New York, June 21: Zion Williamson was the No. 1 pick of the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night.
"Because I love the game of basketball," he said. "You can hear people say things like, 'Oh, that it was likely I was going to go No. 1.' But I guess you don't know until you actually go through it. Hearing my name called and I was able to make it on stage without a tear, shake the commissioner's hand, but in the interview my mom was standing beside me, and my emotions just took over," said Williamson full of emotion.
The Duke powerhouse is considered one of the most exciting prospects in years.The 6-foot-7, 285-pounder compiled a career worth of highlights into just one season. His assault on the rims made him a favorite of college basketball fans, but his game is more than just dunks. Williamson averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds while shooting 68 percent from the field.
Wearing a white suit, he hugged members of his family and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after his name was called first at Barclays Center.Williamson will step into an open position in New Orleans, which recently agreed to trade All-Star Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers.The Memphis Grizzlies also quickly addressed a positional need by taking Murray State's Ja Morant with the No. 2 pick. The Grizzlies agreed to trade Mike Conley, their longtime point guard, to Utah a day earlier.
They got a good replacement in Morant, who led Division I with 10 assists per game as a sophomore while averaging 24.5 points.RJ Barrett then made it two Duke freshmen within the top-three picks when the New York Knicks took the guard who actually edged out Williamson to lead the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring.
De'Andre Hunter of national champion Virginia was taken fourth but won't be teaming up with Williamson. The Pelicans acquired the rights to the pick in the Davis deal but agreed to trade it shortly before the draft to Atlanta. The original trade can't be official until July 6, so Hunter was outfitted with a Lakers hit and the draft board behind the stage listed the pick as belonging to the Lakers.
The Cleveland Cavaliers then took Vanderbilt guard Darius Garland, who played in just five games because of a knee injury.Then it was another pick who won't be playing for the team that made it, with Jarrett Culver taken at No. 6 by Phoenix with a pick that the Suns agreed to trade to Minnesota for the No. 11 pick.
That turned out to be Cameron Johnson, the second North Carolina player to be drafted after Chicago took Coby White at No. 7.Kentucky then had two straight picks, with PJ Washington going 12th to Charlotte and Tyler Herro 13th to Miami.