Path 27
Sports

Pelicans primed to draft Zion -- and another top-5 prospect

Path 27

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Now that six-time All-Star Anthony Davis’ trade request has been honored, it’s time for the New Orleans Pelicans to start a new era by drafting the next face of the franchise.

Duke star Zion Williamson is widely seen as the top pro prospect to enter any NBA draft since Davis in 2012, and the Pelicans — thanks to an unlikely NBA draft lottery victory last month — have the right to select him first overall on Thursday night.

While new Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin and coach Alvin Gentry have declined to announce their draft intentions, Gentry chuckled when describing the pressure to get the decision right as “Really very little. Minimal, OK? I think we’ll make the right decision.”

The ability to make that first pick this year “gives a boost to our franchise right away,” Gentry said. “We’re going to end up with a really good basketball player.”

The Pelicans even posted a compilation of Williamson’s Duke highlights on their official website.

Trending:
Olympian's Overzealous Victory Celebration Ends Up Costing Him More Than He Ever Imagined

The 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson was just the second freshman to be a consensus national player of the year, along with Kevin Durant with Texas in 2007. While Williamson has yet to exhibit consistent outside shooting, he has displayed a dominant mix of power, quickness and skill that has convinced scouts of his extraordinary promise as a pro.

He averaged 22.6 points per game at Duke and also was voted to the ACC’s All-Defensive Team after averaging 8.9 rebounds, 2.12 steals and 1.8 blocked shots per game. He leaves Duke as the holder of several freshman records, including single-game scoring after his 35-point outburst against Syracuse in January.

And this draft could have enormous, long-term implications for New Orleans even beyond the addition of Williamson because of the bounty of first-round draft choices the Pelicans are to receive from the Los Angeles Lakers as part of the Davis deal .

The trade — which also sent a total of three first-round picks to the Pelicans — won’t become official until after the new NBA league year begins July 6. But when the Lakers pick fourth overall, they will effectively select for the Pelicans and eventually will send that player to New Orleans — unless that pick is moved in a subsequent trade on behalf of the Pelicans by draft night. And while deciding whether to select Williamson isn’t bound to cause any mental anguish or second guesses, deciding who to pick fourth overall could be a much tougher call.

Gentry noted that while most drafts have just a few elite prospects, there often are future stars mined from mid- to late-first-round picks — never mind a second top-five choice like New Orleans has acquired.

“There is the high end, front end of the draft, but there’s going to be a guy that’s drafted 14 to 25 that’s going to be a game changer also,” Gentry said. “It’s happened almost every year and that’s where Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant and Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and those guys were all drafted — in that area right there. So, somewhere along the line, there’s going to be some surprise guys that’ll step up that’s going to become really good basketball players.”

A handful of prospects stand out as possible fourth overall picks, and the position they play could be a factor.

The Davis trade brought New Orleans highly regarded small forward Brandon Ingram, point guard Lonzo Ball and shooting guard Josh Hart. Ball and Ingram would be presumed starters alongside veteran guard Jrue Holiday and Williamson at power forward. The only true center on the roster is Jahlil Okafor. Forward Julius Randle also can play center, but is essentially a free agent with a player option to return for next season. Christian Wood, a 6-10 forward who thrived in his short, late-season stint with the Pelicans, also could play center.

Texas’ Jaxson Hayes (6-11, 220) is widely seen as the top center in the draft, but not necessarily a top-five talent, so free agency might be the more practical route for the Pelicans to pursue an upgrade there.

Related:
Simone Biles Has Dropped Out Yet Again

Three players widely projected among picks Nos. 4-6 are Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland (6-2, 175), Texas Tech shooting guard Jarrett Culver (6-7, 194), and Virginia wing player De’Andre Hunter (6-7, 225).

While none of them would be expected to start immediately, each could emerge as an increasingly prominent player in the rotation as the season wears on. And the ability to bring a reliable scorer, playmaker or defender off the bench could make all the difference if the Pelicans find themselves making a playoff push next March.

___

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →



loading

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

Tags:
,
Path 27
The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands.
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
Location
New York City




loading

Conversation