Pelicans win NBA draft lottery, sweepstakes for Duke superstar Zion Williamson

The New Orleans Pelicans have won the NBA draft lottery and the first shot at selecting Duke superstar Zion Williamson, the presumed choice as the top pick in the draft.

The New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns each had a 14 percent chance of landing the top pick under a new system that gives equal weight of winning the lottery to the teams with the three worst records in the league.

The Pelicans were a long shot, holding a 6 percent chance of winning the lottery, the 7th-best odds entering the night. The Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers also moved up with the Lakers improving up from the 11th pick to No. 4, while the Grizzlies improved from No. 8 to the No. 2 pick.

Here’s the full order from the lottery that was held on Tuesday evening.

1: New Orleans Pelicans

2: Memphis Grizzlies

3: New York Knicks

4: Los Angeles Lakers

5: Cleveland Cavaliers

6: Phoenix Suns

7: Chicago Bulls

8: Atlanta Hawks

9: Washington Wizards

10: Atlanta Hawks (from Dallas Mavericks)

11: Minnesota Timberwolves

12: Charlotte Hornets

13: Miami Heat

14: Boston Celtics (from Sacramento Kings)

Impact on Anthony Davis trade saga

The Pelicans were already poised for a huge offseason, with the anticipated trade market for disgruntled superstar Anthony Davis being one of the league’s top storylines. Davis is under contract for another year and requested a trade prior to the in-season trade deadline.

Since Davis joined New Orleans as the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, the Pelicans have made the playoffs twice and won just one playoff series, leaving Davis frustrated with the direction of the franchise.

The Pelicans are expected to field multiple offers for Davis during the offseason, but new general manager David Griffin has expressed a desire to keep him in New Orleans. Holding the rights to select Williamson should only bolster his case.

But according to The Athletic, Davis’ stance on wanting to be traded has not changed with the results of Tuesday’s lottery.

Zion Williamson is expected to be the top pick in the NBA draft. (AP)
Zion Williamson is expected to be the top pick in the NBA draft. (AP)

Williamson surpassed expectations at Duke

Williamson is one of the most coveted NBA prospects in years and will provide an immediate injection of relevance to the Pelicans. He somehow exceeded the massive expectations he arrived with at Duke as a member of one of the most heralded recruiting classes in college basketball history, alongside R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, who also project as lottery picks.

Williamson was the third-rated prospect in Duke’s class but quickly established himself as the star of the team as he wowed crowds with the spectacular dunks that made him a social media sensation before he left high school.

Williamson averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks while shooting 68 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from 3-point distance en route to being named National Player of the Year and winning the Wooden and Naismith Awards.

More than a dunker

A 6-7, 285-pound power forward, Williamson displayed unprecedented athleticism for a player his size and tremendous skill with the ball and as a defender. If there’s a knock on his game, it’s that he’s not an elite shooter. There are also concerns that his size and physical playing style may hinder his prospects of long-term success at the next level.

Williamson suffered a knee sprain when his shoe blew out against North Carolina late in the ACC season and missed the last five games of conference play before returning to the team for the ACC and NCAA tournaments.

Many suggested that Williamson should have remained sidelined for the rest of the season to protect his health for the NBA draft, but he returned and played at his normally high level as Duke won the ACC tournament and advanced to the Elite 8, where the Blue Devils lost to Michigan State.

In addition to the obvious value Williamson provides on the court, his star power will immediately make the Pelicans a draw for fans. He’s the consensus No. 1 pick.

Ja Morant is more than a consolation prize for a team that misses out on Zion Williamson. (AP)
Ja Morant is more than a consolation prize for a team that misses out on Zion Williamson. (AP)

Morant, Barrett lead best of the rest

Barrett and former Murray State point guard Ja Morant are in the next tier of prospects behind Williamson as the likely second and third picks of the draft.

Like Williamson, Morant wowed crowds with his athleticism and highlight-reel dunks as a 6-3 point guard. Also like Williamson, he proved that he wasn’t just a dunker, but an elite scorer and playmaker whose game could translate into NBA stardom.

During his sophomore year, Morant averaged 24.5 points, 10 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 49.9 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from 3-point distance.

He had perhaps his most impressive performance on the biggest of NCAA stages with a 17-point, 16-assist, 12-rebound triple-double in an NCAA tournament win over Marquette. It was the ninth triple-double in tournament history.

Barrett was considered the top incoming freshman in his class, but took a secondary role to Williamson with the Blue Devils.

The 6-7, 210-pound shooting guard has ideal NBA size for his position. He’s an outstanding athlete and a versatile scorer. He’ll need to improve his jump shot to become an elite scorer in the NBA.

Barrett averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists at Duke while shooting 45.4 percent from the field and 30.8 percent from 3-point distance.

After Morant and Barrett, Reddish, North Carolina’s Coby White and Nassir Little, Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver, Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura and Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter are expected to be lottery picks.

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