For a team with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, vice president of basketball operations David Griffin confesses the New Orleans Pelicans are still living in the past.
FILE PHOTO: Apr 17, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin during an introductory press conference at the New Orleans Pelicans facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The franchise is not entirely rear-focused, but since a shocking stroke of luck left the Pelicans with the top pick in the June 20 draft and the inside track to Duke freshman Zion Williamson, Griffin has been locked in on selling six-time All-Star Anthony Davis on sticking around.
Davis requested a trade before the All-Star break and then told media he would consider all options if the Pelicans were willing to move him.
Griffin’s goal is a reversal from Davis, convincing him the Pelicans are ready to build a winner with staying power around Davis and presumptive No. 1 pick Williamson.
“We’ll probably sit together in Los Angeles at some point around the draft workouts that take place there,” Griffin said Tuesday on a team conference call. “And I think that’s the next step — really to look each other in the eye and talk about what’s important to us. And we’re very optimistic from previous conversations with Rich Paul, his agent, and with all of the people here that know Anthony and know what he’s about, we’re very confident that we have a compelling situation for him here.
“And if winning is what he is indeed all about, which we have every reason to believe, we feel confident that we can create — and are creating — the right environment for Anthony and frankly for high-caliber players of all types to want to be a part of. This is something that we hope creates an energy that recruits itself, and Anthony would just be one step in that process.”
Davis reportedly was unmoved by the Pelicans landing the No. 1 pick and is ready to dig in his heels to force a trade to a bigger market with win-now resources.
Griffin, who was available Tuesday to introduce general manager Trajan Langdon, said the Pelicans are very comfortable knowing the top prospects in the draft are excited by the prospect of being Pelicans. A lottery-night report from ESPN that Williamson was outraged by the outcome of the ping-pong ball draw was dispelled by Williamson’s stepfather.
“I’m certain that’s a false narrative relative to the players that could potentially be the No. 1 pick,” Griffin said. “We’ve sat with multiple players that we’re looking at for that first pick. In fact, in the case of Zion Williamson, (head coach) Alvin Gentry and I sat with he and his parents the night of the lottery. And Alvin and I were also together in interviewing Ja Morant in Chicago as well. And I think because we sat with those kids who are both incredible human beings and all about all the right things, we know unequivocally that either one of them would be thrilled to join us in New Orleans. And they’re both very much excited about the concept.”
Davis might remain steadfast in his trade request, but that could also wind up working in the Pelicans’ favor.
The teams most often connected to Davis, the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, are slated to pick No. 3 (Knicks) and No. 4 (Lakers). Connecting the dots on a rapid rebuilding plan, the Pelicans could restock on the fly by landing Williamson and either college teammate RJ Barrett or Murray State’s Morant, the consensus top three players in the 2019 draft.
—Field Level Media