Tuesday night, the New Orleans Pelicans secured the first overall pick, and the right to draft Zion Williamson, in the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery. This result could manifest itself in a plethora of ways, all of which will undoubtedly have a significant impact on this organization’s future — depending on if they keep the pick, trade it, or use it as a means of keeping disgruntled superstar Anthony Davis in town. In light of the many ways this pick could alter the future of a desperate team like the Pelicans, we wonder: how will obtaining the right to select Zion Williamson in this year’s NBA draft effect New Orleans’ franchise and potentially impact Davis’ future with the team?
The Future of Anthony Davis in New Orleans and the NBA Draft
Two Possibilities for the First Overall Pick
The New Orleans Pelicans keep the first overall pick and draft Zion Williamson.
This scenario highlights a few questions that must be confronted by the Pelicans front office following the draft.
Question 1: Does the selection of Zion Williamson by New Orleans just give the Pelicans a highly-touted prospect to build around for the next half-decade plus?
Zion Williamson is the most hyped NBA prospect to ever come out of college. Accordingly, Williamson should turn out to be a great basketball player in the NBA.
Using the first pick to draft Williamson, then, would almost guarantee New Orleans has a building-block worthy NBA prospect. Appropriately, they can use Williamson as the centerpiece of their upcoming rebuild — something they have not had since… Anthony Davis in 2012.
Question 2: Does drafting Zion Williamson help to convince Anthony Davis to stay in New Orleans?
This one is simple. Playing alongside Williamson could create a formidable frontcourt duo between Anthony Davis and someone with physical tools said to parallel LeBron James.
For clarity, The Athletic’s Shams Charania has already reported that Anthony Davis’ “stance on [wanting] a trade has not changed“. That said, it is still possible for Davis to change his mind. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to at least consider this possibility here. More on that below…
The New Orleans Pelicans trade the first overall pick for either current assets (currently established NBA players) or future assets (significant young talent and/or first round picks).
Maybe, instead of using Williamson as the centerpiece of the franchise, the Pelicans can trade the first overall pick for a collection of assets to utilize for their future. This will either help New Orleans with their rebuild or, again, become a tool to convince Anthony Davis to re-sign and compete alongside those new pieces. Again, more on that below…
*Note: Technically speaking, there is also the possibility that New Orleans keeps the first overall pick and drafts a prospect not named Zion Williamson, but we don’t see that as likely enough to elaborate on in this piece.
What These Possibilities Mean for Anthony Davis
As mentioned above, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported tonight that Anthony Davis’ “stance on [wanting] a trade has not changed“. If this is indeed the case, it does not really matter what New Orleans does with this pick. In that situation, New Orleans must use the pick in the way that would serve them best for a rebuild. However, it must be acknowledged that we are only in the middle of May. Anthony Davis could still change his mind depending on how the first overall pick is used.
Appropriately, these possibilities could mean a great deal for Anthony Davis’ future. Again, although the chances of an alteration in Davis’ mindset are reportedly slim, here are some of the ways this is possible.
A) Drafting Zion Williamson may convince Davis to stay and simply form an incredibly fierce fear-inducing frontcourt with the young prospect.
B) Trading the first overall pick could allow New Orleans to compile more “current” assets. This may convince Davis to compete for a playoff spot alongside those new assets, in New Orleans.
In theory, New Orleans could find a willing trade partner able to part with an established NBA player or two. This is unlikely but a move like this may change Davis’ mind over the course of the 2019-2020 NBA season. Equipped with more “win now” roster pieces, Davis may be compelled to re-sign and compete for a deeper playoff run with these players in the future.
Conclusively, no one knows yet what this first overall pick could be used for. Davis could be swayed by the potential of this first overall pick. Similarly, Davis might not care less about this lottery result and may depart New Orleans regardless. Therefore, no one knows how this lottery win may create a domino effect throughout the Pelicans organization and the NBA. For the time being, however, there are a plethora of ways this draft lottery can turn. This reality alone warrants a fun game of “what if” as we approach the NBA Draft on June 20th, 2019.
Main Photo: WASHINGTON, USA – DECEMBER 19: New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis (23) tries to keep the ball away from Washington Wizards’ John Wall (2) during the NBA match between Washington Wizards and New Orleans Pelicans at the Capital One Arena in Washington, United States on December 19, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)