Forget Powerball -- power forward Williamson is the prize in this lottery

  • Duke forward Zion Williamson is the consensus No. 1 pick when the NBA Draft is held next month. Tuesday night in Chicago, the NBA will conduct its draft lottery. The Bulls have a slim chance of landing Williamson.

    Duke forward Zion Williamson is the consensus No. 1 pick when the NBA Draft is held next month. Tuesday night in Chicago, the NBA will conduct its draft lottery. The Bulls have a slim chance of landing Williamson. Associated Press

Updated 5/13/2019 6:12 PM

There's really only one way to approach Tuesday's monumental NBA Draft lottery:

Prepare to be disappointed.


Sure, the Chicago Bulls could win the right to draft freakishly athletic Duke power forward Zion Williamson, but there's an 87.5% chance they won't get the No. 1 pick.

Under the NBA's new "anti-tanking" format, the best odds any team has is 14%, shared by New York, Cleveland and Phoenix, the teams with the three worst records. In the old days, which ended last year, the Knicks would have had a 25% chance at the top pick.

Still, Tuesday is the biggest day of the Bulls' offseason, considering what's at stake. For the second straight year, the draft lottery will be held in Chicago, this time at the Hilton on South Michigan Avenue. The event begins at 6:30 p.m., preceding Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Horace Grant will represent the Bulls on stage.

Besides the odds, the other significant change is the top four picks will be chosen by lottery, then the teams line up based on worst record. In the past, the top three picks were chosen by lottery. This means the Bulls could end up selecting anywhere from first to eighth.

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Williamson is a virtual lock to be the top pick at the June 20 draft. It would be no surprise if the lottery winner pulls out a Williamson jersey on stage.

Williamson finished an impressive freshman season, averaging 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds while shooting 68 percent from the field. Listed at 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds, he's one of the most impressive leapers to hit the draft since probably Blake Griffin in 2009.

The Bulls have won the No. 1 pick at the lottery twice since the championship era ended. They took Elton Brand in 1999 and Derrick Rose in 2008. The Bulls had only a 1.7% chance to get the top pick when they got Rose.

Did the Bulls deplete their allotment of lottery luck back in '08? Well, don't forget Cleveland won the top pick three times in four years from 2011 to 2014. So anything's possible. With the new odds in place, there's a better chance one of the bottom-three teams won't win the lottery.


If the Bulls land the No. 2 pick, they'll likely focus on Murray State point guard Ja Morant, another electrifying athlete who could conceivably fit comfortably with Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. to form a starting five for the future.

Morant, listed at 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, averaged 24.5 points and 10 assists during his sophomore season. Those numbers were unprecedented in college basketball history.

After the top two, the draft gets a little murky. Duke forwards R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, Texas Tech swingman Jarrett Culver and Virginia shooting guard DeAndre Hunter are likely to be in the next wave of selections.

There are also some guys who could move up as they work out for teams. Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland was a top high school prospect who played just five games last season due to an injury. Forward Sekou Doumbouya, a Guinea native who played professionally in France, is something of a raw prospect with high upside. North Carolina freshman Coby White is a 6-5 point guard who played well last season.

The actual procedure of drawing numbers in the lottery has not changed. Pingpong balls numbered 1 through 14 are dropped into a bin and four at a time are selected. Every possible combination is assigned to a specific team.

Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson addressed the team's long lottery odds at his postseason news conference.

"Luck and hope are not a strategy or a plan," Paxson said.

Some NBA dynasties were built on lottery luck, though. A little hoping won't hurt.

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls


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