For the fourth time in five years, the Los Angeles Lakers will be at the NBA Draft Lottery in May, where 13 teams will be hoping to land the No. 1 pick in the draft, and the ensuing opportunity to select Duke superstar Zion Williamson.
The 6-foot-7, 285-pound freshman forward is arguably the biggest high school superstar since LeBron James, and he’s even drawn comparisons to the King because of his otherworldly athleticism. Williamson has the leaping ability of Zach LaVine while weighing just five less pounds than Boban Marjanovic, the heaviest player in the NBA.
Boban is a 7-foot-3, 30-year-old center. Zion is 18 years old. Are you f***ing kidding me?
Williamson is going to come into the league with a ton of hype and James is already offering to take the freshman phenom under his wing:
LeBron was asked if he had any advice for Zion (yes, in his postgame interview):— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) March 17, 2019
"I got a lot of advice. It's not hard to find me if you want to get it."
James and his agent, Rich Paul, went to see Williamson and the Blue Devils play in February, and there was speculation at the time that their attendance might have been a recruiting trip for Klutch Sports, but James shot that rumor down quickly (via Dave McMenamin of ESPN):
“A recruiting trip? I didn’t talk to anybody,” James told ESPN.
”They’re only saying that because it’s Rich. When Shaq came to see me play in high school, when A.I. came to see me play in high school, they weren’t saying it was a recruiting trip then. But because it’s Rich Paul and LeBron, now it’s a recruitment trip.
”Now Rich is a threat to everybody, and they look at it and they want to keep trying to jab my agent and jab my friend. And what is he doing that’s wrong? They don’t say that about no other agent when other guys go see [players]. They don’t say that about no other agent, but my guy because he’s a threat.
”And he’s African-American, too. Throw that in there.”
However, Williamson is more likely to be a Klutch client by the start of the season than a Laker.
The Lakers currently have just a three percent chance of winning the NBA Draft Lottery with a 31-39 record. The last time a team has won the lottery with more than 30 wins was in 2014, when the Cleveland Cavaliers leapfrogged eight teams for the No. 1 pick. A few months later, James announced his decision to return to Cleveland.
While it would poetic for the Lakers to win the lottery the same year they land a superstar free agent of their own, their odds aren’t great. The Lakers — who have the 10th-worst record in the NBA at 31-39 — currently have a three percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick in the lottery, and are one game “behind” the Washington Wizards (30-40) for the ninth-worst record. Even if the Lakers leapfrogged the Wizards, though, they would still only have a 4.5 percent chance to win the No. 1 pick.
Still, James’ relationship with Williamson might pay dividends 10 years from now, when the Lakers are recruiting Williamson in free agency. Who knows? Maybe James talking about how player-centric the Lakers’ culture is can have an effect on his young protege.