Photo Credit: NBA.com
With the NBA season over the midway point, many teams season are already down the drain. They have started the long process of tanking to acquire a top draft pick. Here are a few teams already in the tank race and what it means if they win (by losing):
Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavs are in the basement of the East, and just won their first game in a month. The loss of LeBron is well documented and every Cavs fan in Cleveland is already looking towards the next draft to find the next LeBron… I’m sorry to tell Cavs fans, there is no next LeBron no matter how high Zion can jump and how strong he is. LeBron isn’t just a physically dominating beast, but he is one of the smartest players on the floor in the NBA. Zion has good awareness and IQ, but it is not LeBron level. Cavs winning the lottery likely means Williamson going 1st overall, just due to the hype surrounding him, but a player like Reddish who has more upside and can play in the modern NBA might be a better fit. Reddish doesn’t have a big personality and is struggling to learn how to play next to superstars, but he is getting better as seen against FSU. He reminds me a lot of Paul George with his length and jump shot, as well as his struggles early in his career to be the alpha dog, and learning how to play with Russell Westbrook.
New York Knicks: The Knicks winning the tank race means media and marketing. The biggest market in the NBA would be entering the draft trying to find a star who can not only take the franchise to a championship, but that can handle the media around it. Zion Williamson fits here. The Knicks need a ball handler, and a strong power forward next to the Unicorn would be perfect. Zion is a good rebounder and should complement Porzingis well. The issue with Zion is spacing, but since Porzingis can step outside Zion will have more space in the paint. A lineup with Burke, Hardaway, Knox, Williamson, and Porzingis should lead to a good future in New York.
Chicago Bulls: The Bulls need a ball handler not afraid of the media or taking a shot. RJ Barrett fits them the best of any prospect. RJ can run the floor, get out and transition and play well next to Zach LaVine. Lauri and Portis make the need for Williamson small, and while Reddish would work here too, the big lights could be concerning for the quiet star. RJ is able to take over in a way the Bulls have not seen in the past twenty years.
Phoenix Suns: The Suns would be the most interesting. The suns of their big men, they have a bunch of wings, they got Booker to shoot off ball… they need a point guard. The top 4-5 players in this class are not point guards. RJ Barrett and Romeo Langford can play some point but are not great passers, maybe you try playing Zion Williamson at the point, but unlikely. Ja Morant could emerge as a surprise #1 overall pick if the Suns win the lottery, or we could be discussing trades for weeks before it.
The NBA tank race is one, but with no clear top prospect, I don’t know how much it matters. Different players fit every team. Many players in the class still need to work on their three-point shot (RJ, Zion, Romeo, Morant, and Little), while Reddish needs to learn to break out of his shell. This draft class will be interesting to watch the rest of the season, as will the race for the first pick.