When the ping pong balls determine which team will walk away with the top overall pick in the NBA Draft Lottery, the immediate focus will shift to Zion Williamson and the franchise that will soon be welcoming him. And deservedly so.
After all, he’s the consensus top prospect who became the face of college basketball this year with a skill set, infectious smile and a combination of size and rare athleticism that few have seen before.
Duke’s Zion Williamson took the college basketball world by storm this season. The 2019 ACC Player of The Year was also a first-team AP All-American averaging 22.6 points per game and 8.9 rebounds per game. Williamson displays elite athleticism, tremendous court vision and is an absolute monster on defense.
Knicks fans have been waiting more than 30 years since winning the lottery and taking Patrick Ewing in 1985, and they’re starving to see the freshman phenom from Duke and the National Player of the Year suit up for the home team at Madison Square Garden.
But the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns have an equal chance, along with New York, at winning the Zion sweepstakes. Chicago, Atlanta and Washington have an outside shot as well.
With the impending arrival of Zion, tonight’s lottery drawing takes on an added significance and level of excitement. But the ramifications of how things shake out are much broader than who gets the rights to draft him.
In addition, there are some other talented prospects that have been living in Zion’s considerable shadow this year that should make some teams very happy even without securing the top pick.
There’s Ja Morant, who exploded out of obscurity at Murray State to become the top ranked point guard in this Draft class. Morant definitely made a name for himself this season, reminding many of Damian Lillard, so he’s surely a known commodity.
With Duke being the main headliner this year and attracting a Fab Five type of aura, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish have name recognition as well, along with the likes of Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter and Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver based off of their spectacular NCAA Tournament runs en route to the national championship game.
Here are a few lesser known prospects that operated under the radar this year, but who will factor in to how the ping pong balls determine who gets what picks.
Darius Garland, Point Guard, Vanderbilt
Before going down with a knee injury that ended his freshman season at Vanderbilt, many scouts had projected Darius Garland as the top PG prospect in this year’s NBA Draft. Now instead of playing in March Madness, Garland finds himself being the “x-factor” of his class and having to prove himself all over again.
Garland is rated as the second-best point guard prospect right behind Morant. He already possesses NBA range on his pull-up shooter, his handle is exceptional and he toys with defenders in both isolation sets and off the pick-and-roll. His step-back jumper game is already next level, as he can cleanly execute it going in any direction. He’s also very comfortable playing off the ball and knows how to change speeds.
Sekou Doumbouya, Forward, Guinea
STRENGTHS -Gifted athlete with excellent fluidity and explosiveness -Very high upside; Still raw and relying on natural talent at this point in his career. -Will only be 18 on draft day -Potential as shooter.
The 18 year old stands 6-foot-9 and runs the lanes in transition with fluidity. He’ll earn his paycheck initially as a defender and by slamming home loose rebounds. Sekou will be drafted high based off of his potential, as he already has the look of a player that can guard multiple positions on the block and on the wing.
Jaxson Hayes, Center, Texas
Iowa State forward Jaxson Hayes’ highlights from the 2018-19 basketball season. Check out his full season highlights with the Longhorns this year. SUBSCRIBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw4dyfv39tfR77pkCtS4iaw Visit the Stadium website: http://www.watchstadium.com Follow Stadium on Twitter: https://twitter.com/watchstadium Like Stadium on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/watchstadium Follow Stadium on Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/WatchStadium
The top rated center in this year’s draft class, Hayes stands 7-foot tall and runs the floor with the athletic fluidity of a much smaller man. Possessing an excellent set of hands, he catches and dunks everything that’s fed to him down low. And he’s not just a dunker, he has a soft touch as well, along with being an outstanding shot blocker.
Romeo Langford, Small Forward, Indiana
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The second best small forward in this class behind Duke’s Cam Reddish, Langford stands 6-foot-6 and has a 6-foot-11 wingspan. He has great offensive instincts, both as a scorer and as a facilitator. Langford has an array of skills as a rebounder and defender as well.