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Zion Williamson reportedly wanted Knicks to win lottery, but is pleased with Pelicans, not returning to Duke

NBA Draft Lottery Basketball

Duke’s Zion Williamson arrives for the NBA basketball draft lottery Tuesday, May 14, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nuccio DiNuzzo)


Despite the Knicks having an 86% chance of not winning the lottery, many people got carried away with the prospect of New York getting the No. 1 pick.

Maybe including Zion Williamson.

Marc J. Spears of ESPN:

Ian Begley of

ESPN Baton Rouge:

It’d be completely reasonable for Williamson to have a rooting interest in the lottery. Who wouldn’t have preferences among the 14 very-different teams that could have soon employed him? But if Zion was indeed looking forward to playing in New York – as opposed to merely hoping for it – he just set himself for a letdown. Again: 86%.

But it sounds like Williamson is doing the only reasonable thing he can do: Getting on board with joining the Pelicans.

There had been chatter about him withdrawing from the draft, which he could do by June 10. If he hasn’t done anything to compromise his college eligibility, which many players do after declaring for the draft, he could play at Duke next season. Then, he could re-enter a subsequent draft. He could also threaten to withdraw in order to get New Orleans to trade the No. 1 pick.

But those scenarios always sounded far-fetched. There are too many millions of dollars at stake. It doesn’t seem to fit his personality to force his way from the Pelicans. And he couldn’t guarantee which team would win next year’s lottery.

New York is a huge market, and that attracts some players. Apparently including Williamson.

But the draft system doesn’t give elite prospects much choice. That’s why Williamson will almost certainly be going to New Orleans. I’m glad he’s excited about that.