Draft lottery may de­cide Wil­liamson’s 1st NBA stop

The News-Times - - SPORTS/CLASSIFIED -

CHICAGO — Zion Wil­liamson’s im­me­di­ate fu­ture is likely to be de­cided by the bounce of 14 ping­pong balls.

The NBA draft lottery is Tues­day night in Chicago, where some team will be awarded the No. 1 pick in the June 20 draft — and, pre­sum­ably, the chance to grab Wil­liamson with that se­lec­tion.

New York, Cleve­land and Phoenix share the best odds: They’ve all got a 14 per­cent chance of win­ning un­der a new for­mat that was de­signed in 2017 and put into play this year to dis­cour­age teams from all-out tank­ing. Wil­liamson, the con­sen­sus col­lege bas­ket­ball player of the year this past sea­son, is ex­pected to be in the au­di­ence when the lottery re­sults are an­nounced.

“What­ever NBA team I land on, that’s where I want to be,” Wil­liamson, the now­former Duke star who is turn­ing pro af­ter one sea­son with the Blue Devils, said last month. “Who­ever drafts me, that’s where I want to be.”

It is very much a lottery; the machine is ex­actly like the one used in many state lot­ter­ies and is man­u­fac­tured by Smart­play In­ter­na­tional, which works with clients all over the world for var­i­ous draw­ings. Smart­play even cer­ti­fies the 14 ping­pong balls that will be used to churn out the four-num­ber com­bi­na­tion will net some team the No. 1 pick.

The Knicks, Cava­liers and Suns will all be as­signed 140 of the pos­si­ble 1,001 four num­ber com­bi­na­tions. Chicago gets 125, giv­ing the Bulls the fourth-best shot. Char­lotte, Mi­ami and Sacra­mento will be as­signed 10 of those com­bi­na­tions, giv­ing them the long­est odds of win­ning the No. 1 pick. The Kings won’t be rooting to win; their pick goes to Bos­ton, un­less it’s the first pick, and then it goes to Philadel­phia.

By the time the tele­cast of the lottery be­gins at 8:30 p.m., it will al­ready have long been over. The ac­tual draw­ing takes place in a se­cure room about an hour be­fore­hand, wit­nessed by a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from each of the 14 lottery clubs, NBA of­fi­cials and some mem­bers of the me­dia. None of them can leave or com­mu­ni­cate with the out­side world in any way un­til af­ter the re­sults are an­nounced on tele­vi­sion.

“I’m not one to waste a lot of time on things I can’t con­trol — which is es­sen­tially any­thing that hap­pens at my house, and the lottery,” At­lanta gen­eral man­ager Travis Sch­lenk said.

The Hawks could be big win­ners Tues­day. If Dal­las doesn’t get one of the top four draft picks, the Mav­er­icks’ pick — which would be No. 9 if they don’t move up — goes to At­lanta, which has its own lottery pick as well and a 10.5 per­cent chance of win­ning the No. 1 se­lec­tion.

The Knicks are hop­ing his­tory re­peats: The first draft lottery was 1985, the Knicks won it and used that No. 1 pick to draft Pa­trick Ewing — who will rep­re­sent New York on stage Tues­day night.

Wil­liamson, his Duke team­mates R.J. Bar­rett and Cam Red­dish, Mur­ray State star guard Ja Mo­rant and about 100 other draft-el­i­gi­ble play­ers will be in Chicago through­out the week, and many will likely find their way to the lottery. Not all will play or work out at the com­bine, but most are ex­pected to at least take time to meet with some teams and sub­mit to some ba­sic med­i­cal ex­ams.

“I think it’s deeper than peo­ple say,” Heat pres­i­dent Pat Ri­ley said when asked to eval­u­ate the draft. “I’m not go­ing to name names, but I’ve seen 30 play­ers that are very good play­ers.”

Who goes where won’t be known un­til June 20.

But the or­der will be set Tues­day — and Wil­liamson will fi­nally have a very good idea of where he’s head­ing.

Pa­trick Smith / Getty Im­ages

Duke’s Zion Wil­liamson is gen­er­ally re­garded as the top choice in this year’s NBA Draft, which has its lottery draw­ing on Tues­day.

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