Zion Williamson, Welcome to New Orleans

The New Orleans Pelicans landed the coveted Number 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. It was a fitting end to a bizarre Draft Lottery. Not only, did the Pelicans get the first pick, but the Los Angeles Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies also snuck into the Top Four. The 2019 Draft Lottery was the first time with the new format that attempts to de-emphasize “tanking,” and it did not leave viewers wanting more. The combination of unexpected jumps in positions and ESPN’s Rachel Nichols constantly pointing out Zion Williamson made for a wondrous show.

New Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, David Griffin, was the representative for his new team, the New Orleans Pelicans. Griffin joined New Orleans with a lot on his plate. He is forced to manage the issue surrounding Anthony Davis’s desire to be traded from the organization that drafted him with the first pick in the 2012 Draft. Now that David Griffin, with the help of his good luck angel provided by a season ticket member, struck gold with the first pick, the entire fate of the organization might have just been turned on its head.

Zion Williamson was highly touted as the unanimous number one pick. However, it was unlikely that he ever thought he would be ending up in New Orleans, who had a 6% chance to win the lottery. While Griffin and the Pelicans organization might surprise everyone and select either R.J. Barret or Ja Morant, it safe to assume that the first pick will be spent on Zion. Destinations like New York, Cleveland, Phoenix, or Chicago had the best odds to land the first pick, but n the end, only the New York Knicks got a top three selection. Cleveland, Phoenix, and Chicago received the 5th, 6th, and 7th picks, respectively.

New Orleans could not have been luckier by winning tonight’s lottery. Zion Williamson is a once in a generation talent, and his potential impact has been compared to that of Lebron James. There are very few times where a team has had the opportunity to grab another superstar from the NBA Draft. Anthony Davis is only 26 years old and, although injuries have been a constant annoyance for the star center, he is unequivocally a franchise player. The Pelicans also still have Jrue Holiday under contract for the next couple of years before a player option kicks in for the 2021-22 season. Should Julius Randle decide to pick up his player option, New Orleans could be in a prime position for a playoff run.

Williamson instantly has the pull to keep players in New Orleans and attract free agents over the coming years, regardless of whether or not Anthony Davis is convinced to remain. Davis for all of his talent, has openly expressed his wish to move on from the organization. Trade packages for Davis will now get even better for the Pelicans. The Boston Celtics will be able to get into the mix and force the Los Angeles Lakers to put forward an even stronger package, with the inclusion of the fourth pick in the draft.

The 18-year-old prodigy must be mildly disappointed with the Knicks failing to get the first pick. New York has been striving to sign multiple free agents this offseason. If the Knicks could have gotten Zion, it would have been a lot easier to entice players like Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant to join in. Unfortunately, thus is the luck involved with the draft.

David Griffin could not have asked for a better start to his offseason with New Orleans. His task to keep New Orleans out of a full rebuild would have been an arduous undertaking. Now, he has three viable options to retool the roster. He could try to move the first pick to get another star to play alongside Davis, which does not seem realistic considering Davis’ lack of commitment to the organization at this point. The Pelicans could move Anthony Davis for future assets that would team up with Zion Williamson. Finally, Davis could be convinced to sign a long term contract with New Orleans as he suits up with Zion, Holiday, and Randle. Either way David Griffin and the New Orleans Pelicans are in a perfect situation thanks to a dramatic lottery win.

Photo Credit-Unsplash: Abhishek Chandra

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