The NBA is so unique because a single player can change the course of your entire franchise for 15+ years. Just ask the Cleveland Cavaliers, who went from perennial laughing stock to championship contender overnight after they drafted Lebron James. That is why tanking has become the popular trend in today’s NBA that is dominated by superstars. It is a trend Adam Silver and the league have tried to diminish by decreasing the lottery odds for the worst teams. With that being said, nothing can stop teams from tanking this season in hopes of landing one of Duke’s prized freshman.
Yes, we are only two games into the college basketball season, yet the Duke freshman have already established themselves as the cream of the crop of this year’s draft class as if we didn’t already know that coming into the season. In CBS Sports most recent mock draft, they have the freshman trio going 1,2 and 3 respectively in the draft.
Zion Williamson is obviously the most talked about of the three and for good reason. The 6’7″ freshman weighs somewhere around 280 pounds and built like a brick wall. There simply isn’t another athlete in any sport, ever, that has come around like this. He combines that size with a 40+ inch vertical, making for some of the most ferocious dunks we have ever seen, period. Just take a look at some of the dunks from his senior year in high school.
However, coming into college, there were still some doubters surrounding Williamson. Is he anything more than a dunker? Can he shoot, pass or even dribble? People attempted to knit-pick at his game, but after two games it is clear as day: Zion Williamson is the best player in college basketball. He is physically more dominant than all of his opponents, he can dribble, he’s got really nice vision and his ability to block shots is downright scary. He is yet to really show a consistent jumper, but that is something that comes with time, and frankly, he does not even need that right now. I understand the need for some reporters to be different, but its laughable for anyone projecting someone else other than Williamson going #1 overall. The guy is averaging 27.5 points on 81.5% shooting, 11.5 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and 3 assists for crying out loud.
For those who do not have Williamson going #1, they have R.J. Barrett, the #1 overall recruit coming out of high school. I don’t want to cut on Barrett because Williamson should be the first pick. In most years, Barrett would be a clear cut #1 pick. He is 6’7″ with great handles and can shoot it from all over the court. His size as a freshman is also quite noticeable. He can finish around defenders, through them and even over them with a dunk of his own. Pairing him with Trae Young would instantly put together two of the best young scoring threats in basketball today.
Then there is the sometimes forgotten Cam Reddish. And let’s be clear, he is only somewhat forgotten because of who he plays with. Reddish is an absolute freak in his own right, coming out of high school as the #2 overall recruit. So far, he has been the most consistent of the three hitting from behind the arc. He has already attempted 21 of them in two games and made 10 (47.6%). At 6’8″ with a long wingspan, it is hard to imagine him not finding his way into multiple All-Star games as an NBA player.
All three of these guys are going to be absolute studs at the NBA level, which is going to create quite a predicament for Adam Silver and the NBA office. The tanking rules are nowhere near severe enough, and all of these guys are worth any kind of penalty the league would hand down. With the Golden State Warriors the clear favorite to win the NBA title again, and very few teams really attempting to compete with them, there will be an overload of teams trying to do as poorly as possible in hopes of landing one of these players. Hopefully, the Hawks can be one of the lucky few to find themselves with a top 3 pick.