LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Zion, Zion, Zion, Zion, Zion, Zion, Zion, Zion, Zion, Zion, Zion, Zion, Zion, Zion.
I could say it a thousand more times but I stopped at 14 — one for every spot in the NBA Draft Lottery. That still likely is not enough to satisfy the folks at ESPN, Duke or the recruiting services.
This NBA Draft, the one that will unfold June 20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., begins and ends with Zion Williamson, the guy whose college season ended one game shy of the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament.
In this NBA Draft there is Zion and there is everybody else — or nobody else, depending upon your perspective on the remainder of the group that many analysts consider an average to below-average draft class.
The New Orleans Pelicans won the first spot in the lottery. They will take Zion. Zion will not force his way to another franchise. Everybody will live happily ever after.
... let’s see if you can answer this question: How many overall Number One draft picks are still competing in the 2019 NBA playoffs?
I asked that question in the WDRB Sports Department Thursday — and three people failed to deliver the answer. (I'll withhold the names of my co-workers to prevent embarrassment in the ranks.)
The answer is one — Andrew Bogut, taken first by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2005.
This will be your response to that trivial tidbit: Big deal.
Zion Williamson is a more dynamic and talented player than everybody drafted first since 2003, the year the Cleveland Cavaliers selected LeBron James out of St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School in Akron.
Williamson is certainly more likely to succeed than Markell Fultz (2017), Anthony Bennett (2013) or Andrea Bargnani (2006), all members of the Overall Number One Pick club.
But Ben Simmons went to Philadelphia from Louisiana State with awfully sizzling credentials in 2016. I don’t have to hype anything Anthony Davis did for Kentucky during the Wildcats’ 2011-12 NCAA Championship season.
Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard?
Hardly terrible, any of them.
Question Number Two: How many of the last 15 overall top picks, starting with Howard in 2004, have won NBA titles?
The answer is two — Bogut as the fifth wheel with the Warriors and Irving, as Robin to LeBron James’s Batman in Cleveland.
It’s not a knock at Williamson, a tremendous prospect because of his unique blend of size, bulk and athleticism. I believe he will be a wonderful NBA player, although I do wonder if he is at risk of being exposed as an undersized power forward with a questionable shooting stroke.
Consider this a reminder there are hits and misses — even with the overall first selection in the NBA Draft.
In fact, I dug a bit deeper into the connection between Draft history and the current playoffs.
What if I told you one of the four teams competing in the 2019 playoffs made it to the conference finals without a lottery pick?
Trust me. It’s true. Check the Eastern Conference finals. Between the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks, there is one guy taken in the first 14 selections of his draft year.
Not Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors’ Mr. Everything.
He went No. 15 to San Antonio out of San Diego State in 2011.
That was 13 spots behind Derrick Williams, nine behind Jan Vesely, seven behind Brandon Knight and five behind Jimmer Fredette.
Not Giannis Antetokounmpo.
He also went No. 15 to Milwaukee from his club team in Greece in 2013.
That was 14 spots behind Bennett, 11 spots behind Cody Zeller, 9 behind Nerlens Noel and one behind recruiting poster child Shabazz Muhammad.
Who is the sole lottery pick performing in the Eastern Conference Finals?
That would be Brook Lopez of Milwaukee, who was taken 10th, seven spots behind O.J. Mayo and one behind D.J. Augustin in 2008.
By my count there are 12 lottery picks still competing in the 2019 NBA playoffs.
Six are members of the Golden State Warriors — Bogut; DeMarcus Cousins (injured); Kevin Durant (also injured), Steph Curry; Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.
Portland, the other team in the Western Conference finals, counters with five lottery guys — Al-Farouq Aminu; Enes Kanter; C.J. McCollum, Damian Lillard and Evan Turner.
In the East — it’s Brook Lopez.
Remember that name.
And remember, your draft credentials guarantee little in these NBA playoffs.
Copyright 2019 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.