The rumors surrounding Zion Williamson and Anthony Davis have reached a fever pitch. An example of that came when a reader asked the Open Floor podcast whether the Pelicans should consider trading Zion Williamson for LeBron James. Andrew Sharp and The Washington Post's Ben Golliver field that question and dig deeper into Zion Williamson's situation in New Orleans.
(Listen to the latest Crossover podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Ben Golliver:I'm just really disappointed in people. I can't launch Zion Inc. at the same time I've already got Giannis Inc. going, and I can only be on so many boards. But my big takeaway about this whole Zion, New Orleans thing… everyone was questioning, “Is you going to go back to Duke?” Is he going to try to hold out? It bugged me a little bit. And I think if I was in Zion's camp, all of the excitement from the Pelicans that came out of the first 24 hours about, “Oh, this could mean that he's going to be able to help keep Anthony Davis. This is so big for the Anthony Davis situation.” That would have actually bugged me, and I think I would have brought it up to David Griffin. I would have said, “You know what the defining question of your franchise is not, ‘What does Zion do for Anthony Davis? The question is, ‘What does Anthony Davis do for Zion?’
Because Zion’s going to be there for the next seven to nine years. He's gonna be a franchise-level player. He's going to be the person that you need to build around. He is the bluest chip stock we've seen in probably five years of drafts, right? So if Anthony Davis is willing to recommit quickly here and wants to be a part of the thing and isn't going to allow his free agency to kind of hang over the franchise, then cool. He gets to play with Zion. If not he needs to be traded quickly because you need to make the best table set for Zion.
So the idea from our listener that you would move Zion, this long-term centerpiece for two years LeBron and barely making the playoffs. I mean, come on. And I think the Pelicans need to be better than they were in those first 24 hours, and I get the reaction because they've been dealing with the AD drama for months. It was a total game-changer. As much as they predicted they were going to win it, I'm sure it still kind of caught them by surprise and it also helps their leverage standpoint of trying to build up the idea they want to keep AD as they try to field these offers maybe to trade him. But if I was Zion's people I would want some assurances and say, “Hey, look, man. Zion is the real deal. He's gonna get a huge sneaker deal. He's gonna be selling jerseys, probably top-five jersey sales. We want to make sure this thing is being built around him and he's the No. 1 priority. Not Anthony Davis.
Andrew Sharp: Yeah, and I agree with most of what you just said. I think that it says a lot about where LeBron is right now. That like I don't think any team that has a chance to draft Zion would turn around and say, “Yeah, let me take two years of LeBron and enjoy the twilight here and build my future around that verses except around Zion.”
Golliver:The only team would be the Lakers. They would actually do it.
Sharp: It’s true. The Lakers would do it. Yeah, so I agree with that. I do think we should all be a little careful conflating who Zion is as a potential marketing phenomenon and who he's going to be as a basketball player. The idea that he’s going to be where LeBron is is kind of insane to me.
Golliver:Does that matter anymore?
Sharp: What do you mean?
Golliver: Do we need to avoid conflating those two things? I mean, if we're talking about the realistic egos that go in terms of pecking orders with NBA rosters, in terms of who's going to get the deals off the court, how does that influence their role on the court. Is that even like church and state anymore? To me it seems like it's the same thing.
Sharp:It is similar but to me the buckets are still separate, and when you're talking about Zion people should think about him as a future top-10 player, potentially as a future top-5 player. But, again, we talked about this a month or two ago. I don't think he's ever going to be the best player in the league. What's frustrating about AD, is that I what I imagine will happen is we're going to get two years into Zion's career and say, “Man, if only you could pair him with a rim protector who can step out and shoot from the perimeter, and it would be perfect.