Zion Williamson

Hawks Notes: Draft, No. 8, Reddish, Fernando

The Mavericks agreed to send their top-5 protected 2019 first-rounder to the Hawks as part of the Luka Doncic draft night trade last June. Entering the NBA draft lottery, Dallas had hoped to keep this year’s pick and delay conveying the selection.

Assistant GM Keith Grant told Chris Kirschner of the Athletic that the Mavs would have liked to add another young piece to the Doncic-Kristaps Porzingis nucleus. Still, the team views last year’s trade as a win for both parties.

“We actually do believe that,” Grant said about both teams getting the guy they wanted. “We evaluated every player and thought Luka was our guy. Atlanta obviously had Trae as theirs, and so we had a deal.”

The trade between Dallas and Atlanta had been agreed to prior to the actual draft but was contingent on both Doncic and Trae Young being available at No. 3 and No. 5, respectively.

The Hawks are armed with two top-10 draft selections in this year’s draft and Kirschner passes along more from Atlanta:

  • It would be surprising if the Hawks didn’t pick a wing, assuming they stay at the No. 8 spot, Kirschner hears from sources within the organization. Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver has been linked to Atlanta but it’s hard to envision him falling out of the top seven.
  • Zion Williamson and Ja Morant are widely expected to be the top two picks in the draft. One Hawks executive told Kirschner that he expects three other players—R.J. Barrett, Darius Garland, and Coby White—to be unavailable when Atlanta makes its first selection at No. 8. The Suns and Bulls both covet upgrades at the point guard spot and Garland and White are the best available after Morant.
  • The Hawks have interest in Cam Reddish. While he failed to live up to lofty expectations at Duke, there’s “not much doubt” within Atlanta’s organization that playing alongside Young, John Collins, and Kevin Huerter would allow him to reach his potential, Kirschner adds.
  • Coach Lloyd Pierce prefers a center who can stretch the floor but that wouldn’t stop the team from selecting Jaxson Hayes if he’s the best player on the board at No. 10. “Roster building isn’t always about trying to perfectly pair up guys,” a source tells Kirschner.
  • Multiple sources tell Kirschner that the team likes Bruno Fernando out of Maryland. The big man likely isn’t in play with one of the Hawks‘ two top-10 selections, but the franchise holds three second-round picks (No. 35, No. 41, No. 44).

Pelicans Notes: Zion, Culver, Davis

Those concerned about Zion Williamson‘s game being dependent on his athleticism are overthinking the evaluation process.

“So (Williamson) is 18 now,” a non-Pelicans executive explains to Sam Vecenie of The Athletic. “He’ll play his first NBA season at 19. He’ll be 23 when his second contract starts. Even if we get him for eight seasons and that takes us all the way through his team-controlled years, that only gets us through his age-26 season. And if he ends up being good enough to be with us for eight years as a No. 1 overall pick, we probably won’t complain because he’ll have been a good player. I don’t think we should worry about his athleticism falling off by then unless he gets hurt.”

A few of the front office analytic executives who spoke with Vecenie told him that Williamson’s projection is actually more favorable than Anthony Davis‘ was coming out of college. Opinions throughout the league are split. Some executives believe Davis was the better prospect while others feel it’s extremely close.

The Pelicans are selecting Williamson after winning the draft lottery, barring an upset of massive proportions. Let’s take a look at more notes from New Orleans:

  • The Pelicans met with Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech) at the draft combine in Chicago, NBA writer Jim Eichenhofer tweets. “You never know what could happen. Anything could happen. You just have to be ready,” Culver said. New Orleans could be looking at a second top-5 selection if they trade Davis to the Knicks or Lakers.
  • Pelicans owner Gayle Benson called Davis’ trade request “disappointing” during a commencement speech she made for Loyola University. Benson referred to the team’s on-court performance as “frustrating” and said that the franchise has “not adapted to the reality of today’s NBA,” as Christopher Dabe of The Time-Picayune passes along.
  • The Pelicans hired David Griffin to lead a more analytical approach in the front office. It wasn’t easy for ownership to dismiss former GM Dell Demps, as Dabe relays in the same piece. “I must be honest with myself in making painful decisions because my ultimate responsibility is to the fans,” Benson said.

