Pelicans select Duke phenom Zion Williamson first overall in 2019 NBA draft

As expected, the New Orleans Pelicans selected Duke freshman Zion Williamson first overall in the NBA draft on Thursday, replacing the face of their franchise within days of agreeing to trade superstar Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers.

This was inevitable once the Pelicans won last month’s draft lottery. Williamson is a 6-foot-7, 285-pound freak athlete who can play any position, on the ball or off it, from the perimeter to the rim, end to end. He has every skill imaginable and is considered the best prospect since either Davis in 2012 or LeBron James in 2003.

Williamson burst into the basketball consciousness as a high school recruit with an endless array of breathtaking dunks, and he entered another stratosphere in his lone year at Duke. There is no precedent for his 22.6 points (70.8 effective field-goal percentage), 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks in 30 minutes per game for the Blue Devils, all of which solidified his status as a generational talent.

The final piece to the Williamson puzzle is a personality that leaves the NBA in good hands as James ages into his mid-30s. The 18-year-old comes with a smile that will light up New Orleans now that the dark cloud of the Davis trade drama has lifted. He deflected as much praise in his predraft interviews as he did blocks on the court.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called Williamson “a gift from God” in a recent interview with Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel. “He may be an All-Star right away,” added Krzyzewski. “There’s no ceiling, really. He doesn’t have a weakness.”

Given what the Pelicans will get in return for Davis, Williamson walks into a rebuild well ahead of the schedules most top picks are plugged into. The addition of recent No. 2 overall picks Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball to the roster, along with the No. 8 pick in this draft — the Pelicans swapped their No. 4 pick in a deal with Atlanta on Thursday— gives New Orleans four of the league’s elite under-21 prospects.

Former All-Star guard Jrue Holiday will be tasked with leading this young group forward, so long as new vice president of basketball operations David Griffin keeps him in New Orleans. Griffin also has what amounts to two more unprotected first-round picks and a future pick swap from the Lakers and more draft capital from the Hawks deal with which to build during Williamson’s rookie contract. It is a remarkable starting point for the franchise.

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Lottery picks in the 2019 NBA Draft
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Lottery picks in the 2019 NBA Draft
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 20: Zion Williamson poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted with the first overall pick by the New Orleans Pelicans during the 2019 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 20, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 20: Ja Morant poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted with the second overall pick by the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2019 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 20, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 20: RJ Barrett poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted with the third overall pick by the New York Knicks during the 2019 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 20, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 20: De'Andre Hunter poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted with the fourth overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2019 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 20, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 20: Darius Garland poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted with the fifth overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2019 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 20, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 20: Jarrett Culver poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted with the sixth overall pick by the Phoenix Suns during the 2019 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 20, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 20: Coby White poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted with the seventh overall pick by the Chicago Bulls during the 2019 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 20, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 20: Jaxson Hayes poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted with the eighth overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks during the 2019 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 20, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 20: Rui Hachimura poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted with the ninth overall pick by the Washington Wizards during the 2019 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 20, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 20: Cam Reddish poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted with the tenth overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks during the 2019 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 20, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 29: Cameron Johnson #13 of the North Carolina Tar Heels drives to the basket against the Auburn Tigers during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 20: PJ Washington poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted with the 12th overall pick by the Charlotte Hornets during the 2019 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 20, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 20: Tyler Herro poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted with the 13th overall pick by the Miami Heat during the 2019 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 20, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 20: Romeo Langford poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted with the 14th overall pick by the Boston Celtics during the 2019 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 20, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
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