NBA draft: Zion Williamson goes to New Orleans Pelicans at No. 1

Williamson, a 6-7 freshman from Duke, won all three of last season's awards as the best men's player in college basketball.
Image: Zion Williamson, 2019 NBA Draft
Zion Williamson is introduced before the start of the NBA draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on Thursday.Sarah Stier / Getty Images

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By Alex Johnson

Zion Williamson, the Duke University freshman who was the consensus top college player in America last season, was selected No. 1 in the National Basketball Association draft by the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday.

Williamson, a 6-foot-7 hybrid small/power forward who turns 19 next month, averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals to lead the Blue Devils to a 32-6 record before they lost in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.

Get full coverage of the NBA draft on NBCSports.com

This was one of those years when there was no debate over who would go first. Williamson, who won all three of last season's awards for the best men's player in college basketball, was only the third freshman in NCAA history to win the Naismith College Player of the Year trophy—the two others were Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis.

He'd been seen as such a lock for No. 1, in fact, that when he was injured during a game against arch rival North Carolina in late February, many NBA fans urged him to sit out the rest of the college season so as not to risk further injury.

The next two selections were also seen as locks — and the Memphis Grizzlies and the New York Knicks followed the script.

As expected, the Grizzlies chose point guard Ja Morant of Murray State University with the second pick, while the Knicks picked up small forward R.J. Barrett, Williamson's teammate at Duke, at No. 3.