CHICAGO — The Knicks and Patrick Ewing are due. The big night has finally arrived after all the 2018-19 tanking for Zion Williamson.
Ewing never had much prosperity in Chicago against Michael Jordan’s Bulls. But now the Knicks’ 7-foot-1 good-luck charm must step up on Tuesday and create a Williamson windfall.
Ewing, 34 years after the Knicks won his rights in the NBA’s first draft lottery, will represent the franchise on the dais with pingpong-ball dreams of winning Williamson, the 6-foot-7, 285-pound lefty genius for whom some predict NBA superstardom.
At worst, Williamson is a marketing dream and would mark the first landmark step in raising the Knicks from the NBA’s very bottom.
“In the right situation, his potential is endless,’’ one NBA executive not in the lottery told The Post. “With the Knicks, they have a young core so he’d fit perfectly at the 4 spot.’’
Winning the opportunity to draft Williamson would also put the Knicks in play for an Anthony Davis Sweepstakes Part II. Williamson’s presence would mark another drawing card for top free agent Kevin Durant, who already has the Knicks on his radar. Durant’s best position is small forward, making a tandem with Williams perfect.
According to Apex Marketing, a Zion-led Knicks team alone would see more than three times the amount of national TV broadcasts than the franchise appeared on this past season. With that national increase, the Knicks likely would see more than a 70 percent increase in their sponsor values, the marketing firm said.
Now the bad news. Despite their league-worst 17-65 record, the Knicks have just a 14 percent chance of winning and 40.2 percent chance of being in the top 3 in what some see as a three-star draft (Williamson, RJ Barrett and Ja Morant). That gives the Knicks a 59.8 percent chance of dropping to the fourth or fifth picks thanks to lottery reform installed for 2019.
Hence, Knicks GM Scott Perry, assured of a top-five selection, doesn’t want to put all his eggs in one Zion basket.
“[Tuesday] is another step in our building process as an organization,’’ Perry said in an ESPN Radio appearance Monday. “What we know about [Tuesday] is going to yield a top-five pick, whether it’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. We’re going to be prepared for whatever happens in that room with the pingpong balls. We know that we’re going to be able to add a good basketball player into an environment that we think is very suited and conducive to developing young players.’’
Though Georgetown’s head coach, Ewing becomes the face of the Knicks once again for one potentially glorious evening. Coach David Fizdale, Perry and president Steve Mills won’t be on the premises when the franchise attempts to reverse years of lottery misfortune at the Chicago Hilton Hotel.
While Zion oozes charisma and is a dunk machine, there are anti-Williamson naysayers. With a modest 6-10½ wingspan, he may not be able to bull himself to the bucket as often in the NBA. He has an average 3-point shot, is a below-average free-throw shooter.
ESPN’s Seth Greenberg told The Post that Williamson could use a pull-up jumper and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim stated Williamson’s game could get bottled up during the NBA playoffs. Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said some NBA teams feel Barrett could turn into the better pro, but that Williamson has to be the first choice — if only for marketing purposes.
Williamson, Barrett and Cam Reddish, also a potential high lottery pick, couldn’t get their Duke Blue Devils beyond the Elite 8 in the NCAA Tournament.
“[Failing to reach the Final Four] isn’t the end-all, be-all, but it has to be part of the equation,’’ one NBA scout said. “He’s got freakish athleticism, physical force and darn high skill level, but the NBA is full of athletic, talented dudes.’’
On the positive side, beyond the acrobatic dunks, scouts marvel at his basketball IQ, passing vision, defensive tenacity and his presence as a good teammate. Fizdale said last week the Knicks know whom they’d take No. 1, saying Williamson was incomparable since he is so “unique.’’
Ewing failed to end the Knicks’ title drought — now at 46 years — but he could end their lottery drought. Since winning the Ewing pageant in 1985, the Knick have been part of the lottery nine times and failed to move up every time. In fact, they’ve moved back four times, including in 1986 when they also finished with the league’s worst record and fell to fifth.
Statistically, this wasn’t the year to finish with the NBA’s worst record as commissioner Adam Silver smoothed out the odds with the bottom three — Knicks, Suns and Cavaliers — each at 14 percent. Last year, the worst team, the Suns, carried in a 25 percent chance and won. But DeAndre Ayton wasn’t hyped like Williamson.
“I think the thinking was to spread it out,’’ Perry said. “The thought around the league is to discourage tanking. And we weren’t one of those teams trying to tank. Our record was what it was because we were the youngest team in the league. I wish there was a 25 percent chance for this year and change for next year but we’re going to live with what’s out there.”
— Andrew Marchand contributed to this report