2019 NBA Draft Day

The draft really starts at 4. Right?

Jim Rome
June 20, 2019 - 9:40 am
Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett

USA Today


The NBA Draft takes place tonight in Brooklyn, but let’s be real, the first pick in the draft was made back in November. I hate to go all Woj on you by tipping this pick, but Zion Williamson will be the first pick in the draft.

That was clear from the moment he took the floor against Kentucky in the season opener. It was clear the moment he did this.

And if you were still on the fence in the first half of that game, he wrapped it up in the second half with this.

Blocked shot to fastbreak to assist. Better yet – he just pulled the shot out of the sky, took it the other way, and set up the finish. 

It’s easy to forget what that night was like. He went for 28 points on 11-for-13 shooting, seven rebounds, two assists, and one steal. In his very first college game. And that wasn’t against a bunch of scrubs. That wasn’t some D-III school being fed to the wolves. That was Kentucky. And Duke put 100 on them in less than 33 minutes.

At that point, it was only a matter of which team would get the first pick, not who would be the first pick.

But there’s more with Zion. There was the time he went to block a shot and slammed into the backboard. Not his hand into the backboard, his head. Or his tricep. Or his chest.

Do you remember that? Or the time where tickets to see him in a regular season game were going for Super Bowl prices. Or, if you’re a true basketball fan, do you remember how sick you felt when you saw him blow out his shoe against North Carolina?

And then came back and dominated the moment he stepped on the floor again.

So yeah, he’ll be the first pick in the draft. And rightly so. There hasn’t been a more no-doubt first pick lock in years. The question at this point isn’t if he’ll be good, but how good will he be? Is he the second coming of Draymond? Is he Sir Charles 2.0? Or is he completely different?

Because while his reach and length are a little less than Draymond’s, Zion is 50 pounds heavier. And yet somehow can jump higher. Like Draymond, he can defend every position. And like Draymond, his motor is absurd. It isn’t just that Zion is an amazing athlete, it’s that he does not turn off. He is flying at 100 percent every time he steps on the floor.

And here’s the other piece of un-dramatic news about tonight, the second pick is pretty much a lock as well. You could’ve started printing the Ja Morant Grizzlies jerseys on the night of the lottery, but that went into overdrive yesterday when Memphis traded Mike Conley. They are rebuilding and that rebuild will be around Ja.

Like Zion, that pick was announced when he went for 17 points, 16 assists, and 11 rebounds against Marquette in the NCAA tournament. And the exact moment? It was when he did this.

Adam Silver might as well have just stopped the game there, walked onto the court, and made the announcement right then.

And I know what you’re thinking – Hey Rome, if everyone knows the first two picks, there’s got to be some drama at three, right? Wrong.

Because RJ Barrett has been locked into that spot with the Knicks ever since the lottery. There’s been some talk of Darius Garland, but it sure doesn’t feel like it’s been anything more than talk and smoke.

So at this point, through the first three picks, the only mystery is what kind of suits will guys be wearing? Does anyone have the stones to pull off Peja’s suit from back in the day? Or Drew Gooden’s Doctor Evil look? How about Carmelo’s suit – high volume buttons for a high volume shooter.

And most importantly, does anyone have the stones to pull off The Samaki Walker? I’m talking cream suit and matching cream hat. If I’m a GM and I see someone coming in wearing that, I’m re-arranging my draft board immediately. If someone does that, I’m putting together an Anthony Davis trade package to go get that dude.

But sadly, I don’t think anyone will go for that, which means the real drama will start with the fourth pick.

Right now, New Orleans holds that pick, courtesy of the Lakers, and this is where things get interesting. Do they take Garland, even with Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball in the backcourt? Or do they take someone like DeAndre Hunter or Jarrett Culver? Or do they move the pick? And if so, what can they get for it?

Does Minnesota come up to get it? Does Chicago? How many trades will we see tonight? What’s the over under on that? A billion? There are so many moving pieces, so many teams looking to position themselves not just for tonight, but for free agency – trying to keep space for max deal players, but also be able to fill out a roster.

The draft starts at 7:30, but really it starts when New Orleans goes on the clock at four.