It’s official: the New Orleans Pelicans selected Zion Williamson as their number one draft pick on June 20 during the 2019 NBA Draft. Coming from Duke, he played in thirty-three games and averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds.
The selection of Williamson was huge for the Pelicans after losing Anthony Davis to a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers. This was the Pelicans’ first number one draft pick since 2012 when they selected Davis.
Williamson sat down for a press conference after the draft. He was asked if the support from the city of New Orleans was overwhelming. “No, it hasn’t been overwhelming at all because the thing that keeps me grounded is, I just always think about the times when it was just me my stepdad and a basketball on an outside court,” said Williamson.
Williamson has only been to New Orleans once before being drafted and he was asked about his experience with New Orleans culture. “The family feel that I got from just walking around. The people here were just welcoming,” said Williamson.
Referenced as a generational talent, Williamson has a lot of pressure. He was asked if he thought he could be the face of the franchise, even as a rookie. “Honestly, yes. I do think I’m ready. You have to think that way. If not, you might be playing in the wrong sport,” said Williamson.
Williamson’s overall message to the city was short and sweet: “Let’s dance.”
Head Coach Alvin Gentry commented on his quick liking of Williamson. “Well, first of all, we’re both southern guys. Secondly, I think he’s got a great basketball mind, but also appreciates the history of the game. I think he’s going to be a joy to coach. He plays extremely hard, he’s all about the team,” said Gentry.
Gentry also talked about how he’d fit in the Pelicans’ rotation. “The style of basketball we’re going to play, he more than fits into it, we’re going to be exciting to watch,” said Gentry.
David Griffin, the Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the New Orleans Pelicans, talked about how he wants the team built on Williamson and Jrue Holiday. “We’ve put a lot of emphasis on finding people who can play defense, like Zion loves to do, like Jrue loves to do, so when we get out in transition and take advantage of those gifts as opportunities to score,” said Griffin.
He believes in Williamson’s ability as a team player for the Pelicans. “Zion is going to be learning how to win at a really high level. At some point, if there is a time that the baton gets passed in terms of who is expected to carry us to win games, it will. That is not now. Let Zion be that kid, don’t write this like he is here to save this franchise. He is not. He is here to join this family,” said Griffin.
A report from Sportline suggest that the Pelicans now have a 2.5% increase in likelihood of making it to the playoffs. They also predicted Williamson to average 18.7 points and 8.9 rebounds in his first season with the Pelicans.
Williamson will also be playing in the Summer League games held in Las Vegas to get early experience. This is a great opportunity for the Pelicans; the 2019-2020 NBA season will be one to look out for.