The New Orleans Pelicans defied the odds to land the No. 1 overall pick in next month’s draft Tuesday and win the Zion Williamson sweepstakes.
A pairing of Williamson and Anthony Davis would seemingly be a dream combination and vault the Pelicans into contender status in the Western Conference.
But even with the No. 1 pick in their hands, the Pelicans still are not expected to hang onto Davis, who went public with his trade demands earlier this season.
That’s because Davis hasn’t budged on his desire to leave New Orleans, according to Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic.
The New Orleans Pelicans are now set up to be Zion Williamson’s franchise to lift, and No. 1 pick could ease potential trade of Anthony Davis. His stance on a trade has not changed, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 15, 2019
Davis has another year remaining on his contract so his only way out of town would be via trade.
However, coach Alvin Gentry is still holding out hope that he can persuade Davis to stay and will try to sell to him the idea of playing with another freak athlete in Williamson.
“We’re going to get a great player,” Gentry told ESPN.com after the NBA lottery drawing. “We have something to sell.”
ESPN’s Zach Lowe asked whether he meant they have something to sell to Davis.
“To Anthony and our fans,” Gentry said. “Everyone forgets he’s still a part of our roster.”
David Griffin, the Pelicans’ executive vice president of basketball operations, echoed those sentiments and compared the Davis situation to that of Paul George in the 2017-18 season.
Like Davis, George was entering the last year of his contract, and it was thought to be a foregone conclusion that he was going to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder in free agency afterward.
But George enjoyed his time in OKC and ended up signing a long-term deal with the team last summer.
“We can be Oklahoma City with Paul George,” Griffin said. “We can hold onto [Davis] and let him see what we really are. [Winning the lottery] changes how quickly he can buy into it. It gets us closer. Every day, maybe he believes a little more.
“As much as elite talent likes to play with elite talent, I can’t imagine any elite player in his prime looking at our situation and saying to himself, ‘There’s a better grouping to play for’ than ours.”
The Los Angeles Lakers, Davis’ preferred destination, landed the No. 4 overall pick in the lottery. That’s a huge get for LA as it was projected to have the No. 11 pick.
That high draft pick opens up more possibilities for trades between New Orleans and Los Angeles if the Pelicans are convinced that Davis will not stay no matter the circumstances.
The Lakers didn’t have quite enough assets to trade for Davis in the regular season, but a top-four pick in addition to their young players gives them more ammunition if and when they approach New Orleans with another trade offer.
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