Just as Anthony Davis was forcing his way off the Pelicans, New Orleans landed the No. 1 pick in the draft with the best prospect since Davis.
Zion Williamson transforms the Pelicans. He raises their long-term ceiling exponentially. He makes them instantly relevant and maybe competitive. He injects energy into a small-market fan base that could have faded post-Davis.
Pelicans lead executive David Griffin, via Malika Andrews of ESPN:
“This is Jrue Holiday‘s team,” Griffin said. “Zion is going to be learning how to win at a really high level. At some point, if there is a time that the baton gets passed in terms of who is expected to carry us to win games, it will. That is not now.”
Griffin continued: “Let Zion be that kid. Don’t write this like he is here to save this franchise. He is not. He is here to join this family.”
This is nice spin by Griffin. It won’t work. But it’s nice spin.
Griffin wants to take pressure off the 18-year-old Williamson. There’s enough for Williamson to handle without facing massive expectations. Williamson also doesn’t seem to have the ego to resent Griffin’s framing.
Holiday – the longest-tenured Pelican and someone who should’ve been All-NBA – is a natural fit to take the spotlight. He’s a seasoned veteran who has handled far more significant difficulty than leading a team. Holiday might even relish the extra attention.
But everyone will still look to Williamson and his flashy highlights and massive upside. There’s no way around it.
Yet, Griffin’s approach lifts the burden even a little, he’ll surely think it’s worth it.