Chicago.
Last week, in response to reporters' requests for clarification on Wiseman's eligibility status, a university spokesman told The Commercial Appeal that Wiseman "received total clearance for freshman eligibility over the summer."
Jeff Goodman: James Wiseman moved from Nashville to Memphis and played for Penny Hardaway at Memphis East his junior and senior years in high school. Also played for Penny in AAU ball. NCAA deeming Penny a booster for helping to pay moving expenses.
Jeff Goodman: Memphis attorney Leslie Ballin told reporters that Penny Hardaway helped finance Wiseman and his family’s move to Memphis back in high school. Wiseman moved from Nashville to Memphis. The NCAA has deemed Penny a booster.
Jeff Goodman: James Wiseman is considered the frontrunner to be the No. 1 pick in June’s NBA draft. He is also the key to Memphis’ Final Four hopes. Timing is strange for the decision as Wiseman played and was dominant in season-opener.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The NCAA has ruled Memphis F/C James Wiseman -- the possible No. 1 overall pick in 2020 NBA Draft -- ineligible, his lawyers said in Memphis.
NBA Draft: With the 1st pick of the NBA Draft, the @New Orleans Pelicans select @Zionwilliamson! #NBADraft 2019 presented by State Farm
Shams Charania: Top three picks in 2019 NBA draft are set, per sources: 1. Zion Williamson, Pelicans 2. Ja Morant, Grizzlies 3. RJ Barrett, Knicks Pelicans hold cards at No. 4.
Zion delivers amazing rim-rattling slams, but it's his defensive versatility and willingness to work on that end that makes him the ideal modern big prospect, with the 1-through-5 switchability of Draymond Green. Williamson even produced a 7.2 defensive box plus-minus in his lone season at Duke -- identical to Green's defensive impact as a senior at Michigan State. In the NBA, Green has consistently ranked among the most effective stoppers in the league according to ESPN's defensive real plus-minus despite his size.
We've never seen a 285-pounder who can sky for dunks quite like Williamson, but Griffin (248 pounds as a 20-year-old) was a close replica. Like college Griffin (6-11 wingspan), Williamson is a power dunker set to tear down the rim on every attempt, doing so despite mediocre positional length. He seems to get just as much lift off one leg or two and is challenging for any shot-blocker to challenge when he gets to his launching pad. But it's not just the dunks that make these two similar.
Williamson was the darling of college basketball last season with his high-flying dunks, underrated passing, dominating rebounding, diverse scoring and all-out effort at Duke. And word is that Williamson was excited and very much at home during his recent two-day trip to New Orleans to visit the Pelicans. The 6-foot-7, 285-pound forward, along with his parents, dined with Benson, Griffin, head coach Alvin Gentry and Saints and Pelicans president Dennis Lauscha at the world-renowned Commander’s Palace restaurant. The Pelicans loved his down-to-earth attitude and believed he was wholeheartedly interested in being there.
Scott Kushner: The Pelicans’ top brass loved basically everything they’ve learned about Zion Williamson on background, & raved about meeting with him & family in Chicago. This week’s visit to New Orleans is a chance for Zion to cement all of those fond notions and lock down No. 1 pick.
What were your thoughts when all of the stories popped up post-Draft Lottery about Zion not wanting to be in New Orleans and him potentially going back to Duke to avoid being there? Lee Sartor: I thought that didn’t make any sense. I know Zion and I know his heart and I know how hard he’s worked to put himself in position to be able to play in the NBA one day. Going backwards was never in his mindset. I know Zion is appreciative of the process and I believe no matter who drafts him that he would be happy and ready to go out and do what he can to help make that franchise better.
What do you think when people compare him to LeBron James? Lee Sartor: Everybody wants to be compared to someone, especially someone that’s great. But I believe Zion is one of those guys that transcends the game, one of those generational players. He has some attributes that are similar to LeBron and some other players, but when you watch him play, he does Zion Williamson stuff. That’s the only way to describe it. That’s what you really want to be as a player; you want to be your own person.
