The grand prize is Duke forward Zion Williamson. Blue Devils swingman RJ Barrett and Murray State point guard Ja Morant would be nice presents as well.
That’s what will be at stake tonight at 8:30 in Chicago when the Cavaliers participate in the annual NBA Draft Lottery.
Under the revamped system, the Cavs, like the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns, will have a league-high 14 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick in the June 20 draft. Cleveland will have a 13.4 percent chance of picking No. 2, a 12.7 percent chance of picking No. 3, a 12.0 percent chance of picking No. 4, a 27.8 percent chance of picking No. 5 and a 20.0 percent chance of picking No. 6.
Nick Gilbert, the son of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, will again represent the team onstage.
The Cavs have had great luck in the lottery, landing the No. 1 pick in 2003 (LeBron James), 2011 (Kyrie Irving), 2013 (Anthony Bennett) and 2014 (Andrew Wiggins). The 2011 pick originally belonged to the Los Angeles Clippers and had only the eighth-best odds of being No. 1, while the 2014 choice was later traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of the deal that brought Kevin Love to Cleveland.
The crown jewel of the 2019 NBA Draft is Duke’s Williamson, who played in 33 games and averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists as a freshman. The 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson shot .680 from the field, .338 on 3-pointers and .640 at the line.
The left-handed Williamson, who won’t turn 19 until July 6, possesses such overwhelming strength and athletic ability that he’s expected to be the No. 1 pick regardless of who wins the lottery.
Duke teammate Barrett (6-7, 202) played 38 games and averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists. The left-hander shot .454 from the field, .308 on 3-pointers and .665 at the line.
A Toronto native, Barrett will turn 19 on June 14 and is considered to have tremendous upside. Coming out of high school, he was rated the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2018, ahead of Williamson, but sometimes struggled in half-court situations at Duke.
The 6-3, 175-pound Morant averaged 24.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 10.0 assists as a sophomore, when he became the first Division I college player to average 20 points and 10 assists in a season since the NCAA started tracking assists in 1983-84. Morant shot .499 from the field, .363 on 3-pointers and .813 at the line.
Over two seasons and 65 games at Murray State, the 19-year-old averaged 18.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 8.2 assists while shooting .485 from the floor, .343 on 3-pointers and .810 at the line.
Morant wasn’t widely recruited coming out of high school and there are some minor concerns about the level of competition he faced in the Ohio Valley Conference, but he put many of those to rest with a strong performance in the NCAA Tournament.
There’s a chance someone else could slip into the top three picks, but after Williamson, Barrett and Morant, there’s a lot more variance of opinion on the top players.
Those mentioned most often are Virginia’s DeAndre Hunter, North Carolina’s Coby White and Nassir Little, Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver, Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland, Texas’ Jaxson Hayes, Duke’s Cam Reddish and Oregon’s Bol Bol.
The Cavs also own the 26th pick in the draft through a trade with the Houston Rockets. Cleveland does not have a pick in the second round.
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