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2019 NBA Draft Grades: Pelicans Select Zion Williamson with No. 1 Pick

The Pelicans selected Duke forward Zion Williamson with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA draft.

The Pelicans selected Duke forward Zion Williamson with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA draft.

Williamson has been the projected No. 1 pick for months. He averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists on 68% shooting over his lone season with the Blue Devils. Duke exited the 2019 NCAA tournament following a loss to Michigan State in the Elite Eight, and Williamson declared for the draft in April. He earned numerous awards, including becoming only the third freshman to win the Naismith Men's Player of the Year Award. He also picked up the AP Men's College Basketball Player of the Year and the John R. Wooden Award.

The 6'7'', 285-pounder earned Internet celebrity status through his viral dunks and amassed 1.1 million Instagram followers even before his decision to attend Duke. He joins a Pelicans team that recently traded star forward Anthony Davis to the Lakers in exchange for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks, including the No. 4 pick in this year's draft. 

SI draft expert Jeremy Woo’s breakdown: What’s even left to say about Zion Williamson? His rise as the top prospect in this class was swift, he has maintained that spot in these rankings from preseason until now, and there’s little question he will have earned the right to go first on draft night. His mix of elite athleticism and strength, ambidextrous play around the rim, impressive basketball IQ and a relentless, joyful approach to basketball made him near-impossible not to enjoy watching at Duke. The combination of rare traits gives him a chance to be one of the most exciting, and potentially most dominant, players of his generation. His jump shot is a work in progress, and his skill level has to continue progressing, but Williamson is such a natural conduit for transition play and easy baskets that he should be uniquely effective in spite of those things. The Pelicans are probably still pinching themselves.

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Jeremy Woo's grade: A

This was a layup: there isn’t much left to be said about Williamson, who has a chance to actually live up to the massive hype that built over the course of a transcendent college season at Duke. The Pelicans had an easy choice here, and in the wake of the Anthony Davis deal have positioned themselves remarkably well long-term, maximizing their flexibility and giving themselves plenty of options moving forward. What they do from here will be fascinating, beginning with additional draft picks they just acquired from Atlanta for the No. 4 selection.