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Houston Rockets vs. New York Knicks game preview

NBA: Houston Rockets at New York Knicks Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time for our annual “If the NBA Lottery is rigged, who is winning it?” preview. With tonight’s opponents being the NBA-worst New York Knicks, it seems like a good time for it.

Now, I’ve written this preview for a few years now and it seems safe to say that the lottery isn’t rigged. With the procedure the NBA uses and how every step is observable by the teams, it feels impossible to fix the results. The data supports it too: the last time a Los Angeles or New York team won the lottery was ten years ago when the Clippers won it. Since then, Cleveland’s won it three times, Philadelphia (a large market, for sure) twice, and a handful of smaller markets have won it as one-offs.

But facts are no fun, as any Harden hater will tell you. So let’s ignore that and look at whom the NBA would want to win the Zion Williamson Sweepstakes if they could doctor the results. Time for tinfoil hats!

1. New York Knicks (odds of #1 pick: 14%)

This one is obvious. The Knicks are the most valuable franchise in the NBA by a decent margin. Imagine how much more money and attention they could garner with Zion at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks are a franchise in disarray with James Dolan being an idiot and the Kristaps Porzingis rape allegation. Williamson could be the dawn of a new age in New York.

2. Los Angeles Lakers (2.5%)

Yes, the NBA would love for Zion to land in Los Angeles. Either LeBron could take his heir apparent under his wing and turn him into an incredible force, or LeBron could have Zion traded to get another established superstar to LA like he did with Andrew Wiggins in Cleveland. My guess is that the Lakers front office wouldn’t want to trade Zion unless they were getting a top 8 player back in the trade.

3. Chicago Bulls (12.5%)

The Bulls have been plucky at times this season after struggling to gain their footing following the midseason hire of Jim Boylen. Now, it seems that the team has bought into Boylen’s methods and the city of Chicago would be ready to accept Zion with open arms.

4. New Orleans Pelicans (5.3%)

If the league feels like it owes the Pels after their season was disrupted by the trade rumors coming from the Lakers, LeBron, and Rich Paul, this could be a tidy gift. The Pels are almost certainly trading Anthony Davis this summer, and this would give them an immediate replacement. Rockets fans would be pissed to see yet another star land in the Southwest Division when it feels like the old guard has/will have moved on after this season (AD, Marc Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki).

5. Atlanta Hawks (10.5%)

Admittedly, Trae Young has come on so well in the final weeks that he’s made the Rookie of the Year race a discussion. Luka Doncic will still win the award going away, but it says a lot that Young hasn’t crumbled. Imagining Trae-Zion pick-and-rolls over the next 10+ years is a pretty tantalizing prospect. Also, Atlanta would allow for some fun headlines, like “From A(TL) to Z(ion).”

The lottery will take place on May 14, so we’ll find out then where Zion Williamson should be heading for the first few years of his career.

The Knicks haven’t won a road game since Valentine’s Day. Houston knows that if they win out, they will be at worst the third seed in the Western Conference. This seems like it should be a blowout. Then again, so did the first meeting between these teams and it took a career night from James Harden and a clutch triple from Eric Gordon for the Rockets to escape MSG with a win.

Tip-off is at 7pm CT