Zion Williamson is a generational talent. He was so influential and relevant that even I – someone that doesn’t care about basketball as a sport – am writing about him.
Last night the NBA Draft Lottery took place, and the heavy favorites did not come away with the first pick. The Knicks had the best odds along with the Cavs and Suns. I projected the Bulls would get the first pick. In the end, the New Orleans Pelicans came away as the lottery winners, nabbing the first pick with only a 6.0% chance.
The New Orleans Pelicans are a disgustingly branded basketball team. New-Orleans-Pelican-great Zion Williamson does not roll off the tongue. The Pelicans already won the lottery in 2012, drafting Anthony Davis. Guess what? Davis wants out of New Orleans. Why will things be any different for Zion?
Williamson is without a doubt the most marketable player to enter the league since LeBron James. But how much more marketable is he in a marquee city?
Darren Rovell of the Action Network says this will cost Zion $100 million plus.
Here is the kicker, Zion is not a member of the Pelicans, yet. He doesn’t have to be. It is not unprecedented for a high draft pick to dictate where they end up.
In my lifetime, the most memorable instance of a player dictating where they would go in the draft would be in 2004 with Eli Manning. The San Diego Chargers had the first pick overall. Eli was the #1 prospect and the Chargers needed a Quarterback. The Manning family had publicly stated that Eli had no interest in playing in San Diego. In fact, Eli’s agent told reporters that he would sit out the entire 2004 season if he was drafted by the Chargers. In the end, Eli Manning ended up where he wanted, with the Giants trading their #4 pick that year along with additional draft picks to get their guy. Of course, this all worked out for the 2x Super Bowl Champion. He made the right choice, and the Chargers have still yet to win a Super Bowl.
We all remember Charlotte Hornets legend Kobe Bryant, right? Kobe was drafted 13th overall by the Hornets in 1996. It is still unclear who orchestrated Kobe’s path to the Lakers. There were numerous teams that had major interest in drafting Kobe, including the Nets. However, it is well documented that there were skipped pre-draft workouts, rumors of playing in Italy, and other rumblings that eventually led to Charlotte and Los Angeles agreeing to a trade before the draft took place. Kobe has said that all the posturing was just a bluff – if Charlotte had kept him he would have played for the Hornets. There is no way that is true – luckily for him everything worked out and he was a lifelong Laker.
Drafted #1 by the Baltimore Colts in 1983. The Colts were bad, and Elway essentially said he would rather play baseball than play for Baltimore. The Denver Broncos stepped in and traded a number of players as well as a future 1st round pick for Elway. John Elway ended up having a historic career, leading the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowls in his last two seasons.
Back To Zion
As I have stated – Zion does not have to play for New Orleans. Playing for the Pelicans will without a doubt hurt his overall value and marketability. There are much bigger and brighter cities that can showcase him.
Why have a future superstar go to a team and a city that has shown that it simply cannot support established-superstar NBA players? Anthony Davis has already demanded a trade out of New Orleans – just like Chris Paul did years before him.
Zion deserves to be in the national spotlight. He belongs in New York, or Los Angeles, or Chicago, or even Miami – but New Orleans? He should demand to go somewhere else.