‘A gift from God’: Zion set for superstardom
NBA superstardom and a potential $US100-million shoe deal awaits basketball's next big thing Zion Williamson, but the future of three young Australians is not so certain.
Matur Maker, William McDowell-White and Harry Froling will endure nervous waits when the NBA Draft gets underway on Thursday (Friday 9am AEST) in Brooklyn, New York.
Williamson, the 18-year-old North Carolina-born forward described by his Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski as "a gift from God", is all but certain to be selected by the New Orleans Pelicans with the No.1 pick.
The 201cm tall, 130kg forward is billed as the best prospect to enter the draft since LeBron James, but he is not comfortable with comparisons.
"I'm just trying to be the first Zion," Williamson told reporters on Wednesday. The Memphis Grizzlies are expected to select Murray State point guard Ja Morant with the second pick and Williamson's Duke team-mate, guard/forward RJ Barrett, appears likely to be selected third by the struggling New York Knicks. Maker, McDowell-White and Froling have been on the NBA draft workout circuit in recent weeks in an attempt to impress teams, but it is likely they will not have their names called out.
The Australians barely rate a mention on the countless mock drafts created by NBA analysts.
Fellow Australian Matthew Dellavedova proved in 2013 going undrafted is not the death knell for an NBA career with the Victorian securing a berth on the Cleveland Cavaliers' Summer League team, impressing enough to earn a contract, pairing with James to win an NBA title in 2016 and signing a four-year $US38-million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Maker, the 21-year-old, 208cm brother of the Detroit Pistons' Australian big man Thon Maker, held a workout with the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday. The power forward also worked out with the Pistons where he swatted away comparisons to his 216cm older brother.
"We're different," he told reporters at Detroit's Auburn Hills practice facility.
"He loves the three, I love the midrange.
"I guard more guards, he guards more bigs.
"I'll say I'm quicker because I love guarding the guards." Brisbane's McDowell-White, a 21-year-old, 196cm guard who had a short stint with the Sydney Kings and played in Germany the past two years, has worked out with recently crowned NBA champions Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Hornets and Pelicans.
The 211cm, 21-year-old Froling, the NBL's reigning rookie of the year after a strong season with the Adelaide 36ers, has worked out with multiple teams, including three teams with an appetite for Australians - the Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.