When most kids his age were enthralled by NBA 2K5, Zion Williamson already had his sights on gracing its cover someday.
Fast forward 14 years. The dominant force nicknamed “Zanos” by his teammates is on the precipice of both video-game- and real-world NBA stardom.
The 18-year-old has been outclassing older opponents since his AAU days thanks to outstanding athleticism and a frame that always belied his age. Incidentally, those metrics currently check in at a whopping 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds.
The Duke Blue Devils ultimately won the Williamson Sweepstakes after his stellar high school career at Spartanburg Day School. He’s rewarded the program with averages of 22.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per contest as a freshman.
But, like the Brahma Bull he portrays on the hardwood, Williamson is seemingly too overwhelming to keep confined in the college ranks for more than one year.
Zanos is headed to the NBA this June. The one question — will he be a top overall pick before his 19th birthday?
Unsurprising odds on favorite as top pick
DraftKings Sportsbook is making him the clear favorite for the honor.
Williamson’s chances of being selected No. 1 overall this June are currently listed as a hefty -2000 on Draftings. The gulf between Williamson’s odds and those of the next closest player are about as wide as the talent gap between him and many of his opponents — teammate R.J. Barrett checks in behind Williamson at +550.
There’s been some buzz that Murray State’s Temetrius “Ja” Morant, a dynamic guard that owns multiple school records, could potentially usurp Williamson at the top of the draft. DK Sportsbook doesn’t appear convinced. Morant checks in behind both Williamson and Barrett at +650.
Naturally, no prognostication of which player is most likely to be taken first overall is complete without also evaluating what team might be in position to nab him. And that becomes a more interesting exercise this year than in the past. When the annual NBA Draft Lottery unfolds May 14 in Chicago, it will do under slightly different rules.
Thanks to changes approved by the NBA Board of Governors in September 2017, the teams with the three worst regular-season records will now all have a 14 percent chance of garnering the top overall pick.
Previously, the “top seed” — aka team with the worst regular-season mark — had a 25.0 percent chance. The second and third seeds had a 19.9 percent and 15.6 percent chance, respectively.
Likely top five lottery teams all hungry for Williamson’s skill set
With that in mind, a look at the five worst records in the NBA at the All-Star break and their corresponding DK Sportsbook odds of claiming Williamson at the top of June’s draft:
- Phoenix Suns (11-48): +450
- New York Knicks (11-47): +450
- Cleveland Cavaliers (12-46): +450
- Chicago Bulls (14-44): +600
- Atlanta Hawks (19-39): +700
Without necessarily evoking that dirty “T” word, let’s just say that each of the Suns, Knicks and Cavaliers would be exceedingly motivated to secure the rights to the versatile Williamson:
- The Suns swung and missed badly at power forward high in the draft in recent years with the likes of Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss.
- Then, the Knicks seemingly put up a massive neon sign welcoming Williamson to town when they unexpectedly jettisoned Kristaps Porzingis to the Mavericks in a recent blockbuster trade.
- And let’s just say that despite Cedi Osman‘s solid play this season, the Cavaliers could move some things around to accommodate a player that could bring back an elite level of play to the small forward position in Cleveland following the departure of that LeBron guy (again).
As the team that currently has the fourth-best chance (12.5 percent) of garnering the No. 1 overall pick, the Bulls would also be highly likely to hone in on Williamson with that selection.
Yes, recent first-round picks Chandler Hutchison and Lauri Markkanen slot in at the two forward spots at present. However, Williamson is widely regarded as a generational talent that could potentially displace Hutchison, for example.
What’s more, Zion is believed capable of playing some small-ball center. That’s a role he could aptly fill in the Windy City as a complement to another former Blue Devil, Wendell Carter, Jr.