Zion Williamson Not Considering Return To Duke

Since the Pelicans landed the first overall pick in Tuesday night’s draft lottery, there has been speculation that top prospect Zion Williamson may not want to play in New Orleans. That idea has prompted reporters like ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (video link) and Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link) to point out that Williamson could technically decide to return to Duke before the NCAA’s May 29 withdrawal deadline for early entrants.

However, according to Williamson’s stepfather, Lee Anderson, that’s not a scenario that Zion’s camp is seriously weighing.

As Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com relays (via Twitter), Anderson said today in a radio appearance in Baton Rouge that Williamson is “excited about the prospect of getting down there and getting settled” in New Orleans, adding that returning to Duke “is not something that we have even considered.”

The idea of Williamson withdrawing from the draft, spending another season with the Blue Devils, and entering the 2020 draft always seemed highly unlikely. The No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft projects to earn over $9.7MM in his rookie year, so the Duke forward would have had to pass up on that salary to play for free in college for another year. It also would’ve pushed his first big NBA free agent payday back by a year.

Beyond the money aspect, there’s also no guarantee that the team landing the No. 1 pick in 2020 would be any more favorable. While New Orleans is considered a small market by NBA standards, there are certainly worse places to live and worse places to play — with Jrue Holiday under contract and a trade haul for Anthony Davis possibly on the way, it’s not as if the Pelicans’ cupboards are bare.

On top of all that, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that Williamson had a positive meeting with the Pelicans this week in Chicago at the draft combine. Prior to the lottery, Zion had cited New Orleans as one of his preferred landing spots, according to Charania, who adds that the youngster also met with the Grizzlies in Chicago.

We won’t have a clear picture of which NCAA prospects are remaining in the draft until after May 29, and the full early entry list won’t be officially announced until after the NBA’s own withdrawal deadline of June 10, but it seems pretty safe at this point to say that Williamson won’t be among those prospects pulling out of the 2019 draft pool.

Lottery Notes: Pelicans, Knicks, Cavs, Bulls, C’s

Tuesday night was a massive one for the Pelicans, who won the 2019 draft lottery despite entering the night with just a 6.0% of landing that top pick. As William Guillory of The Athletic details, head coach Alvin Gentry was representing the team in the drawing room and was ecstatic when he learned that the team would be drafting first overall, exclaiming “F— yeah!” and high-fiving other representatives in the room.

While the Pelicans will now have the opportunity to build around super-prospect Zion Williamson, Gentry and new head of basketball operations David Griffin remain optimistic that they can convince their current franchise player – Anthony Davis – to be part of the future as well.

“Guys, the one thing you got to understand is [Davis] is still on our roster,” Gentry said on Tuesday, per Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. “He is on our roster. All of that will take care of itself. I’m not worried about it. I know Griff has some plans to talk to him, and it will be fine.”

For his part, Griffin downplayed the effect that landing the No. 1 pick might have on Davis’ situation, while still indicating that he’d like to keep the All-NBA big man around.

“I understand why people want to link the two, because the assumption is that elite players want to play with other elite players, but this doesn’t change anything with the Anthony Davis situation,” Griffin said, according to Nathan Brown of The Advocate. “Maybe it gives him one more sign that things are changing in a different direction.

“This is just one more positive chip at this point, and if Anthony Davis is trying to decide if he can trust if we can build a winner, I hope we can build evidence of that day after day. And if AD wants to be part of that, wonderful. And if he doesn’t buy into what we’re trying to do, that’s okay too.”

Here’s more on Tuesday’s draft lottery:

  • Within his story linked above, Spears cites a source who says Williamson – who left the draft room without comment after the Pelicans won the lottery – was hoping to end up with the Knicks. The Knicks, who are holding the No. 3 pick, won’t have a shot at Zion now, but they have another Duke player firmly on their radar. A league source tells Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com that New York is expected to meet with R.J. Barrett on Wednesday at the draft combine in Chicago.
  • Moving down to fifth in the draft order was close to a worst-case scenario for the Cavaliers, but as Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com observes, it may not be a huge letdown for new head coach John Beilein, who rarely had the opportunity to add five-star recruits during his college coaching career.
  • Bulls executive John Paxson sounds open to the possibility of trading the No. 7 pick, writes Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago. “There’s other things you can do with picks to get better,” Paxson said. “You can trade them, you can do a lot of different things. So again, now that we know where we’re at, thankful to know and we’ll get to work trying to find a way to make best use of it.”
  • The Kings’ pick didn’t move up from No. 14 and the Grizzlies kept their own first-rounder, but things could have gone much worse for the Celtics on lottery night, as Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston explains.
  • Sean Deveney of Sporting News takes a look at some of the winners and losers of Tuesday’s lottery, while ESPN’s Zach Lowe passes along several interesting nuggets from behind the scenes of the event.

