In a high-stakes NBA draft lottery Tuesday, the New Orleans Pelicans unexpectedly landed the No. 1 overall pick in June’s draft, which could shift the star power of the league for the foreseeable future, thanks to a possible once-in-a-generation talent atop the board.
By virtue of winning the lottery despite having the seventh-best odds, the Pelicans will have the enviable option of drafting Zion Williamson, who spent one season at Duke creating the type of buzz for an NBA prospect not seen since LeBron James in 2003.
Williamson, 18, a 6-foot-7, 285-pound multi-position athlete, was the consensus national player of the year and is universally considered a lock to be selected first on June 20.
The Williamson sweepstakes consumed the closing months of the NBA’s regular season, with multiple teams jockeying for better draft position – via worse records – for the right to draft him.
Cleveland and Phoenix, the Williamson odds reduced for every other lottery team.
Is Williamson worth the hassle? Time will tell, but in one highlight-filled season with the Blue Devils, Williamson averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks per game.
Williamson, the high schooler who went viral with every windmill and between-the-legs dunk, had the additional pressure of coming into prominence in the Twitter age.
Unlike many others before him, Williamson was prepared for his eight-month rest stop in the college game and surpassed expectations.
Last July, Williamson enrolled as a freshman and promptly began his assault on amateurs.
In November, hours before his regular-season debut against No. 2 ranked Kentucky, ESPN’s Jay Williams toasted Williamson as “The most popular player we’ve had in this game since LeBron James.” Then Williamson scored 28 points in a 118-84 rout.
In the network’s coverage leading up to Tuesday night’s ESPN broadcast of the draft lottery, it was again all things Williamson.
The hot takes spewed: Can he revitalize the Knicks? Would New York package him in a trade to New Orleans for Anthony Davis? Who will watch Suns games if he lands in Phoenix? Even during an exciting postseason in which the NBA has seen its best television ratings in seven years, Williamson is the focus.
SOURCE: WASHINGTON POST