Even if Anthony Davis still wants out, Zion Williamson gives Pelicans a bold future

In the middle of a season gone bad, the New Orleans Pelicans found themselves on the brink as a franchise — their star player wanted out, his high-powered agent was trying to orchestrate it and plenty of fans were left trying to figure out whether they still cared enough anymore to even be outraged.

Yet, the franchise never panicked and never blinked.

Anthony Davis went nowhere. The team destroyed whatever chemistry there was on the Los Angeles Lakers by dangling him as trade bait (the same Lakers who employ LeBron James, whose best friend and agent is Rich Paul, who also represents Davis). A new executive vice president was hired by New Orleans with the goal of either keeping Davis or quickly rebuilding.

It wasn’t much, but at least it was something.

Then came Tuesday, when — like some wild French Quarter dice game — the Pelicans walked into the NBA draft lottery with a 6 percent shot at the top pick and walked out with Zion Williamson.

Hi-lo yo and now everything changed.

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Zion Williamson's freshman year at Duke
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Zion Williamson's freshman year at Duke
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) and Army's Matt Wilson (14) reach for the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Duke's Zion Williamson reacts following a play against Army during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. Duke won 94-72. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) drives for a dunk against Eastern Michigan during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) reacts following a play against Eastern Michigan during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) reacts following a play against Eastern Michigan during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura (21) tries to stop Duke forward Zion Williamson (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Maui Invitational, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018, in Lahaina, Hawaii. Gonzaga defeated Duke 89-87. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
Duke's Zion Williamson reacts following a basket against Indiana during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Duke's Jack White (41) embraces Zion Williamson, middle, as Williamson looks at teammate RJ Barrett (5) late in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Hartford, in Durham, N.C., Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) speaks with teammates on the bench late in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Hartford in Durham, N.C. Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) listens to coach Mike Krzyzewski during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Yale in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
File- This Dec. 20, 2018, file photo shows Duke forward Zion Williamson (1) dunking the ball against Texas Tech during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in New York. Williamson is one of the names you may not know now but very well could by the end of 2019. They figure to come up big in the new year.(AP Photo/Adam Hunger, File)
Duke's Zion Williamson, front, saves a loose ball as Wake Forest's Isaiah Mucius, back, defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) drives between Wake Forest's Ikenna Smart (35) and Jaylen Hoard during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) is seen during a break in action against Syracuse during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. Syracuse won 95-91. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) shoots a foul shot against Pittsburgh during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) keeps his eyes fixed as he goes for a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Boston College in Durham, N.C., Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)
Duke forward Zion Williamson (1) talks with forward Javin DeLaurier (12) during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Louisville, Ky., Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. Duke won 71-69. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) drives to the net against North Carolina State during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) flashes a grin after his team made a play against North Carolina State during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)
Duke's Zion Williamson sits on the floor following an injury during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina in Durham, N.C., Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) is attended to on the bench following an injury during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina in Durham, N.C., Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Duke's Zion Williamson, center, cheers after a basket from the bench during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Syracuse in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Duke won 75-65. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)
Duke's Zion Williamson applauds during player introductions prior to an NCAA college basketball game against Miami in Durham, N.C., Saturday, March 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) reacts after a dunk against Syracuse during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, March 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) smiles after a play against Syracuse during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, March 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) and RJ Barrett (5) embrace as they leave the court after Duke defeated North Carolina in an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Duke's RJ Barrett, left, hugs Zion Williamson after Duke defeated Florida State in the NCAA college basketball championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) celebrates after Duke defeated Florida State in the NCAA college basketball championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
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Davis said he wanted to be surrounded by talent. Well, how about a 6-foot-7, 285-pound sensation out of Duke? Is that something you might be interested in? The prospect of Zion and the Brow in the frontcourt is tantalizing, a couple of freak athletes who complement each other, alley-oops upon alley-oops.

“Definitely the versatility, the ability to block shots and rebound and just the want to win,” Williamson said on ESPN on Tuesday about the similarities between him and the athletic, 6-foot-10 Davis, whom the team took first overall in the 2012 draft.

Is Zion enough for Davis to reconsider? AD is still a free agent after the 2019-20 season. He can get more money by staying in New Orleans though. New executive vice president David Griffin, who looked beside himself at his great fortune, says he is all in on mending the relationship between player and franchise.

Griffin hasn’t been successful yet, but he didn’t have many cards to play. Now he has an ace in the hole.

The power dynamic has, if not flipped, at least moved in the team’s direction now.

Losing Davis, a brilliant talent, was once crushing to a team that is still trying to find roots and credibility in the Big Easy.

Yes, he could fetch some assets, but big rebuilds in small markets are long and slippery roads.

Now though, here’s Zion, possibly the most talented player to enter the NBA since Davis and the biggest sensation since LeBron in 2003. Now everything is revitalized. Tickets will sell. Television will come. The possibilities are endless. The future is now.

And if Davis still doesn’t want to be a part of that, then whatever combination of players and picks he brings are even more valuable because the strongest cornerstone of the rebuild is already in place.

New Orleans isn’t starting from scratch now. It’s well on its way.

So now the ball is back in Anthony Davis’ court. Even if he says he still wants out, the Pelicans could hold off on trading him until midseason and make him play alongside Zion, make him see what this could be, make him feel everything he always hoped the Pelicans would be and then see if it alters his viewpoint.

New Orleans got put in a bad spot last offseason when Paul went public with AD’s desires. It stood its ground though. It vowed to do things on its terms. It bought time until, suddenly, the long odds came through.

Maybe Davis stays or maybe he goes, but quicker than Zion on a fast break, the Pelicans have a future, one way or the next.

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