Draft Notes: Hawks, Culver, Morant, Knicks

The Pelicans and Grizzlies made meteoric rises in tonight’s draft lottery, landing the first and second picks respectively. It’s widely assumed that Zion Williamson and Ja Morant will be the selections, however, much can happen before the draft next month.

Let’s take a look at some notes from teams that didn’t move up in the lottery:

  • The Hawks are fond of Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver, Sean Deveney of Sporting News writes. The franchise believes Culver’s “blend of athleticism and defensive prowess” will allow him to make the leap from the college ranks to the professional level.  Atlanta owns the Nos. 8 and 10 picks in the draft.
  • Had the Hawks landed the No. 2 pick, they likely would have drafted Culver or made a trade, according to Deveney, who suggests Atlanta was never going to draft Morant. Atlanta is fully committed to Trae Young as its point guard of the future and Young’s game next to Morant would be an awkward fit, writes Deveney.
  • The Cavaliers and the Mavericks are other teams that would have explored options outside of Morant had they landed No. 2, Deveney adds. Cleveland drafted Collin Sexton last June while Dallas invested in Luka Doncic.
  • The Knicks would not have traded Williamson if they landed the No. 1 pick, Adrian Wojnarowski said during ESPN’s Draft Lottery coverage. New York will have no such opportunity, as the team ended up with the No. 3 selection.
  • New York didn’t land the No. 1 pick as the franchise had hoped, but the Suns should be more disappointed than the Knicks in their result, Katherine Fitzgerald of the Arizona Republic writes. Phoenix landed the No. 6 overall pick in the draft.

Pelicans Win 2019 NBA Draft Lottery; Grizzlies, Knicks In Top 3

With Tuesday night’s lottery results now official, the top 14 picks in the 2019 NBA draft have been set. The lottery order is as follows:

  1. New Orleans Pelicans
  2. Memphis Grizzlies
  3. New York Knicks
  4. Los Angeles Lakers
  5. Cleveland Cavaliers
  6. Phoenix Suns
  7. Chicago Bulls
  8. Atlanta Hawks
  9. Washington Wizards
  10. Atlanta Hawks (from Mavericks)
  11. Minnesota Timberwolves
  12. Charlotte Hornets
  13. Miami Heat
  14. Boston Celtics (from Kings)

It’s a huge development for the Pelicans, who were facing the potential loss of franchise player Anthony Davis this offseason and only had a 6.0% chance of moving up in the draft. New head of basketball operations David Griffin will now have the opportunity to either sell Davis on staying in New Orleans by adding Duke forward Zion Williamson to play alongside him, or will be able to build around Williamson after trading AD.

The Grizzlies, meanwhile, moved up to No. 2 (6.3% chance), putting them in position to potentially select Murray State point guard Ja Morant. Mike Conley, of course, has been the longtime point guard in Memphis, but he has been the subject of trade rumors for the last several months — drafting Morant would be a terrific way to replace Conley if the Grizzlies decide to move the veteran this summer.

Because they jumped up to No. 2, the Grizzlies will keep their pick (top-eight protected) rather than sending it to Boston. Memphis will now owe the Celtics their top-six protected first-round pick in 2020.

Knicks fans will be disappointed not to land a top-two pick, but considering they only had a 40.1% chance to land a top-three selection, things could have been worse. Another Duke prospect, R.J. Barrett, is widely considered the favorite to be the third player off the board, but New York could dangle that pick in trade talks if the team wants to shift into contention mode immediately.

Another big-market team, the Lakers, jumped up to No. 4 despite only having a 9.4% chance at a top-four pick (2.8% for No. 4). The Lakers could shop that pick for immediate help this spring, since they’re in win-now mode during LeBron James‘ tenure.

The Cavaliers, Suns, Bulls, and Wizards are among the losers of the night, having each slid down three spots in the draft order. The Hawks also moved down three spots, but they’ll still pick twice in the top 10, at Nos. 8 and 10.