Marc Stein: As @NYTSports reported in April, USA Basketball officials also have planned to gauge Zion Williamson's interest in filling one of the 12 roster spots as he inches closer to his NBA debut next fall. @ZionW32 will be selected No. 1 overall by New Orleans in the June 20 draft
New team vice president David Griffin, who dealt with Paul when he was the general manager of the Cavaliers and LeBron James (Paul's primary client) played in Cleveland, has tried to smooth things over with Klutch Sports and the Pels. His attempts at talking Davis into staying in New Orleans have more to do with resetting relations with Paul than it does with actually keeping Davis in town, which is a longshot. There are many within the Pelicans organization who are still embittered by the way Paul manipulated Davis last season, particularly coach Alvin Gentry, and having Williamson lined up with Paul would have opened wounds that are only recently healed. That won't be a problem with CAA.
Will Guillory: David Griffin on the potential of Zion Williamson not wanting to be in New Orleans: "I'm sure that's a false narrative." Said he got to meet with Williamson and his family after the draft lottery
Shams Charania: Sources: Zion Williamson met in Chicago with the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies, the top two teams in the Draft lottery. Williamson had a positive meeting with New Orleans and prior to lottery, he cited Pelicans as a targeted team to start career.
He’s arguably the most marketable star to enter the NBA since LeBron James in 2003, and his shoe deal has potential to set records for a draftee, according to sources around the league. His presence will help attendance, merchandise sales, and more, something that is important for the team that finished 25th in overall attendance this past season. I would expect the Pelicans to get an awful lot of nationally televised games, because Williamson will be one of the biggest on-court stories worth tracking in his first season in the NBA. That source of discussion will bring a genuine amount of cash flow into the Pelicans organization.
The New Orleans Pelicans are expected to draft Zion Williamson with the No. 1 pick after landing the top spot in Tuesday's NBA draft lottery, but the star prospect could force his way to another team. Brian Windhorst of ESPN spoke about the situation Wednesday on ESPN's The Jump.
"He does have some options. I'm not saying he's going to pick these options, but he has not signed with an agent and he has not signed a shoe deal yet," Windhorst explained. "He could threaten to go back to Duke." He also noted that "it's a conversation that's happening in the NBA right now."
Both Windhorst and Richard Jefferson predicted this would be unlikely, although Rachel Nichols compared it to Eli Manning pushing his way to the New York Giants on draft day after saying he wouldn't play for the San Diego Chargers.
After the lottery, Griffin acknowledged to reporters that having the no. 1 pick affords the franchise more flexibility in the coming months. There’s less pressure to deal Davis now. The Pelicans can play it slow, going into the season with a core of AD, Zion, and Jrue Holiday, and see how things play out. If February 2020 rolls around and Davis still wants to leave, the team could trade him before the deadline for a haul. If Davis’s true reason for originally wanting out was to compete for a championship, how many teams can he now find with more long-term potential than the Pelicans? “He’s wanted to win this whole time and he felt compelled to try to win elsewhere. I think if you look at the totality of where this organization is and where we’re going, we feel very strongly that we’re going to be the environment he wants to be part of,” Griffin said. “And if we’re not, that’s fine; we can deal with it from there. But I’m looking at this, believing that there’s no reason he wouldn’t want to win with us, because that’s what we do. It’s who we are. And I think culturally we’re about all the same things.”
Ben Golliver: Pelicans' Alvin Gentry on their thought process with the number one pick: "Well, we're going to see.... Yeah, right." Said of New Orleans delegation's Tuesday night celebration plans: "They're going to get a big receipt."
Marc J. Spears: Zion Williamson was QUICKLY whisked out of the room after Pelicans were announced the winner of the draft lottery. Source said the former Duke star was rooting to go to New York, but now is going to New Orleans.
Ben Golliver: Pelicans' Alvin Gentry on the "What position does Zion play? question: "I'm glad we'll have that problem. Giannis plays all 5. KD. Golden State has made this a pass, cut and relocate league."
Ben Golliver: Before drawing, Alvin Gentry wrote on a sheet of paper, "This is our moment." David Griffin had predicted victory & gave him lucky Zegna tie from Cleveland. Gentry's reaction to win: "F--- yeah!" Later said of Griffin's luck: "That's worth the hire. Ms. B knows what she's doing."
Shams Charania: The New Orleans Pelicans are now set up to be Zion Williamson’s franchise to lift, and No. 1 pick could ease potential trade of Anthony Davis. His stance on a trade has not changed, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.
