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Zion Williamson could return to the Duke after the New Orleans Pelicans win the NBA Draft Lottery



Tuesday's NBA draft lottery produced a somewhat stunning result when the New Orleans Pelicans cashed in a 6% chance and leaped past six teams with better odds to claim the top pick, universally expected to be Duke superstar Zion Williamson.

Among Those who were shocked at the turn of events might have been Williamson himself, and it was not long before the informed speculation turned to the possibility that he might balk at the start of his NBA career in New Orleans.

On ESPN's "The Jump" on Wednesday, Brian Windhorst pointed out that Williamson has still not hired an agent, or just as important, signed a shoe deal. That keeps his college eligibility intact, as long as he pulls his name out of draft consideration by June 1

0, the early entrant withdrawal deadline that comes 10 days before the draft itself.

Windhorst said that the topic of Williamson's potential unhappiness with going To the Pelicans – especially after seeing the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers come agonizingly close to getting the first pick – has been "blowing my phone since last night."

After suggesting that Williamson "could threaten to go back to Duke, "Windhorst said," Now, what's the kind of person that Zion is? People who I know, who know him say no, is that this is not who he is. " Windhorst then added that "it's a conversation that's happening in the NBA right now."

That conversation may have been fueled by a tweet Tuesday by ESPN's Marc J. Spears just after New Orleans won the lottery. Citing a source who claimed that Williamson "was rooting to go to New York," Spears tweeted that the AP Player of the Year in college basketball was QUICKLY whisked out of the room after the Pelicans were declared the winner of the lottery draft. "[19659003] William's instant reaction to the lottery results, and his wide-eyed, grinning reaction allowed for a variety of interpretations.

The host of "The Jump," by Rachel Nichols, also anchored ESPN's live coverage of the lottery results and said Tuesday night that when Williamson learned that the Pelicans got the No. 1 pick, he "kind of looked like he was hit by a truck." She claimed that "when he woke up this morning, New Orleans was not what he was thinking," but added that "once he resets his mind-set, Williamson would take a more optimistic view of things."

On "The Jump, "by panelist Richard Jefferson brought up by Steve Francis, the Maryland star who waited until he was drafted second overall in 1999 by the Grizzlies before making it clear that he had no desire to play for that team, then located in Vancouver.

Dominique Wilkins pulled a similar move in 1982 after being drafted third by the Utah Jazz, and ended up getting dealt to Atlanta Hawks. For Williamson, as the presumptive No. [119659003] The NFL saw a couple of highly-touted quarterbacks, John Elway in 1983 and Eli Manning in 2004, make clear their aversions to the teams with the No. 1 picks. In both cases, however, they were still drafted by those teams before being quickly traded.

In 1991, the NHL's Eric Lindros was also drafted No. 1 by a team he warned away, the Quebec Nordiques, who initially refused to trade him.

FS1's Colin Cowherd cited these examples Wednesday, saying that Williamson should tell the Pelicans: "I'm not going to be in the midst of the Olympics, I'm taking my name out of the draft, so trade me. " Cowherd suggested that if New Orleans did not comply, Williamson could wait to become the No. 1 pick in 2020 and, in the meantime, ask if Team US Coach Gregg Popovich had any interest in adding him to that squad.

Cowherd added that returning to Duke would amount to an unwanted "step back" for Williamson, but he Thinking of the possibilities of playing overseas or simply "work out for a year" were credible. The overseas option was used in 1989 by another Duke star, Danny Ferry, who was unhappy with being drafted second by the Los Angeles Clippers. Ferry spent what would have been his rookie season playing in Italy, during which time he was traded to Cleveland Cavaliers.

By possibly going back to Duke, Williamson would make a very bold move that would cost him millions in the short the term As he was, he escaped a major scare during his one season with the Blue Devils, when a knee injury he suffered after slipping on the court turned out to be much less severe than initially feared.

Some thought Williamson should have heeded the warning that injury is represented and never played for Duke, but he said he was eager to rejoin his teammates for a NCAA tournament run. Two of his closest teammates, fellow freshman stars RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish, are also set to go pro, so they would not be around if Williamson returned.

For that and other reasons, it seems very unlikely that Williamson would actually go back to duke Yet, as the New York Times' Marc Stein said Wednesday, leaving open the option to do so could give him leverage with the Pelicans.

The Pelicans are already engaged in a staredown of sorts with disgruntled all-star Anthony Davis, who they are reportedly hoping may be convinced to rescind his trade demand because of the tantalizing prospect of playing alongside Williamson. It's also possible that Williamson could take a cue from Davis' unhappiness in New Orleans and decide that he would also rather be elsewhere.

That dynamic could be good news for the Knicks, who had the worst record in the NBA and were crushed at falling to third in the draft, but may wind up with a crucial asset in a possible trade for Davis. If, as many mock drafts already predict, New York chooses Barrett, it could dupe Williamson's close friend to the Pelicans as the key to helping their prized rookie feel better about their situation in Big Easy.

No matter what happens with Williamson , Davis's fate has been and will continue to be a hot topic until he traded or sign extensions with Pelicans and their landing of No. 1 pick only adds to the intrigue. That may have been the most stunning result of the lottery – it immediately turned the Pelicans into perhaps the most fascinating team in the league.


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