Knicks Lose Shot at Zion Williamson as Pelicans Win Top NBA Pick

(Bloomberg) -- The New York Knicks lost a league-high 65 games this year, but suffered their worst defeat of the season Tuesday night when the New Orleans Pelicans beat them out for the top pick in the NBA draft.

The result of a lottery drawing in Chicago means the Pelicans will have the opportunity next month to draft phenom Zion Williamson, one of the most anticipated rookies in league history. The Knicks -- along with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns -- had the best odds to win the drawing, with a 14% chance. Instead, the Knicks will get the No. 3 pick.

Williamson would be paired with All-Star center Anthony Davis, though he has requested a trade from New Orleans. The team is tied for the NBA’s lowest valuation, according to Forbes, at $1.2 billion.

Williamson said during the lottery telecast that he’s never been to New Orleans.

“It’s a lot to take in,” the 18-year-old said.

The lottery was the most anticipated drawing for Knicks fans since its debut in 1985, when New York landed the pick that got them future Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing. Like that year, there’s widespread consensus about who will be picked first: Williamson, who spent one year at Duke University. His NBA success is so preordained that the worst NBA teams were all said to be “Tryin’ for Zion.”

High Profile

The Pelicans -- who had a 33-49 record -- land a player with the potential to immediately reverse the franchise’s fortunes, both on the court and off the court. Steve Rosner, founder and partner of 16W Marketing, has said Williamson will “arguably become the most high-profile player in the history of the NBA draft, and that includes Michael Jordan and LeBron James.”

While Williamson is the presumptive top pick, there are several players who have impressed scouts. Among them are Williamson’s Blue Devils teammate, RJ Barrett, and Murray State point guard Ja Morant.

The Knicks, who have won just one playoff series in the past 19 years, still have reason for optimism. In addition to winning the No. 3 pick, the team has a lot of room under the salary cap to spend on free agents. Available players include MVP Kevin Durant and All-Star Kyrie Irving.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.