Former AAU teammates Zion Williamson and Ja Morant went 1-2 in the 2019 NBA Draft, Williamson to the Pelicans and Morant to the Grizzlies.
Could they have also been NBA teammates – in New Orleans?
The Pelicans were intrigued by the possibility of pairing AAU teammates Williamson and Morant together in 2019, sources said. They had the Nos. 1 and 4 picks entering that draft. They offered the Grizzlies multiple packages that included the No. 4 pick.
Rejected by Memphis, New Orleans instead flipped the No. 4 pick (acquired from the Lakers in the Anthony Davis trade and ultimately used on De'Andre Hunter) to the Hawks for No. 8 pick Jaxon Hayes, No. 17 pick Nickeil Alexander-Walker and No. 35 pick Didi Louzada.
This is a fun “what if?” Williamson belonged on an All-NBA team in just his second season. Morant is headed there this year. Both players are highlight machines (when healthy, a problem for Williamson). The pairing is wild to imagine.
But that doesn’t mean it came close to happening.
Loaded on assets from the Davis trade, the Pelicans could have theoretically made a compelling offer for the No. 2 pick. That doesn’t mean they did, though. Without knowing what New Orleans offered, it’s tough to get too caught up in this scenario. Teams basically always want the No. 2 pick over the No. 4 pick. That was especially true in 2019, when there was a steep drop from Morant to the top prospect available fourth.
Kudos to the Pelicans for recognizing Morant’s talent, I guess. But the Grizzlies did too and were positioned to take advantage.*
*At least if you ignore New Orleans’ ability to take Morant over Williamson. But a team taking Morant No. 1 seemed nearly impossible at the time. Though hindsight says Morant would have been the better choice, that’s at least partially based on Williamson’s injury issues. Even if Williamson’s problems were predictable, a high-flying point guard who attacks the rim with abandon also presents health risks.