Will Guillory: Griffin won't talk about who he will select with the No. 1 pick, but he did say it should help with potentially recutting Anthony Davis: "Elite talent likes to play with elite talent"
Andrew Greif: Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is absolutely gliding around the draft lottery ballroom, slapping hands and smiling ear to ear.
Kevin O'Connor: Alvin Gentry yelled “fuck yeah” when the Pelicans won the no. 1 pick during the lottery drawing. Then he stood up and stuck his arms out like “are you not entertained?” Then he said sorry. No reason to apologize: Zion Williamson will be with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Anthony Davis would certainly consider re-signing with the Knicks if he felt he could be successful in New York, per SNY sources familiar with the matter. And here's how a Davis to New York trade could work: Since the goal would likely be to pair Davis with two other stars, the Knicks would first sign their two max free agents in early July, using nearly all of their $70-plus million in cap space. They would then have to send out roughly $21.6 million in salary to satisfy NBA trade rules in a swap for Davis, who is making $27 million in 2019.
There are different ways to get to $21.6 million, but the easiest way to get there is to include their 2019 first-round pick. (The No. 1 pick can earn $9.7 in his first season.) It's worth noting, however, that there is no consensus among the Knicks as to whether they would include the 2019 No. 1 pick in a deal for Davis or any other star.
Knicks GM Scott Perry says the team is prepared for any and all possibilities heading into the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night. "Whatever is in the cards for us (Tuesday), we'll be more than able and willing to handle that and execute the draft position that we have," Perry said Monday in an interview on ESPN Radio's Golic & Wingo Show.
The Knicks, Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns each have a 14 percent chance of landing the top pick on Tuesday night. All three clubs also have a 40 percent chance of landing a top-three pick and a 52 percent chance of landing a top-four pick. The Knicks will pick no lower than fifth since they finished with the league's worst record (17-65). Perry on Monday said, no matter where the Knicks land, their meetings with individual draft prospects will play a key role in whom they decide to select.
"So much of it will get down to when we get a chance to meet these young players and really get a feel for their personalities," Perry said on Monday. "Because we've been able to evaluate their talent from afar on the floor, we've been able to talk to a number of sources about them, but now, that final touch really comes down to your personal interaction with each of these players."
There’s understandably a lot of buzz heading into the lottery to see which team secures the No. 1 pick and the right to choose Williamson, who is the most heralded draft prospect in years. But nothing compares to the drama of the 2003 lottery, when LeBron James was the ultimate prize and the Cleveland Cavaliers were one of the teams in the mix for the Akron, Ohio, native. “It’s not even close, even with social media today,” James’ former agent Aaron Goodwin told The Undefeated. “I can only imagine what it would have been like for James with social media because he was a game-changer.
Stu Jackson, who was NBA executive vice president of basketball operations at the time, remembers watching James during his senior year. “I said to myself that I have never seen anything like that from a player that young to be that dominant both physically and skillwise at that age,” Jackson said. “That is no reflection on my evaluation skills, because the great ones are easy to pick out. But this was a different level.” Joe Dumars, who was the president of the Detroit Pistons and had a particular interest in the lottery (more on that later), marveled at James’ maturity, body and athleticism. Simply put, “I saw a transcendent player,” Dumars said.
Boeheim said the “greatest thing’’ about Williamson is his defensive tenacity. But the coach wondered whether Williamson, who has an average 3-point shot and is a mediocre free-throw shooter, can be dominant in the NBA playoffs. The Knicks, a team Boeheim said he watches regularly, have a 14 percent chance of winning Tuesday’s lottery for the first pick in this year’s draft. Coach David Fizdale said the Knicks already “know’’ which player they will take if they get the No. 1 selection. “Over the course of the regular season, [Williamson will] be a hard guard to defend and handle,’’ said Boeheim, whose program, which has been in the ACC since 2013, faces Duke regularly. “I think when it comes to playoff basketball, he’s going to have to expand his game a little bit. There’s a lot of size in the NBA, people forget there’s a lot of big, strong guys in the NBA. In college, he was by far the strongest, toughest guy to me in college basketball.”
