If you’re looking for an NBA draft prospect you can identify with, meet Goga Bitadze.
A 6-foot-11 center from the country of Georgia, he became an Internet sensation Wednesday when a sad photo of his pre-draft media availability was widely shared. As Zion Williamson, the expected No. 1 pick Thursday night by the New Orleans Pelicans, drew the kind of attention an expected No. 1 pick draws, Bitadze sat in adjacent podium, casting a look that was part wistful and part boredom.
Bitadze had all the right answers when he realized his unwitting participation in a photo to remember.
“It just makes me more hungry and humble to see this guy [Williamson] get a lot of focus,” he told Eurohoops as he rode through the streets of New York. “I know he’s a great player, he’s probably the top player but that doesn’t bother me at all. I had people come and ask me questions so it doesn’t bother me at all. It’s all good and I’m really excited about this process.”
A 245-pound EuroLeague center, the 19-year-old Bitadze may well hear his name called early Thursday night. In its latest mock draft, SI.com has him going to the Boston Celtics with the 14th pick; Yahoo and CBS predict he’ll be the 18th pick by the Indiana Pacers. The mock-draft consensus is that he’ll be a mid-round pick.
The Post’s Matthew Giles rates him 20th among its top 50 prospects. “[He] has all the tools the NBA covets — a burgeoning offensive game in which he currently does all the little things (executing dribble-handoffs) correctly, while consistently working on refining the big things (a perimeter game and lateral defensive quickness),” Giles wrote.
CBS’s Gary Parrish praised his “motor,” a popular word whenever a draft in any sport rolls around. “Franchises now prefer skilled floor-spacing bigs who can comfortably step away from the basket and make shots like Bitadze. What he lacks in athleticism he makes up for with a motor that runs well. His addition would give the Pacers’ coaching staff some interesting options in the frontcourt.”
If the media swarm indicated a lack of respect, it’s one that isn’t shared by NBA players past and present.
Draymond Green, who knows how it feels to be passed over in the draft, wrote on Slam’s Instagram page: “He should frame this pic... look at it every day and grind!” Dwyane Wade added, “Use it as fuel.” Zaza Pachulia wrote: “It’s not how you start, it’s about how you finish it. Prove them wrong.” And Bam Adebayo noted: “That’s Motivation.”
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