David Griffin says the Pelicans are “Jrue Holiday’s team” and he is not relying on Zion Williamson to “be the savior of this franchise.”
Williamson, widely considered the top NBA prospect of recent years, was selected first overall by the Pelicans in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
The 18-year-old’s arrival in New Orleans prompted excitement among supporters, who will see star Anthony Davis, also a No. 1 overall pick, depart for the Lakers in a trade.
But Griffin, the Pelicans’ executive VP of basketball operations, isn’t asking Williamson to single-handedly rescue the Pelicans, who missed the playoffs last season amid off-court drama involving Davis, who made it clear he wanted to be traded.
Griffin is instead happy to hand the reins for the time being to Holiday, the former 76ers guard.
“This is not somebody who is supposed to be the savior of this franchise,” Griffin told reporters of Williamson. “That’s not what this is.
“This is a 19-year-old kid [Williamson turns 19 next month], who’s going to spend this year learning how to play winning NBA basketball.
“This is Jrue Holiday’s team. Zion is going to be part of learning how to win at a really high level.
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) June 21, 2019
“And, at some point, if there’s a time when the baton gets passed in terms of who is expected to carry us to win games, it will. That’s not now.
“This is a 19-year-old kid. We’re going to take time with this.”
But Griffin still was happy to talk up Williamson’s impressive attributes, adding: “Physically, he’s touched by the hand of God to play this game.
“He’s a population of one. Nobody really has ever been exactly quite like him.
“People use a lot of big names, a lot of Hall of Fame names, but nobody has ever had his exact combination of size, explosiveness, lateral quickness, ability to defend multiple positions and willingness to do what it takes to win.”
And despite Griffin’s urging caution, Williamson insists he is ready to take on a leadership role in New Orleans.
“Yeah, I see myself trying to step into a leadership role,” he said.
“When I think about doing that, I have to also understand my teammates and understand where their heads are at. If you’re not on the same page, things don’t usually go well.
“I think it’s a matter of us coming together, making the same goals and just willing to win, and I think we can do something special.”