The NBA Draft is more than a little ridiculous. As sports fans, we hate when great players get stuck on bad teams, but every year we stand by and watch dysfunctional franchises get rewarded with the cream of the amateur basketball crop. Sometimes it works out with teams like Oklahoma City and Philadelphia building strong teams with multiple top-five picks. Other times, you get a complete bust like Anthony Bennett or a case like Anthony Davis in which the team that drafted him can’t build a decent squad and ends up having to field trade offers, resetting the cycle of suck.
The Knicks figure to be big players in the free agent market if they are lucky enough to draft Zion Williamson in June. That comes down to their 14-percent shot at the top pick coming up golden in tonight’s NBA Draft Lottery. Williamson looks like the kind of can’t-miss prospect that we only see come around every few years. He’s one guy who it isn’t crazy to talk about as the next LeBron James. He’s got the size, strength, and athleticism. Plus, he’s skilled around the rim and appears to be getting better at shooting the ball. Finally, the Knicks have been the right amount of bad at the right time.
Still, thanks to the new lottery rules, there is an 86-percent chance that New York will be drafting someone else next month. That is a little sobering, but Murray State’s Ja Morant looks like a point guard that you can build a franchise around. There’s also Williamson’s teammate RJ Barrett, a small forward who is doesn’t not have Zion’s intimidating size, but might be a little more skilled. The Knicks are almost certain to end up with an incredibly exciting prospect, but it will seem like a lost chance if that man isn’t Williamson. The hype train has built the big man up to where he’s on another level than all the other draftees.
It’s warranted based on the potential Zion showed during his one season at Duke. It’s just crazy how the fates of franchises can change so drastically based on a few ping pong balls. Being lousy in one season often isn’t enough to turn a team around. Maybe you get lucky and end up with the top pick in a draft that offers a player who can make a team relevant for two decades. Or maybe you end up picking your poison in a terrible draft class.
The process would be more fair if rookies could choose where they wanted to play. Imagine needing to create a positive winning environment in order to attract top prospects instead of trying to lose as much as possible. It will never happen because the draft is such a hit on TV and because of pro sports leagues’ strange desire for parity, but in a world where everyone wants to stand up for the players, you’d think there would be more of a push for the players choosing their teams instead of getting stuck in bad situations.
Hopefully the Knicks aren’t one of those, but that would go against years of history. A few months of hot, hot, hot Kevin Durant rumors and a 14-percent shot at Zion aren’t enough to convince me that New York is a playoff team in the near future, but this is a turnaround that I won’t believe until we’re in the thick of it.
In other news, the Mets begin a stretch of 20 games in 20 days tonight in Washington D.C. The next time they have a day to rest will be on June 3. Memorial Day is the time of year when you supposedly find out what kind of team you have, so these are a big next three weeks for the Mets. If they get through them with a winning record, it’s a good sign for the rest of the summer.
it all starts with Noah Syndergaard on the mound against the struggling Nationals. The Mets have such a thin rotation that they’ve already had to pull Wilmer Font out of the gap between dimensions to make a spot start. That’s why it’s important for Syndergaard to pitch more like the guy who threw a complete game against Cincinnati and less like the guy from all the rest of his starts. Washington has been a major disappointment so far, so Dave Martinez’s team is going to be desperate for a series win. Mets gotta shut it down.