Atlanta will receive the Mavericks‘ selection at No. 10 as a result of last year’s Luka Doncic/Trae Young swap. The pick was top-five protected, so Dallas would have retained it if it had moved up in the lottery. The Mavs will now own their 2020 and 2022 first-round selections — they’ll owe the Knicks their 2021 first-rounder (unprotected) and their 2023 first-rounder (top-10 protected) due to the Kristaps Porzingis deal.

The Celtics, rather than the Sixers, will receive the Kings‘ pick at No. 14. The 76ers would have swapped first-rounders if that pick had moved up to No. 1, but they’ll keep their own selection instead. Sacramento now has all its first-rounders moving forward.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Knicks Rumors: A. Davis, Zion, Offseason Plans

The winner of tonight’s NBA draft lottery will ostensibly be the winner of the Zion Williamson sweepstakes, but it’s possible that the team with the No. 1 pick will end up using Williamson as a trade chip. While most clubs wouldn’t pass on the opportunity to move forward with the Duke forward as a franchise centerpiece, the Knicks are one team that might consider dealing him.

In fact, according to Shams Charania of Stadium (video link via Knicks Film School), if the Knicks do land the No. 1 overall pick, they’re expected to “shift their focus” to a potential trade for Anthony Davis. Charania reports that Williamson and Kevin Knox would likely be the headliners of a Knicks offer for Davis in that scenario.

Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News conveys a similar sentiment, tweeting that Knicks executives have told rivals they plan to seriously pursue Davis this summer.

For a team in the midst of a rebuild, it wouldn’t make much sense to trade a young, cost-controlled building block like Williamson, so the Knicks’ apparent willingness to use him as a trade chip in Davis negotiations is the latest signal that the franchise is confident about its ability to land other impact players in free agency and contend immediately.

Of course, as noted in our draft lottery primer, the Knicks’ odds of securing that top pick are still just 14.0%, so there’s a good chance this discussion will be moot in a matter of hours.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • In a conversation with Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, Knicks executives Steve Mills and Scott Perry spoke about the team’s upcoming offseason, its player development program, and much more. Asked about their flexibility, Perry pointed out that the Knicks’ cap room gives the front office multiple options. “The obvious answer is that it puts you in the free agency game,” the Knicks’ GM said. “What gets lost and doesn’t get talked about, you’re at the table for trades. The flexibility allows you to be involved in a multitude of discussions about a multitude of things to help your team get better.”
  • Perry also addressed the Knicks’ offseason this week during an appearance on ESPN Radio, as Ian Begley of SNY.tv relays. “We’re going to play the hand we’re dealt,” Perry said in regard to the Knicks’ free agency plans. “… Whatever happens, we know we’re going to add some talent to the roster this summer.”
  • Earlier today, we passed along word that the Knicks have interest in a pair of free-agents-to-be from the Celtics besides Kyrie Irving.

Knicks’ Potential Packages To Trade For Anthony Davis

The Knicks (along with the Cavs and Suns) have the best chance at landing the No. 1 overall pick in this summer’s draft and the rights to draft Zion Williamson. But, as good of a prospect as Williamson is, he still hasn’t played a minute in the NBA, and as a result, the Pelicans’ would still want a package surrounding Williamson should the Knicks seek a trade for All-Star big man Anthony Davis, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post.

New Orleans’ new head of basketball operations David Griffin plans to meet with Davis to discuss him staying in The Big Easy, but reports suggest Davis still wants to leave. If the Knicks are serious about a potential trade for Davis, some reports suggest it may take Williamson (making Tuesday’s lottery all the more important), Kevin Knox, and Mitchell Robinson to get a deal done.

Another possibility that would cost the Knicks even more (per ESPN’s Bobby Marks) would be Williamson, Knox, Frank Ntilikina, and Dallas’ two future first-round picks that the Mavericks traded to New York in exchange for Kristaps Porzingis.

Either deal may seem like quite a haul for just one player, even one as good as Davis, but an interesting dynamic comes into play if the Knicks are able to lure Warriors’ forward Kevin Durant away in free agency. Durant, now 30, and likely to be seeking more championships wherever he signs this summer, would all but assuredly prefer Davis over Williamson at this stage in both of their careers.

