Storyline: No. 1 pick

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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.

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.”

Knicks shipping top pick for AD?

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.

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.

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.”

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.”
3 months ago via ESPN

“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.

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.”

Bagley’s counterpart, dynamic Arizona center Deandre Ayton, appears all but a lock to the Suns. Yet Bagley, a Phoenix native, is a competitor by nature—you don’t average 13.1 rebounds per 40 minutes in the ACC by chance—and has yearned to be minted the NBA draft’s top overall selection since his youth. “To be able to play in Phoenix, to have it all come full circle, from where I started playing basketball to be there as a professional, it would be a dream come true,” Bagley says.

Sacramento is only a short flight away. And Bagley genuinely views the Kings at No. 2 as a terrific consolation prize. He smiles wide when being congratulated on his likely No. 2 selection. “Sacramento is a great place,” he says. “When I say I want to go No. 1, it’s not a knock on any other team in the draft. If I end up going two, I’ll love being in Sacramento. Being a part of that team and that franchise, that’s a big plus.” That enthusiasm is a primary reason why teams picking in the top 10 of Thursday’s draft view Bagley as the Kings’ likely selection. He was the only premier prospect to visit Sacramento during the pre-draft process.

Charles Barkley, however, isn’t convinced. The 11-time All-Star doesn’t consider Doncic to be something remotely special since he thinks that the MVP the Slovenian player has won simply show that he was playing “against sh**ty competition” “I don’t trust foreign competition,” Barkley said to Pollard. “I don’t have nothing against foreign players. I just don’t know what kind of a competition it is. They’re like at 18 years old he was the MVP. Well, that tells me he was playing against shi**y competition. Nobody at 18 should be dominating grown men. I don’t care how bad the grown men are. You go back and look at the NBA. I’ve been in the NBA for over 30 years. There’s only one 18 year old that you can go back and say ‘oh he’s the real deal’. That’s LeBron James. People forget, as great as Kobe Bryant was, he struggled for the first few years. Kevin Garnett? Struggled in his first few years. They keep telling Doncic won MVP at 18. He shouldn’t be dominating grown men at 18. For this kid dominating… I wouldn’t take him with the No. 1 or 2 pick in the NBA Draft”

ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla compared Ayton with Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing and David Robinson. UA coach Sean Miller doesn’t understand why there’s a debate about the No. 1 pick, saying: “I look at the NBA as trying to figure out who they’re going to pick from No. 2 to 60. I think the No. 1 pick’s in. … There’s nobody like Deandre. Nobody.” Colorado coach Tad Boyle told NBA.com: “He’s a monster. I played (at Kansas) in the ’80s, and he’s the best player since Hakeem Olajuwon. He’s that kind of talent.”

Romar laughs when asked about Ayton’s personality. “Oh my goodness,” he said. “He’s a comedian. When he’s away from the court, just hanging around, oh my goodness, he’ll have you laughing.” But that desire to have a good time, Romar said, shouldn’t be misconstrued as Ayton not taking his craft seriously. It’s almost as if Ayton has, well, split personalities. Romar described his on-court persona as “fiery,” “emotional” and “so competitive.”

Several league sources told me they anticipate Suns general manager Ryan McDonough to probe a Leonard deal using the no. 1 pick. Phoenix explored Irving trades last summer but was reluctant to deal Josh Jackson, whom they selected with the fourth overall pick. Leonard is better than Irving, so perhaps it’s time for the Suns to strike now, when they’re armed with assets and an opportunity to trade for a transcendent player. There’s also a sense from league sources that the Suns presumed selection of Arizona big man Deandre Ayton at no. 1 isn’t a guarantee because of the outside possibility that they’ll get a good enough deal to trade down or out of the draft entirely. Now that Leonard reportedly wants out, anything is possible.

Bagley, on the other hand, said he will work out for the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks, the teams with the No. 2 and No. 3 picks, respectively. “Deandre, he’s going to do what he’s going to do. That’s his plan,” Bagley said. “All I can do is control what I can control and do what I love to do and just show different teams what I’m capable of doing. I can’t really worry about what other people are doing at this point. This is an important time in my life right now, something I’ve been working toward my whole basketball career.”
More HoopsHype Rumors
May 27, 2019 | 3:33 am EDT Update
This latest edition of “Will Kawhi Leonard Stay In Toronto?” started from a simple, celebratory Instagram Live video from Kawhi’s sister, Miesha Slayton. After the Raptors’ Game 6 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, Slayton took to Instagram for a live session. We could see as she was reading off comments from fans from all over the world. But then, a voice in the background shouted, “They know darn well he ain’t gonna be there next year.”
Storyline: Kawhi Leonard Free Agency
Slayton would eventually take down the Instagram Live video, which seemingly produced the opposite result she wanted and fueled rumors even more. Without even knowing who the voice belonged to, NBA fans took hold of that anonymous comment as proof that Leonard would leave Toronto after this single season. NBA Twitter seemed to speculate — out of nowhere — that the voice belonged to Leonard’s uncle. But according to Slayton, the voice neither belonged to her uncle nor a member of her family. She posted to Instagram that the voice was just a Raptors hater that she was watching the game with. She told a Raptors Republic contributor that her uncle wasn’t even in California.