Knicks coach David Fizdale confirmed what we've all assumed for months: if New York wins the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night, the club will pick Duke sensation Zion Williamson. "If we win the lottery, do we know who we're taking?" the Knicks coach said in an interview with the "Dan Patrick Show." "Yes." Patrick then jokingly said, "OK, let's bring out Zion Williamson" and Fizdale laughed.
Fizdale was asked by Patrick if Williamson or Murray State point guard Ja Morant -- a presumptive top-three pick -- would fit New York's roster. "I think just for us, our roster is so open from that standpoint that we can have a lot of things fit us right now," Fizdale said. "Obviously, we always want the biggest talent. You want to see electric players. And both of those guys are that."
Fizdale added that he doesn't believe you can compare Williamson -- a 6-7, 285-pound forward -- to any previous or current players. "He's his own guy, he's unique," the coach said.
On Friday at rookie minicamp, Daniel Jones, who was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, admitted he and Williamson have recently discussed that possibility and what it would mean to take over as the faces of New York sports. “We talked a little bit about that this week, actually. That’d be a cool deal,” Jones told reporters. “But we’ll see what happens. He’s a special guy.”
John Gambadoro: Some reports yesterday that the Suns would prefer Ja Morant over Zion Williamson are totally off base. If the Suns did get the #1 pick it would be Zion. If they get #2 it's Ja and if a team like Atlanta gets #2 they may try and trade with them to get Ja because that team has a PG.
Bobby Marks: Projected salary for the no. 1 pick in the June 20 Draft: 2019/20- $9.74M 2020/21- $10.23M 2021/22- $10.71M (team option) 2022/23- $13.51M (team option) Total $44.2M
Chris Haynes: Duke freshman Zion Williamson announces on Instagram that he is declaring for the 2019 NBA Draft.
Adam Zagoria: Knicks coach David Fizdale tells @RealMichaelKay he is not trying to get his hopes up for Zion. “I’m really prepared for whoever we get. I just know that we’re going to get a young talent who’s going to add to the pot and we’ll keep building from there.”
Alex Kennedy: I asked 10 players what they think of Zion Williamson and how he'll transition to the NBA: pic.twitter.com/IMZnYB4RGY
Zion Williamson, at the Final Four to receive two player of the year awards, said he will not balk at signing with any NBA team. That definitely includes the Knicks. “If they draft me,” he said, “I would love to play for them.”
Even being named second-team All-American is enough of a slight, and Morant is prepared for negativity anyway. “I still know there’s going to be some who have something negative to say regardless if I go 1, 2, 3 or the last pick,” he said. “It’s just poking the bear and motivating me to keep going. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Zion Williamson sent the hearts of Knicks fans aflutter again on Thursday, the eve of his first March Madness game against North Dakota State. “I would love to play for the Knicks,” he said. Asked what he knows about the Knicks, Williamson said: “It’s an historic franchise.”
But he’s emphatic when asked about Duke freshman sensation Zion Williamson, whose knee injury renewed the heated debate over the NBA’s eligibility rules. “Why would you keep playing?” Drummond said Friday morning. “All the money that they making off this kid, why wouldn’t he just sit out? “He’s selling out arenas. People pay $10,000 to see him and he gets hurt and gets none of that money spent to see him play. You have to think about yourself because you could have a career-ending injury and that’s the rest of the story for him. I’d rather him take care of himself and get himself prepared. We all know he’s going to the draft so start working out and get yourself ready for a tough, grueling league.”
"Whatever he decides to do, he should be supported," Griffin said following the Pistons' 125-122 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. "If he didn't want to play anymore, I get it. But if you do want to play, he plays basketball, he's a basketball player. I also get that, too. You can't live or play the game of basketball playing scared of injury or scared of things you can't control. "It's an individual decision. I made the decision (to return to OU for his sophomore season) to improve my game. I wanted to get stronger and be more ready for the league when a lot of people were telling me not to, get that guaranteed money. "He's already made so money for that university, the NCAA, he doesn't owe anybody anything."
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he has not had any conversations with Williamson or his family about shutting down the freshman star and projected No. 1 overall NBA draft pick, who missed Saturday's 75-65 victory over Syracuse with a mild knee sprain. Williamson suffered the injury 36 seconds into Wednesday's loss to rival North Carolina.