If Williamson is drafted by the Knicks, Durant could push the issue of New York trading Zion for Davis, regardless of the cost. Williamson may have generational talent, but the Knicks are reportedly unsure whether he will ever rise to the stratosphere of LeBron James (or Davis, for that matter), the superstar to whom the 18-year-old phenom is most often compared, so Durant’s preference could be an important factor.

Knicks Notes: Zion, Kyrie, Kemba, Young Players

While Knicks head coach David Fizdale didn’t name the Duke forward specifically, he made it clear during an appearance this week on The Dan Patrick Show that if his team lands the No. 1 overall pick in next week’s draft lottery, Zion Williamson will be the choice.

“If we win the lottery, do we know who we’re taking?” Fizdale said, per Marc Berman of The New York Post. “Yes.”

Of course, if the Knicks do land that first overall selection, speculation about a possible Anthony Davis trade would only increase during the weeks leading up to the draft. Fizdale wasn’t asked about that scenario during his appearance on Patrick’s show, but ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (Insider-only link) took a look this week at whether or not it would make sense to seriously consider moving Williamson if the Knicks grab that No. 1 spot.

In Pelton’s view, trading Williamson in a package for Davis would give the Knicks the best chance to win in the short term, but it’s unclear how well-suited the rest of the roster will be to contending immediately. Since Zion could be a part of a contending team in New York for years to come, Pelton would be inclined to hang onto him if the Knicks are lucky enough to draft him.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Now that Kyrie Irving‘s Celtics have been officially eliminated from the postseason, the Knicks are poised to be a part of the July conversation about the point guard’s potential free agent destinations, as Marc Berman of The New York Post details.
  • Sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv that some members of the Knicks’ organization on high on another free agent point guard, Kemba Walker. However, that interest likely wouldn’t matter much if Kevin Durant commits to New York and wants to team up with Irving, says Begley. According to Begley, some opposing executives believe that the Knicks will be willing to pursue any player Durant wants to play with if it ensures that KD will choose New York.
  • The Knicks will send their assistant coaches on the road in the coming days to work out with young players like Allonzo Trier, Mitchell Robinson, and Dennis Smith Jr., sources tell Begley. Kevin Knox and head coach David Fizdale have already met up for some offseason work, as the team has exhibited an increased focus on developing its prospects.

Draft Notes: Zion, Norvell, Ponds, Tinkle

There’s a ton at stake this offseason for many of the teams involved in next week’s draft lottery, but there’s plenty at stake for consensus top prospect Zion Williamson as well. As ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, Mike Schmitz, Kevin Pelton, and Bobby Marks outline in an Insider-only article, not every team that has a shot at Williamson would be an ideal fit for him.

In the view of ESPN’s insiders, the Hawks, Mavericks, and Pelicans would be the most preferable landing spots for Williamson. The opportunity to play with up-and-coming play-makers – Trae Young in Atlanta, or Luka Doncic in Dallas – would help unlock Williamson’s potential.

On the other hand, ESPN’s panel doesn’t consider the Lakers, Bulls, and Sixers great fits for Williamson. Spacing is the primary concern for the Lakers and Sixers, and it’s unclear how a pairing with Joel Embiid would work. For the Bulls, Zach LaVine‘s ball dominance and Jim Boylen‘s “outdated” offense are viewed as red flags.

Here are several more draft-related notes:

  • Gonzaga sophomore guard Zach Norvell Jr. told reporters today that he intends to keep his name in the 2019 NBA draft, tweets Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports. Norvell was one of 66 prospects announced on Wednesday as a 2019 draft combine participant.
  • St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds, another one of those 66, has workouts lined up with the Warriors, Bulls, Kings, Jazz, Celtics, and Mavericks, tweets Michael Scotto of The Athletic. Ponds is ranked as the No. 51 prospect on ESPN’s big board.
  • After working out for Utah and Philadelphia, Oregon State forward Tres Tinkle has auditions this week with the Raptors, Celtics, and Hornets, and will work out for the Hawks next week, writes Nick Daschel of The Oregonian.
  • After turning in an impressive performance at the Portsmouth Invitational, forward Jarrell Brantley (Charleston) has workouts lined up with 10 teams, including the Celtics, Nets, Timberwolves, Hornets, and Clippers, tweets Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv.