For those NBA teams “Tryin’ for Zion,” a winner is about to be declared.
The Hawks are one of those teams with a chance — small, but a chance nonetheless — to land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft. Duke sensation Zion Williamson is by far the consensus favorite to be selected first and is projected to be a franchise-changing player.
The draft lottery will be held Tuesday in Chicago where fates will be determined by the bounce of pingpong balls.
» Mark Bradley: Lucking into Zion would transform Hawks
The Hawks have a 10.5 percent chance to come away with the No. 1 overall pick. They have the same odds to get the second, third or fourth picks. Any of which would be a consolation prize. A solid player with potential, yes, but not the magnet — on and off the court — that is coveted.
Only the Knicks, Cavaliers, Suns, all at 14 percent, and the Bulls, at 12.5 percent, have better odds than the Hawks at No. 1. The thought of Williamson in their fold will have marketing departments on high alert (and possibly wiping drool from the corner of their mouths). The imaginations of front offices and fans are running wild in Atlanta and throughout the NBA.
“Can you imagine?” Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said. “It keeps me up at night. I swear to you.”
Perhaps not since 2012 when the then-New Orleans Hornets selected Anthony Davis with the first overall pick has there been such the clear-cut favorite of Williamson, who left college after one season. Davis was followed by Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz and Deandre Ayton at No. 1 overall.
Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk stopped short of saying the Hawks would select Williamson should they get the No. 1 pick. The wry smile while answering the question suggested otherwise.
“The player himself is obviously a phenomenal talent,” Schlenk said. “Just his size and athleticism, you just don’t see. All the stuff I’ve heard about the person is off the charts too so a very intriguing prospect for sure.”
The Hawks, who finished with the fifth-worst record this season, have a 2.2 percent chance at that No. 5 pick. Their remaining lottery odds at 19.6 percent at No. 6, 26.7 percent at No. 7, 8.8 percent at No. 8 and 0.6 percent at No. 9. According to the NBA, the Hawks have a 32 percent chance at a top-3 pick, a 42 percent chance at a top-4 pick and a 44 percent chance at a top-5 pick.
There is much interest in where the Mavericks finish in the lottery. The Hawks will get their first-round pick provided it’s not in the top five. The Mavericks, who finished with the ninth-worst record, have just a six percent chance at the No. 1 pick.
The results of the lottery could be even more franchise altering than all the work that has been done during the rebuild that last couple of years.
The top of the upcoming draft is about Williamson. The 6-foot-7, 285-pound power forward was named the National Player of the year after averaging 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game at Duke. He produced one highlight-worthy dunk after another, showing off the rare athleticism for a player of his size. Williamson’s affable persona is also a major part of his allure.
“Zion is the most unique athlete I’ve coached at Duke,” Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski said in an interview with ESPN. “Everybody talks about his ability to dunk and jump, but he has great body control. He has guard skills.”
The Hawks have already hit on several key players during their rebuild. They took John Collins at No. 19 in 2017. They added first-rounders Trae Young, via trade at No. 3, Kevin Huerter at No. 19 and Omari Spellman at No. 30 last year. Collins, Young and Huerter are already starters. Adding a player of Williamson’s caliber and possibly another lottery pick this year to the roster would accelerate Schlenk’s plan. The Hawks created a serious excitement in their fan base with the way the team played near the end of last season. If the Hawks add Williamson, well, one can only imagine.
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