NBA Draft 2019: How Zion Williamson will fit with the Pelicans

Zion Williamson will almost certainly be selected by the New Orleans Pelicans with the number one pick in Thursday's NBA Draft, but his new team is about to get a full makeover.

New Orleans sent its first No.1 overall pick Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers for a bevy of assets, including Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and three first-round selections.

The Pelicans now have one of the most talented young cores in the NBA, and Williamson, who turns 19 in July, will be at centre stage in the franchise's renaissance.

New Orleans' play will be different in 2019-20 and we take a look at how.

 

Defense

The Pelicans will field one of the more intriguing defensive units in the NBA next season, as it has acquired plenty of length and athleticism. The starting unit, however, may have to face some unique challenges given its personnel.

Jrue Holiday has made an NBA All-Defensive team in each of the past two seasons, so he is unquestionably one of the more talented defensive guards in the league. The 6ft 4in floor general can defend both guard positions with ease and will likely see plenty of minutes with 6ft 6in Ball, who is one of the NBA's most underrated off-ball defenders. And then there is Hart, who ranked third in defensive real plus-minus among all shooting guards in 2018-19. Only Jimmy Butler and Danny Green edged him out in that category.

Needless to say, New Orleans have a solid rotation of defensive guards lined up.

Williamson will likely play in a forward spot alongside the lanky, 6ft 9in Ingram. Ingram's 7ft 3in wingspan next to Williamson's 285-pound frame and 45-inch vertical could be a nightmare for opposing teams. Both are quick on their feet, which bodes well for shot-blocking and switching on the perimeter and in the paint. These two can definitely provide some versatility on the defensive end.

Julius Randle has declined a $9million player option and, while he would be an undersized center at 6ft 9in, the experiment could be worth a shot. Jahlil Okafor might come into the picture, but given the lack of depth in the middle, Williamson could fill in as a small-ball five from time to time. He has a natural ability to protect the rim.

All in all, the front line of this Pelicans team doesn't look as if it'll fold easily on this end.

Offense

One interesting topic of discussion is what position Williamson should play in the NBA.

Though he was a power forward at Duke, Williamson is only 6ft 7in. But we have seen other undersized forwards thrive in an era of positionless basketball — most notably Draymond Green, who also is 6ft 7in. Green can push the pace and serve as a primary distributor, something Williamson has yet to do. However, he has plenty of room to grow.

Williamson made it clear at times that he can handle the ball and is an able and willing passer. But by no means will he be asked to run the offense. Can a high-flying Williamson develop a traditional back-to-the-basket game against considerably taller players? That question needs to be answered.

He certainly has the speed and spring to gel with the Pelicans' new roster. At the very least, he will be a lethal option on the break. If he develops his jump shot for pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop scenarios, even better. New Orleans' newest attraction simply is not the kind of player you can just draw up a play for on the block right now, but he is someone with the natural talent to rack up hustle points.

The Pelicans also still have the No. 4 pick in their back pocket. It appears as if they would ultimately like to trade it for a veteran piece. New Orleans need a shooter, as its current group will not allow for much floor spacing.

This much we know: New Orleans will be an exciting team everyone will be watching in 2019-20.

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