The New Orleans Pelicans won the NBA Draft Lottery Tuesday night, giving them the right to draft one of the most highly-touted prospects in years, Duke’s Zion Williamson.
The Pelicans are already dealing with a trade demand from their current star center, Anthony Davis, who is also a former top overall draft pick. While some Pelicans fans have hoped that the arrival of Williamson might persuade Davis to stick around, all indications (per The Inquisitr) are that Davis still wants out of town and that new general manager David Griffin will be seeking to trade the veteran for a haul of young players to put together with Williamson.
But might Zion Williamson try to force his way out of New Orleans before he even arrives there?
The Big Lead looked at that question and found that there’s little reason to think the incoming rookie would pursue such a move.
ESPN’s Marc J. Spears reported from the lottery, per Twitter, that Williamson “was rooting to go to New York, but now is going to New Orleans.”
Williamson could publicly declare that he doesn’t want to play for the Pelicans, and essentially dare the team to draft him or arrange a draft day trade to another team, but there’s no indication that such a power play is even under consideration.
I can't recall ever seeing an NBA draft dynamo pull an Eli or Elway, but at some point with how much power they have as individuals it could happen https://t.co/J5QuvBK9bM— Ryan Glasspiegel (@sportsrapport) May 15, 2019
While NBA players have been exercising their power to place themselves on the teams they want in recent years, there’s little precedent for incoming rookies doing it. Danny Ferry, another Duke player, who, ironically, was considered for the Pelicans’ GM job this offseason, refused to play for the Los Angeles Clippers after they drafted him in 1989 and instead signed with a team in Italy. A decade later, Steve Francis was picked second overall by the Vancouver Grizzlies but refused to play for them and was soon traded to the Houston Rockets. But no NBA prospect has pulled such a movie recently.
Such a move also happens in the NFL, where quarterbacks John Elway (in 1984) and Eli Manning (in 2004) announced they didn’t want to play for the teams that had the top pick, and both were traded. Both Elway and Manning went on to spend their entire careers with the teams to which they were traded.
Williamson, per The Big Lead, could also return to Duke for another season, as he hasn’t yet hired an agent. However, doing so would potentially hurt the player, as he would be risking an injury, and as he’s likely the top pick this year, he can’t possibly improve his draft stock, while also pushing off the potential for a big payday by a full year.