"We would never play a kid who's not ready," Krzyzewski said. "We would never play a youngster who didn't want to play. It's not about that. He wants to play. He loves being at Duke. He doesn't like being injured. It's an injury you can get over in a shorter period of time. There's just a protocol that we have to go through to make sure he's completely ready. We're not rushing anything, so that's why we said day-to-day because it's literally day-to-day."
First Coach: “I think he’s the No. 1 prospect, hands down. He’s a better basketball player than people realize, and I think he’s starting to show people that. There are some people who are still on the fence. Does he shoot it well enough, does he handle it well enough? All that. “When I first saw him, he was playing point guard on an AAU team with Ja Morant and Devontae Shuler. Zion’s athleticism didn’t take off until his junior year of high school. That’s when the viral sensation happened. But my point is, he passes it well because he has some point guard instincts. He doesn’t shoot it well. He needs to lift his shot.
Second coach: “Obviously, you watch him on TV and then you look at him up close, and it’s like, ‘damn.’ I used to see Larry Johnson around, and the only human I’ve seen like (Zion) is Larry. And that’s Larry when he was five or six years older. Zion’s physical appearance is staggering. He’s every bit of Larry Johnson, just eight years younger. Ridiculous fast twitch. Hardest playing guy on the court by far, which is a testament to him. There has to be a ton of guys around him saying he shouldn’t play anymore because he could hurt his status. And here he is, the opposite. Loose, balls, extra plays, rebounding. He’ll make Pete Rose-style dives head first to go after balls when they’re up 16, 18 points. He doesn’t need to do that, but he does. The motor is off the charts. The physical appearance is frightening.
Fifth Coach: “He’s a trend-setter player based off of his athleticism. He’ll have to do something with his game. He’ll have to develop a midrange (game). His shooting ability will have to get better. College is different from the pros, but we felt good with the scout we did. We knew he was going to spin back when he goes right. He loves to go left if he can. But with that being said, he’s going to have to develop a midrange shot, work on the midrange, and become a consistent shooter.
Darnell Mayberry: Bulls rookie center Wendell Carter Jr. on Zion Williamson: “He’s a for sure No. 1 draft pick. No doubt about it. I don’t understand how anybody can pass up his athleticism and his potential. That’s a freak of nature, a once in a generation type player. I believe he’ll be No. 1.”
Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen said Duke star Zion Williamson has already proved himself enough at the college level and that it's in the 18-year-old's best interest to "shut it down" so he doesn't risk an injury heading into his NBA career. "I think he's done enough for college basketball, that it's more about him personally now," Pippen said Tuesday as an analyst during a segment on ESPN's "The Jump." "I think for him as a young player (pauses), I would shut it down. I would stop playing, because I feel that he could risk a major injury that could really hurt his career."
Pippen, a six-time NBA champion with the Chicago Bulls, said Williamson is "definitely going to be the No. 1 pick." Mock draft boards either have Williamson or his Duke teammate R.J. Barrett going No. 1. On "The Jump" segment, co-analyst Tracy McGrady said that Barrett might be a better overall player but that Williamson's unique 6-foot-7, 285-pound frame and highlight-reel capabilities "make him more exciting" and that "he'll fill the seats" better.
The dunks against Eastern Michigan and Kentucky. The block against Princeton. The effort against Texas Tech. Williamson keeps providing these moments consistently which make it hard for the NBA entities stalking him to let that excitement peter out. Even as they try to keep their cool and remain unemotional about draft prospects like Zion, they find themselves getting lost in the highlights and possibilities. “A lot haven’t had the time to truly dig into the minutiae it takes (with evaluating one-and-done draft prospects),” a Western Conference executive told The Athletic. “But those highlights leave you daydreaming too often.”
All the while we’re left trying to figure out who he reminds us of on a daily basis. Is it Charles Barkley? Is it Larry Johnson? Is it Shawn Kemp? Is it LeBron James? Who is it? “If you’re saying he reminds you of somebody, you’re kind of making it up,” Bilas told me. “He’s 285! And he’s got a 45-inch vertical. There’s never been a suit warn in college basketball that Zion Williamson fits into.” His hype will continue to wear on some and feed others without the shame of gluttony in sight. He will continue to garner retweets and IG posts.
