Let me preface this by saying that I don’t know shit about college basketball or the incoming draft class. I’ll watch the tournament each year and watch highlights on some of the top players, but besides that I am relatively ignorant about the draft field. What have I been doing since the process began you ask? Well, blindly throwing my support behind whatever consensus pick that 76ers fans want, of course.
Having said that, it would have been impossible to ignore Zion this year. The dude is a freak of nature and probably the strongest consensus number one since, dare I say, LeBron James. With that comes with the unbearable media attention that the dude is getting and most likely doesn’t even remotely want. The best NBA Draft Lottery in years that any NBA fan outside of New York or LA would’ve enjoyed thoroughly was partially ravaged by Rachel Nichols and Woj’s non-stop talking about Zion. Saying things like the team that wins the lottery doesn’t get to pick first overall, but rather is anointed to “draft Zion.” That is why the following image saddened me, but did not surprise me. I warn you, this is very graphic:
That is Georgian NBA Prospect Goga Bitadze looking on at the mob of press swarming Zion’s area and nobody is there to talk to him. Now again, I don’t know shit about any of these players, so I figured that Goga was a late second rounder if that. I mean why else would they swarm Zion (who is a very humble young man) and not want to learn more about dear Goga. But, wrong I was again. Goga (according to tankathon.com) is a top 15 NBA prospect while NBA draft expert Will Rucker has him 6th on his big board. So that inspired me to do more digging and find out about this future star.
One of the youngest players in this class, young Goga is only 19 and plays for the Mega Bemax which, naturally, is shortened from Košarkaški klub Mega Basket. He is one-half inch away from being 7 feet and plays Center. For the 2018-2019 season he won the Euroleague Rising Star Award which is essentially the equivalent to the Rookie Of The Year in the Euroleague. He plays for the Georgian national team as well. So far Goga has worked out for the Spurs, the Hornets, the Celtics, the Hawks and the Pistons. His father also was a professional basketball player although his promising career was tragically cut short due to injuries.
The scouts tell me that Goga has drastically improved over the last season. Although he may lack some athleticism, his jump-shot has greatly improved to the point where is no longer just a threat in the paint. The chances of him being used as a stretch 5 are likely as he is becoming more and more of a threat from 15-20 foot jumpers.
He has also had success in Europe in pick and roll situations which scouts who are bullish on Goga think will translate into the NBA. Besides his lack of athleticism in some cases, the biggest knock on Goga’s draft stock appears to be his defense. Despite being an effective shot blocker, Goga regularly gets into foul trouble. The team that drafts Mr. Bitadze will have to work on his defensive discipline going forward. Anyway here’s a highlight tape handpicked with some of his best plays:
I give him a ceiling of Nikola Jokic with a floor of Anzejs Pasecniks! I’m not willing to go on the record quite yet saying that he will be better than Zion simply because the revenge from rookie media availability day will fuel him, but I’m getting there. He seems to be a good kid. When asked today what he thought about Zion getting the majority of the attention it said that it “makes him more hungry” that “Zion is a great player” and it didn’t bother him “at all” Best of luck kid!