There wasn’t any dilemma when New Orleans Pelicans had to open this year’s draft. Zion Williams was their choice.
Labeled as a “generational talent,” Williamson is projected to have the biggest impact of all the rookies since LeBron James landed in the league. During his one season at college, Duke’s power forward averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals along with 1.8 blocks, all that with 68% of shooting from the field. He is expected to have similar numbers in the NBA.
“I don’t think it’s feelings I can really describe,” Williamson said in his first appearance to the public after being selected as the No.1 pick. “You know, as a little kid, you say you want to go to the NBA. People basically say you’ve got to have a Plan B because the chances of doing it is just little to none.”
In an emotional interview which saw a few tears, Zion mentioned his mother, saying that she needs to be credited for all of his success and that he certainly wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her support.
"I wouldn't be here without my mom. She did everything for me."
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 20, 2019
“I didn’t think I’d be in this position. My mom sacrificed a lot for me. I wouldn’t be here without my mom. She did everything for me. I just want to thank her. … She put her dreams aside for mine.”
The 18-year old is yet to meet all of his teammates, but he already has a strong feeling that the Pelicans are one promising group, which might record a hell of results in the future. What is even more thrilling for him is the age of the team.
“What excites me the most is the fact that they’re young and they’re close to my age so they can help me a lot more, like how to deal with this transition,” Williamson said. “I think we can build something over there.”
After trading Anthony Davis to the Lakers, New Orleans took Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram in return, along with the No. 4 pick which they later converted to more spots in the draft.
From the No.8 pick, they took Jaxson Hayes from Texas, a 7-foot center who might pair up with Zion in the best possible way. Both of them are athletic, fast guys with a note that Hayes still lacks some muscles for the defensive side of the court.
At No. 17, acquired from the Hawks (same as No.8), Pelicans picked Nickeil Alexander-Walker, a shooting guard from Virginia Tech, who was one of the best in his position on the draft.
Plus they’ve got Josh Hart from the deal with the Lakers, and the 23-year old Jahil Okafor, who is forgotten by most of the fans. Do not underestimate this guy, he was the No.3 pick in the 2015 draft, and he showed only glimpses of his potential which is enormous.
So when looking in general, the Pelicans could become a nuclear bomb of the NBA, with Zion as the trigger.
The hype surrounding Willamson was something rarely seen in American sports. Right after his appearance on the high-school floors, the monstrous kid reached all the media and was immediately announced to be the next big thing in the NBA.
"Almost like my heart just stopped, skipped a few beats. …"
Zion tried to describe what it felt like when his name was called at the #NBADraft.
— ESPN (@espn) June 21, 2019
He decided to go through college, to have one-and-done, picking Duke to be his destination and coach K as a mentor. Teamed up with RJ Barrett, who was two places behind him in the draft, and Cam Reddish, who ended 10th overall, Zion was supposed to lead the Blue Devils to the championship, but that plan just didn’t work out.
On the other hand, his personal achievements were there, becoming the consensus National College Player of the Year, and picking up almost every possible award he could get. One of the most dominant freshmen in the history of NCAA is now to prove his worth among pros.
There is no doubt that a lot of pressure is on Zion’s back. Everybody mentions titles, MVP awards, All-NBA teams, neglecting the fact that this kid has 18 years.
For now, all he has to do is to relax and play the ball.
The results will come eventually.
Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write and read on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a sports breaking news writer at WagerBop.