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Will it be the Pelicans or Duke for Zion Williamson? Here’s the answer.

Pelicans win Zion sweepstakes, will choose first in NBA Draft

The New Orleans Pelicans won the rights to the first pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. It is widely believed the team will select Duke superstar Zion Williamson.
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The New Orleans Pelicans won the rights to the first pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. It is widely believed the team will select Duke superstar Zion Williamson.

A series of truths exist about Zion Williamson.

Yes, he loved his year playing college basketball at Duke. He loved it a lot.

Yes, he would enjoy playing another season under coach Mike Krzyzewski.

No, he hasn’t hired an agent or signed a shoe deal.

Connecting those dots to create a picture where Williamson would reverse his decision to enter the NBA draft, though, is a fallacy.

While Williamson did enjoy his time with the Blue Devils, but he also knows the kind of money he’ll receive as the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft and a marketing dynamo is too good to pass up.

So while plenty of chatter is bouncing around the country that Williamson would rather return to Duke than play for the New Orleans Pelicans, which secured the rights to draft him by winning Tuesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery, that’s not in his plans.

His stepfather, Lee Anderson, said as much during an interview with Baton Rouge radio station WNXX-FM Thursday morning.

“There has been a lot of speculation but that is not something we have even considered,” Anderson said.

Williamson and his tight-knit family make their decisions while ignoring outside noise. Think back to when talk-radio shows and Internet posts implored him to skip the final weeks of his Duke career after the infamous shoe fail that led to his sprained knee against UNC.

Williamson never considered not playing again for the Blue Devils because he’d made a commitment to his coaches and teammates to do his best in the quest to win a national championship.

The Blue Devils won the ACC but fell one win short of the Final Four. Williamson and his teammates were heartbroken. Fellow freshmen Cam Reddish and RJ Barrett announced their intentions to enter the NBA draft before Williamson did.

Duke star Zion Williamson summarized his first, and what might be his only, season at Duke.

He was busy traveling around the country -- from Minneapolis to Los Angeles to St. Louis -- on a banquet tour picking up national player of the year awards. During that time, Williamson put off his announcement.

Finally, on the day of the final banquet of his tour in St. Louis, Williamson announced he was entering the draft.

That deliberateness is also factoring into his slow walk to signing with an agent or inking what’s expected to be the largest shoe endorsement deal that business has ever seen.

“We just feel there is no real rush to do this right now,” Anderson said in the radio interview. “We just want to make sure. You don’t get too many opportunities in life to have the leverage and the opportunity to control your own narrative. So, therefore, we feel like we are in position right now to do that. We just want to make sure when we do whatever it is that we do, it is the right decision. We don’t want to look back and have regrets about it. We want to make sure we do it right.”

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As for playing for the Pelicans, Williamson and his family realize a move to New Orleans is in their collective futures.

“Excited about the prospect of coming down there and getting settled,” Anderson said.

They have already talked with coach Alvin Gentry and vice president of basketball operations David Griffin. That’s where Williamson’s basketball future lies.

“We are excited,” Anderson said. “We are excited about that. We are excited about the Crescent City down there in New Orleans.”

Duke is now part of Zion Williamson’s past -- a very important part, but the past nonetheless.

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An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.


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