Furthermore, even if the Knicks finish with the league’s fifth-worst record, the revised lottery odds still give them a solid shot to land the No. 1 overall pick, and the chance to draft a Duke prodigy. According to the vast majority of mock drafts, the grand prize in 2019 is Duke’s insanely talented freshman wunderkind, Zion Williamson. If New York ends the season in fifth place in the reverse standings, they’ll have a 10.5% chance to win the lottery and a 42.1% chance at a top-four selection. In addition, the Knicks don’t need to end up with the league’s worst record to give themselves the best possible odds at the No. 1 overall pick. In this new format, the three teams that finish the year at the bottom of the standings each have the same exact odds: a 14% chance to win the lottery and a 52.1% of securing a top-four pick.
Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman was one of many watching the Duke-Kentucky game on Tuesday night. Only he did it in person. And what a show he witnessed. If the Cavs needed any kind of incentive to stay near the bottom of the standings and secure their 2019 first-round pick, Duke freshmen Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish provided it. Asking around the organization, there is an early split between Williamson and Barrett for the hypothetical first-overall pick. There are many games still left to be played. According to one member of the front office, "it will be a debate all year. But Cam is super talented as well."
Jeff Goodman: Not that it’s any surprise, but Phoenix Suns will draft Deandre Ayton, per source. It was never much of a decision for GM Ryan McDonough — who has seen the Bahamas native plenty this season down the road in Tucson.
October 20, 2021 | 4:04 am EDT Update
The 76ers are not trying to move Simmons and have made clear that they will not deal him at this time, according to sources. The franchise wants Simmons to show up to practices and games, to be engaged and to perform to his capabilities. Simmons is not against playing, but he is not mentally ready yet, sources insist.
In Simmons’ first meeting with team personnel last week, a meeting that included Rivers, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand, sources said Simmons reiterated that he was not mentally ready to rejoin the team after the past several months. The past several months, of course, included Rivers and Joel Embiid criticizing him after the Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Rivers, Morey and Brand asked Simmons to be present, expecting the situation to be back to normal, but it still isn’t.
Lillard told The Athletic that a series of conversations with Billups over the summer helped center his thoughts back to Portland and what could happen if he stayed. Those conversations — Billups said it was five or six, some of them in person, some on the phone — dealt with basketball philosophy, strategies and concepts. But they also involved topics that penetrated to Lillard’s core. They talked about family, life after basketball, and the qualities found in a winner.
Lillard left the conversations inspired, encouraged and enamored. What he saw in his new coach was what he saw in himself. “I think a big part of (my change in mindset) was me and Chauncey’s conversations, and where we see things the same,” Lillard told The Athletic. “I’m not going to share details of our conversations, but it’s not often when I speak to people that they see what I see. Watching a game, observing people … there’s not many people who see what I see. But a lot of what I see, he sees. So that was very important to me. Like, that was a big deal.”
As much as Lillard has recently tried to backtrack from his tumultuous summer by saying other people were putting words into his mouth, he acknowledged Friday that was indeed contemplating leaving Portland, even if he never publicly said it. “Yeah, I was upset,” Lillard said. “We lost to a team (Denver) I thought we should beat. I wanted us to show we really want to win. But I never said, ‘Oh, I’m leaving.’ I said, ‘If that’s what it comes to — if this is not what our real focus is — then maybe I will be forced to say all right, it’s not going to work.’ “But I never said I was leaving. And I never said this is not where I want to be. I never said that.”
Before their conversations, Billups said he was aware of Lillard’s unhappiness with the end of the Blazers’ season, and that his superstar might have been entertaining thoughts of asking out of Portland. But he said he never approached their talks as if he was trying to convince Lillard to stay. “I’ve never told Dame, or asked him, to stay. Nothing. I’ve never done that,” Billups said. “I felt like the biggest thing I wanted to do was share the things that were important to me. This is what I am. This is what I’m about. “Then, it’s on him to decide: Is it worth it? Or should I punt?”
Michael Scotto: James Harden on not signing an extension: “The contract, the money is going to be there. I don’t plan on leaving this organization and the situation we have. My focus is on the season and winning a championship. The contract and all that stuff will play itself out as it should.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: Brooklyn is confident that James Harden wants to be there long-term. And the fact that Kevin Durant signed his extension in the offseason, that’s a pretty good indicator that he knows James Harden is confident in his future in Brooklyn.