The New Orleans Pelicans drafted former Duke star Zion Williamson with the first-overall pick on Thursday, but the Pelicans aren't Williamson's team just yet, general manager David Griffin said after the 2019 NBA draft.
Speaking to reporters after the Pelicans' big night, Griffin said that, while Williamson has drawn comparisons to a young LeBron James, the former Duke star won't transform the franchise overnight.
"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.
"Let Zion be that kid," Griffin added. "Don't write this like he is here to save this franchise. He is not. He is here to join this family."
When asked if he believed he could be the face of the franchise even as a rookie, Williamson said he was confident he could be.
"Honestly, yes. I do think I'm ready," Williamson said, per The Times-Picayune's Andrew Lopez. "You have to think that way. If not, you might be playing in the wrong sport."
The 6'7'', 285-pound freshman sensation stole headlines all last season, averaging 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists on 68% shooting over his lone year with the Blue Devils. Duke's star went on to become just the third freshman ever to win the Naismith Men's Player of the Year Award and picked up the AP Men's College Basketball Player of the Year and the John R. Wooden Award.
While the pick wasn't a surprise, Williamson was still overcome with emotion as he spoke with ESPN's Maria Taylor. After thanking his mom, Williamson also expressed enthusiasm about calling New Orleans home.
The Pelicans also had the No. 4 selection in the draft, which they acquired from the Lakers in the Anthony Davis trade, but traded the pick to the Hawks on Thursday night in exchange for Atlanta's No. 8, 17 and 36 selections.
"We are [beginning to] crescendo now," Griffin said. "I think it is only going to continue to grow."