NEW YORK (WAFB) - The New Orleans Pelicans chose Duke forward Zion Williamson with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft Thursday night.
Williamson arrived for the draft in a white suit and hugged family members after his name was called first. He teared up after being drafted and gave lots of credit to his mom, saying she put aside her dreams for his.
“You can hear people say things like, ‘Oh, that it was likely I was going to go No. 1,’" said Williamson. "But I guess you don’t know until you actually go through it. Hearing my name called and I was able to make it on stage without a tear, shake the commissioner’s hand, but in the interview, my mom was standing beside me and my emotions just took over.”
The 6-foot-7, 285-pound freshman from Spartanburg, SC, averaged 22.6 points per game as a Blue Devil. He is considered one of the most exciting prospects in years, putting on quite a display with the way he assaults the rim on high-flying slam dunks.
“There were (trade) offers for the No. 1 pick," said David Griffin, executive vice president of basketball operations. "None of them were remotely interesting.”
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He shot 68% from the floor and 64% from the free throw line. He also averaged nearly nine rebounds per game. Williamson was the consensus National Player of the Year and consensus first-team All-America selection following his freshman season at Duke.
Last season, he earned six ACC weekly honors and finished among the ACC’s top five in seven major statistical categories (second in steals, third in rebounds, third in double-doubles, and fifth in blocked shots).
Williamson was the only player in the country to average 20.0 plus points, 8.0 plus rebounds, and 2.0 plus steals per game. The forward was named ACC Player of the Year and ACC Tournament MVP, becoming the first freshman in ACC history to achieve both in the same season.
“This was a lot of fun tonight. There’s a reason for everyone to be excited. Trust us. Stick with us. You’re not going to know how dots connect, but they will. But trust us. If you’re going to stick with us, let’s dance (he says that phrase was all Zion),” Griffin added.
Griffin went on to say it would be a gross understatement to say that Jrue Holiday is giddy right now and what’s going on with the Pelicans. He also said if the team is able to complete the deals it is working on, there will be cap space for free agents and deal flow.
As part of a proposed deal that was reported an hour before the draft, the Pelicans traded the No. 4 overall to the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 8, No. 17, and No. 35 picks. The Pelicans also traded Solomon Hill, their No. 57 pick, and a future second-round pick, according to the report. Hill counted $12.7 million against the salary cap next season.
“No player that we’ve acquired at this point was acquired to be moved. That said, no such thing as untouchables,” Griffin stated.
The Pelicans then selected Texas center Jaxson Hayes. The 6-foot-11, 220-pound freshman with a 7-foot-4 wingspan from Loveland, Ohio averaged 10 points and five rebounds per game. He also had 2.2 blocks each contest.
“I dunk a lot of basketballs, block a lot of shots, run the floor really well, really good with the pick-and-roll,” Hayes said when asked to describe his game.
With pick No. 17 overall, New Orleans picked up guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker from Virginia Tech. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound sophomore from Toronto averaged 16 points and four assists last season. He also pulled down 4.1 rebounds per game and shot 47.4% from the floor.
In the second round, with the No. 35 overall pick, the Pelicans selected Marcos Louzada Silva, a 6-foot-6, 190-pound small forward from Brazil. The 19-year-old averaged 11 points per game with the Brazilian league squad Franca this past season. Silva is a good three-point shooter, averaging 43% from beyond the arc last season.
Next, New Orleans picked Alen Smailagic, a 6-foot-10, 215-pound center from Serbia at No. 39 overall. The 18-year-old played last season for Golden State’s G League affiliate team, the Santa Cruz Warrriors. He averaged nine points and four rebounds per game.
The Pelicans finished the season ranked No. 13 in the Western Conference. Their record was 33-49.