In the eyes of many fans, the NBA draft lottery is a frustrating headache of a system which often times fails to help the bottom teams in the league. It’s partially meant to avoid tanking, but we’ve seen that hasn’t worked in the past for the most part. But the 2019 NBA Draft could have a franchise-changing impact for 3-4 teams specifically, starting with the likes of Zion Williamson and Ja Morant.
With all due respect to RJ Barrett, it’s hard to place him above Williamson or Morant at this moment. But Morant, who led the Murray State Racers to a 28-4 start to the season, including their first-round tournament upset, has seen his stock continue to rise throughout the year. But once it pushed him up around the No. 2 spot behind Williamson, that’s where the buck stopped.
Following Murray State’s impressive 83-64 win over the Marquette Golden Eagles, Morant’s name was sending shockwaves across social media and the entire basketball world. He racked up a triple-double with 17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds while shooting 5-of-9 from the field and dominating in every aspect.
At this point, Morant has made the conversation for who should be the top pick between himself and Williamson a legitimate argument, but it’s not just because of his numbers.
Ja Morant’s Argument to Be Picked Over Zion Williamson
Going back to the lottery discussion, the team who lands the No. 1 pick is going to be a situation to monitor. If it’s the New York Knicks, the Duke Blue Devils star will almost certainly be the selection. The Knicks have point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who was acquired via trade this year, along with a qualifying offer for Emmanuel Mudiay for the 2019-20 season.
Adding Zion just makes sense for the Knicks, but what about a team like the Phoenix Suns or even the Chicago Bulls? The Suns have been desperately searching for a point guard and have a talented young core in place which includes Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, TJ Warren, Kelly Oubre (free agent), Josh Jackson and a few others.
Williamson is unquestionably the player with the highest upside of anyone there, but adding Morant makes Phoenix more complete. The Suns need a point guard, there’s no questioning that, and maybe they would try to swing a deal to swap with the No. 2 team in order to get Morant later and add draft capital. Or, maybe they’d just pick the Racers star at No. 1.
As for the Bulls, they boast a group which includes Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter, Wendell Carter and a few other interesting names. But while Kris Dunn is their current starting point guard, he’s been hit-or-miss during his time in Chicago. The team could keep him as a backup, or trade his affordable contract which has a club option for 2019-20 of just north of $5.348 million, per Spotrac.
However the Dunn situation plays out, the addition of Morant could make the Bulls a legitimate playoff contender.
Zion Williamson Remains Can’t-Miss Prospect
When the NBA draft lottery is revealed, it’s hard to argue that if a team opts to select Morant over Williamson, it’s going to come with scrutiny. Williamson is a 6-foot-7, 285-pound forward who has athleticism that rivals any player in NBA history. He’s the type of name who teams regret passing on, which is why most wouldn’t dare do so.
With that said, the only realistic and understandable reason for a team to not select Williamson is if they have a desperate need for a point guard. Morant is one of the most highly-touted prospects at the position to enter the draft since Ben Simmons (now a point guard) and before that, Kyrie Irving in 2011.
The consensus seems to be that whichever teams land the top-two picks are in can’t-lose spots with these prospects. But if the Suns or Bulls (among one or two others) earn the No. 1 selection, things could get interesting.