New Orleans are primed to select the generational talent with the No1 pick of the NBA draft. But does he want to join a squad accustomed to failure?
Tuesday night was a dream for the New Orleans Pelicans. They won the 2019 NBA draft lottery, and are first in line to select Zion Williamson, “the worlds largest” most begrudged expectation since the Pelicans last-place give the top overall collect in 2012, when they selected Anthony Davis.
The lottery didn’t time represent the dawn of a new period. It lets New Orleans to cling to hopes of keeping six-time All-Star Davis, preceding last year’s will-they-won’t-they trade saga. Davis is heading into the final year of his sicken, and supplementing Williamson may be the team’s only path to keeping Davis long term. That’s a lot of push to put on an 18 -year-old.
It didn’t appear to be Williamson’s dream night. He left the gamble proceedings immediately after the results were announced, with some reporting he had his heart set on playing in New York. In a basketball macrocosm in which we hyper-analyze everything, Williamson’s speedy exit could be interpreted as disappointment( it should also be noted that Williamson’s stepfather says his son is “excited” about playing in New Orleans .)
And who can denounce him? The Pelicans have been a mess since their inception, when they were called the Hornets. They’ve had ownership issues, have a less than fervent fanbase in a city where the NFL team is a symbol of resurgence post-Hurricane Katrina, and display little ratifies of long-term vision, despite being gifted a once-in-a-generation talent in Davis. New Orleans have won 50 games just once in right history. They maxed out at 48 triumphs in the Davis era, with a combined record of 251 -3 23 during his seven-year run.
The ill-informed wonder how a musician as talented as Davis has struggled to drag his team to contender status. Perhaps he’s just not as good as everyone says, they say. The opposite is true. Davis is < em> special. It’s as if he was constructed in a lab for the modern tournament. He dallies with physicality, grit and guile. He can be a battering ram to the rim, a step-ahead playmaker, or step outside and fix shoots- few other players can even contest his photograph; his secrete level is too high. The happening Davis hasn’t been able to drag the Pelicans past the second round of the playoffs is not a knock on his greatness, it’s indicative of just how poorly the franchise has been run.
Team ownership is a huge question mark. The Benson family went through a rupture at the end of Tom Benson’s life. The former owned of the Saints and Pelicans disinherited his daughter and her children and stirred his wife Gayle his primary heir. It resulted in a long-running, at times brutal, prosecution. Gayle Benson still owns the team. And she has already shown a sternness that the nicey-nice franchise so often appeared to lack. Dell Demps, the miserable GM filled since 2010, was deposed in favor of former Cleveland GM David Griffin this offseason.
Griffin was a champion in Cleveland working alongside LeBron James. Life is always easier as an NBA decision-maker when the greatest player of his generation is in your initiate five. But Griffin did an excellent job in Cleveland holding everything together until the Kyrie Irving saga collapsed everything they had hoped to build. He has the choppers to build a contender.
Now he steps into a fresh saga: what does Davis miss? And how does that impact Zion? Just the thought of Zion and Davis is enough to send any basketball fan doolally. The prospects are interminable. Both can police all five predicaments. Either can be a creator or destroyer. A hypothetical pick-and-roll with Williamson as ball-handler would be pretty close to unstoppable.
Could that razzing prospect be enough to get Davis to stay, even just for the short term? Apparently not. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported post-lottery that Davis’ stance on a transaction has ” not changed “. Griffin is likely to be preparing for two worlds: one in which he moves Davis now and starts a rebuild around Zion in earnest; another in which he drags the Davis saga towards next year’s commerce deadline, hoping Zion’s greatnes convinces him to stay.
But what about a third scenario. What if Williamson decides he doesn’t want to play in New Orleans? What if he had his heart set on New York or any of the other teams who entered Tuesday with better raffle odds? What if he doesn’t cartel owned( not that the Knicks help there )? What if he doesn’t want to play hoops in a football town?
It’s at least worth considering the possibility. A enlist is an act of wage suppression pretense as military exercises in parity. It exists because the owners cannot control themselves. Put Zion on the free market with the current NBA rules and every owner in the conference would chuck a max slit his mode before he has played a second of professional hoops( and it would be gave ). Open Williamson up to the free market, one without the league’s current wage cap, and it’s not crazy to think he could be in line for a $50 m-a-year payday.
Instead, his professional future is decided by a group of ping-pong lumps; his wage determined by the rookie wage scale agreed upon by the NBAPA- a group made up of veterans already playing in the league who have no incentive to help the young puppies get their payday.
The one thing Zion does have is leverage: no young adept participating the conference has had so much since LeBron. Williamson’s skill, personality, and financial positions( he will ratify the most important point shoe handled in history in the coming months) want he can go toe-to-toe with any dealership, especially the Pelicans, who are notoriously cheap.
There are precedents in the NFL. Eli Manning forced through a drawing era commerce to the New York Giants after the San Diego Chargers selected him first overall in 2004. John Elway famously ditched the Baltimore Colts for the Denver Broncos after the former selected him with the first select in the 1983 NFL draft. Elway had leverage: he threatened to play baseball for the New York Yankees.
Williamson determines himself in a not more disparate blot. The Davis situation is one of the messiest in the organization. Other squads in the lottery are dysfunctional( that’s why they’re drafting in the gamble ), but few are in relatively the regime of tangle as the Pelicans.
Tuesday night was perfect for the Pelicans. They exited from prepare the way for a Davis-less future, picturing lean times as they rebuild from the most bottom up. Now, they get to envision a Zion-Davis world and the possibility of championship parades on Bourbon Street. But if Zion opts to flex his considerable muscle, that dreaming will become a nightmare.
At least we know one thing for sure: the NBA didn’t rig this one.