The world will have to wait until June 20 to see if the New Orleans Pelicans select Duke one-and-done star Zion Williamson with the first pick in the NBA Draft. For now, it seems like a no-brainer but this franchise has demonstrated a lack of mental capacity throughout its history, including the botched trade of Anthony Davis last season.
The Pelicans won the draft’s first pick on Tuesday night, which should mean Williamson will join Davis to form one of the NBA’s most formidable center-forward combos in the game. The odds gods smiled on New Orleans because it had just a 6 percent chance of landing the top pick.
Commissioner Adam Silver must have been overjoyed when the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers made it to the final four teams – along with Memphis.
The Lakers had just a 2 percent chance of nabbing No. 1, and a 9.4 percent shot of remaining in contention until just four picks were remaining. They got No. 4 – and are quite happy.
Williamson in New York would not have turned that woeful team around overnight, and it would not have caused dizzy and delusional owner James Dolan to sell the team. However, if Williamson had landed with the Knicks, it certainly would have increased the chance of free agents Kyrie Irving and/or Kevin Durant choosing Madison Square Garden as their home court.
ESPN’s Marc. J. Spears said on Twitter minutes after the selection process ended that “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.”
Most mock drafts have the Knicks selecting former Duke guard – and troubled three-point shooter – RJ Barrett with the third pick.
As for Davis, he publicly demanded a trade at mid-season. He has a year left on his contract and – like it or not – the Pelicans will pair him with Williamson and he might like the result.
“If I’m Anthony Davis, I’m skeptical obviously,” said David Griffin, Pelicans president of basketball operations.
“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 be the environment he wants to be part of.”
Memphis had the odds stacked in its favor, and while the Grizzlies didn’t land the top pick, the team is satisfied with No. 2. The Grizzlies will most likely target former Murray State superstar guard Ja Morant.
You’re not hearing much out of Memphis in regard to the pick because the team is still searching for a head coach. Certainly, there is a lot more interest in that job today than there was before Tuesday.
Guess whose name popped up on several websites on Tuesday night in regard to the Lakers? Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards. The Lakers could use the fourth pick as a piece in a trade to acquire an all-star talent to join LeBron James.
Here are the top 16 picks in the NBA Draft:
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. Hawks (via Mavericks); 11. Minnesota Timberwolves; 12. Charlotte Hornets; 13. Miami Heat; 14. Boston Celtics (via Kings); 15. Detroit Pistons; 16. Orlando Magic
Talking about Tatum
Sean Devaney of the Sporting News surveyed several GMs and assistant coaches on the trade value of Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum following his subpar postseason and five-game loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Playoffs.
I don’t like anonymous sources, but a GM told Devaney, “Here's the thing: You can build a team around Jayson Tatum.
“He can be your No. 1 option. I really believe that. He can create for himself. He can get to his spots. He has a beautiful shot. But I don't know if you can win with Jayson Tatum as your No. 1 guy. So, if you're rebuilding, you know, you have to think about that.”
Another GM called Tatum, “one of the top three or four guys in his age group. He just needs to get back on track. (Teammate and fellow trade candidate) Jaylen Brown is a very good role player. Tatum has star ability.”
Yet another GM said Tatum must attack the rim more and take fewer mid-range jump shots because “he is terrible at them.”
Patient Porter to return
Michael Porter Jr., whose lone season at Missouri was reduced to a handful of games because of a back injury and surgery, has been medically cleared to play with the Denver Nuggets team in the NBA Summer League. He had another back surgery last summer and did not play in 2018-19.
“Yea, I can’t wait to get back out there,” Porter said on the team’s website.
“Nothing will compare to being out there for the first time in a real game. This team has a lot of weapons already, but I think I can be a versatile guy that does a lot of different things on the court and be a shot maker.”
The Nuggets suffered a heartbreaking Game 7 loss at home to the Portland Trailblazers on Sunday night, but its 54-win season bodes well for the future.
Next season, Porter will be joining all-star center/forward Nikola Jokic, who averaged 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game. Injuries slowed starters Will Barton, Gary Harris and Paul Millsap during the season, but all contributed to the playoff run and a second-place finish in the NBA Western Conference.
In addition, Monte Morris and Malik Beasley became key contributors off the bench and will team with Porter Jr., on one of the NBA’s youngest rosters.
“He is special for sure,” Morris said of Porter Jr. “He can handle it, shoot it and he's 6'11". He's a freak athlete.”
Porter said he used his year off to learn valuable lessons.
“It was amazing for me to be able to spend this year to learn the game and be around these guys,” he said.
“I learned a lot. Just being around the NBA lifestyle, getting used to the travel, seeing how hard these guys play and the recovery involved. It's been really good and I think it will really benefit me in the long run.”
While the NBA salary cap is not the Nuggets’ friend, the value of principle Josh Kroenke’s team continues to soar. Kroenke is a former Missouri guard and son of St. Louis nemesis Stan Kroenke.
According to Forbes’ NBA Team Values report 2019, which is based on 2017-18 data, the Nuggets’ one-year value increase of 22 percent was the fifth-largest in the NBA. With the team’s run to Game 7 of the NBA Western Conference semifinals and boost in revenues, its value will continue to rise.
The Reid Roundup
Former Mizzou quarterback Drew Lock will be getting the same treatment Brett Favre gave Aaron Rogers after he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 2005. Denver starting QB Joe Flacco said Monday “I'm not worried about developing guys or any of that. I don't look at that as my job."…It looks as though New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft will beat the solicitation charge filed against him in Jupiter, Fla. A judge has suppressed the video of him allegedly getting it on with his massage therapist. The judge the police overstepped their bounds when stopping Kraft’s vehicle an obtaining his identity for a traffic violation…Also in Jupiter, Tiger Woods and restaurant manager Erica Herman, Woods' girlfriend, are facing a wrongful death lawsuit. The family of an employee alleges he drank there after a shift a work then killed himself in a car accident with a very high amount of alcohol in his system…Cleveland Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr., is participating in the team’s voluntary Organized Team Activities – which is shocking to many folks…I’ve been to the Kentucky Derby twice, The Preakness seven times and hundreds of other thoroughbred events. Trust me, Maximum Security deserved his disqualification in The Derby and jockey Luis Saez earned his 15-day suspension… Why former Michigan coach John Beilein is leaving college basketball to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers is a mystery to me. He is 66, so maybe he wants to give the NBA a shot before it’s too late in his career…Another week, another Bradley Beal trade rumor. The latest from Bleacher Report has the Washington Wizards all-star guard headed to Indiana for forward/center Domantas Sabonis, second-year point guard Aaron Holiday, backup small forward Doug McDermott and a 2020 first-round pick to the Wizards… Whether he is still a member of the Boston Celtics remains to be seen, but Jayson Tatum will hold his annual youth basketball camp July 11-12 at Chaminade College Prep. Campers will receive a t-shirt, a souvenir autograph and a team photo with Tatum. The camp is open to boys and girls at any skill level from first grade to 12th grade and registration and more information is available at JaysonTatumCamp.com.
Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1.