When six-time All-Star Anthony Davis requested a trade last season, the New Orleans Pelicans appeared to be at a crossroads about the direction of the franchise.
But oh how the tide has turned since then.
Flash forward to Thursday and you can expect there to be plenty of celebrating in the streets of the Big Easy.
That’s because the Pelicans defied the lottery odds to secure the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and are expected to select Duke freshman phenom Zion Williamson.
The Pelicans miraculously won the NBA draft lottery (aka the Zion Williamson sweepstakes) on May 14 despite having just six percent odds.
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) May 15, 2019
Also, last Saturday the Pelicans received an excellent deal from the Los Angeles Lakers for the Davis trade, snagging Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks.
The Pelicans have agreed to a deal to trade Anthony Davis to the Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks – including the No. 4 overall in 2019 Draft, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 15, 2019
The 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson will be the complete package for the Pelicans: a once in a generation athlete with championship habits.
“He is what you call a franchise player, because he has the qualities to not only excite people, fill the seats, but he helps his team win,” Former NBA head coach Mike Fratello said to Pelicans.com. “He plays both ends of the floor and has an exuberance for the game that people want to see. (Fans) love to watch players who smile, like Steph Curry.”
With his rim-shaking slam dunks, Williamson was a human highlight reel during his lone collegiate season.
Zion Williamson’s dunk package at Duke was filthy. pic.twitter.com/j4tN6a2b15
— Kyle Boone (@Kyle__Boone) June 8, 2019
In his only season with Duke, Williamson averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds with a 68 percent field goal percentage.
Williamson racked up a ton of awards last season, including the Naismith Award, Wooden Award, AP Player of the Year, NABC Player of the Year, ACC Player of the Year and ACC Rookie of the Year.
The chance to draft Williamson, plus the impressive haul acquired by the Pelicans in their trade of Davis to the Lakers has the future in New Orleans looking extremely promising.
In particular, Williamson and Ball running the fast break will be as tasty for Pelicans fans as a fresh pot of jambalaya. The duo will form the Mardi Gras version of Lob City, with firework alley-oops possible at any moment.
Lonzo ball and Zion Williamson on a fast break is gonna be pic.twitter.com/6OIFuN68Kt
— Kazeem Famuyide 🍎 (@RealLifeKaz) June 15, 2019
One of the three first round picks gained by the Pelicans will be the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft. CBS Sports is projecting the Pelicans to select Texas Tech sophomore guard Jarrett Culver in that slot.
“With Williamson incoming and Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram being acquired, Culver is a nice piece with star potential and a 3-and-D floor who should perfectly fit in this new look New Orleans squad,” Kyle Boone said.
If the Pelicans decide to trade the No. 4 pick, CBS Sports reports that Washington Wizards All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal is on their radar.
Either way, the Pelicans now have the luxury of an additional powerful asset.
In other Pelicans news, the Pelicans confirmed they’ve locked up their head coach for the next two seasons, picking up the team option of Alvin Gentry’s contract for the 2020-21 season.
Gentry was over the moon with joy and in sheer ecstasy when the Pelicans emerged with their lucky lottery ticket in May.
Alvin Gentry had the exact same reaction as every Pelicans fan after winning the lottery and getting Zion Williamson pic.twitter.com/1YmIBaBtkM
— RWD Barstool (@BarstoolRWD) May 15, 2019
ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski succinctly sums up why Williamson is worthy of extreme exuberance and can lift the Pelicans to a new level.
“He’s a person you want to build your organization around,” Wojnarowski said to Pelicans.com. “There are franchise talents, and there are franchise players. He has a chance to be both.”