Cryin' for Zion already? Don't forget NBA's new anti-tanking lottery rules

 
 
Updated 11/8/2018 12:02 PM
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  • Duke forward Zion Williamson glides in for two points against Kentucky in the Champions Classic Tuesday in Indianapolis. He is one of three Duke freshmen already well known in NBA circles.

    Duke forward Zion Williamson glides in for two points against Kentucky in the Champions Classic Tuesday in Indianapolis. He is one of three Duke freshmen already well known in NBA circles. Associated Press

  • Duke forward R.J. Barrett maneuvers around Kentucky's Reid Travis during Tuesday's Champions Classic in Indianapolis.

    Duke forward R.J. Barrett maneuvers around Kentucky's Reid Travis during Tuesday's Champions Classic in Indianapolis. Associated Press

  • Duke forward Cam Reddish helped lead the way in a 118-84 victory over Kentucky Tuesday at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis.

    Duke forward Cam Reddish helped lead the way in a 118-84 victory over Kentucky Tuesday at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis. Associated Press

The NBA's worst teams face a conundrum this season.

While the league will institute a new anti-tanking draft lottery format, most fan bases are probably Cryin' for Zion or OK for R.J., after Duke's freshmen dominated their college basketball opener against Kentucky Tuesday.

Zion Williamson is the 6-foot-7, 285 pound -- yeah, I'm skeptical, but that's his official weight on the roster -- freak of nature athlete who scored 28 points and hit 11 of 13 shots against Kentucky.

R.J. Barrett, a 6-7 Canadian, scored 33 points and still somehow got overshadowed by his teammate. The third hyped Duke freshman, 6-8 Cam Reddish, wasn't bad either, with 22 points.

Naturally, the swift reaction from fans of the Bulls and other lower-rung NBA franchises was, how much gas is needed to fire up that tank?

Understandable, but keep in mind the NBA tried to put the brakes on tanking with new draft lottery odds. In the old days, which ended last May, the team with the worst record would have a 25 percent chance to win the lottery, while the second-worst team would get 19.9 percent of the lottery combinations and 15.6 percent for the third-worst.

Next May, the teams with the three worst records all get a 14 percent chance at the top pick. The odds improve for the not-as-bad teams. For example, the team with the seventh-worst record used to get a 4.3 percent chance at the top pick. Now it's 7.5 percent.

As of Thursday morning, the Bulls owned the fourth-worst record in the NBA at 3-9. Maybe they'll get a lot better when Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis return. Or perhaps more injuries will cause the Bulls to bounce down the standings.

To Tank Nation, just keep in mind while watching the Duke freshmen this season, the reward for losing has gotten smaller.

Carter not top contender

One of Duke's sophomores -- more accurately, one of last year's freshmen who turned pro -- has been a pleasant surprise for the Bulls.

Center Wendell Carter Jr. had his moments Wednesday during his first matchup against New Orleans all-star Anthony Davis. Carter is averaging 15.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks the last five games.

If anyone is starting to plan a rookie of the year campaign, slow down. Based on early returns, Carter is not a lock to even make the five-man all-rookie first team.

Dallas' Luka Doncic and Atlanta's Trae Young have sprinted to an early lead for top rookie. Doncic averages 20.2 points while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range on more attempts per game than Young.

Young's 3-point shot has been way off (27.1 percent), but he's averaging 18.6 points and shooting a respectable 42.3 percent overall.

Carter is a contender for the title of best rookie big man. His recent numbers compare well to Phoenix center DeAndre Ayton's 15.9 points and 10.9 rebounds. Carter's former Duke teammate, Sacramento's Marvin Bagley, is at 12.8 points and 6.5 rebounds. Memphis' Jaren Jackson Jr. checks in at 12.1 points and 4.8 rebounds. Among those four, Carter is well ahead in blocked shots.

The other three rookie big men all play in the West, so Carter will only get a couple chances at head-to-head matchups. Doncic and Dallas visit the United Center Monday.

Rose blooms again

Derrick Rose's 50-point game seemed to catch the NBA world pleasantly surprised. The former Bulls MVP was back at it late Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Rose scored 31 points, hitting a career-high 7 of 9 shots from 3-point range. Yes, you read that correctly. Rose went 7-for-9 from long range.

The Timberwolves trailed by 7 points late in the game before Rose knocked down a couple 3s to get within 1. After the Lakers missed some free throws, Rose couldn't knock down a potential go-ahead 3 in the final seconds. Another ex-Bull, Tyson Chandler, made his Lakers debut and jumped out to contest the final 3. He appeared to hit Rose's shooting hand after the release, but Minnesota didn't get the call and the Lakers won 114-110.

The TimberBulls dropped to 4-8 on the season, one game better than the actual Bulls.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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