Bendigo-born teenager Dyson Daniels will join a fit-again Zion Williamson at a New Orleans team with high NBA hopes after the Australian was taken at No.8 in the draft.
The NBA-ready defender and playmaker was made to wait after being tipped to go as high as No.6 in a high-quality field up for selection in Brooklyn on Friday (AEST).
But it meant the Pelicans, who won last season’s NBA play-in before pushing Phoenix in a 4-2 first-round Finals loss, got their man.
Pelicans supporters gushed on social media over the pick, which will mean Daniels joins CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas alongside a fit-again Williamson in a unit with deep play-off aspirations.
The Victorian-raised 19-year-old has taken a unique route to the top, bypassing US college and the NBL to instead develop his game with the NBA Academy in Canberra and then star for Ignite in the NBA’s second-tier G League last season.
“That’s huge, they made a really big step last year making the playoffs and did well,” he said of the Pelicans’ standing.
“Joining this team, I can help them do better in the playoffs. I’m a winner, I hate losing so I’ll do whatever they need and I can definitely step into some roles and contribute straight away.
“I am just so happy … to be a Pelican, there’s no better place. I can’t wait to get to work. This is crazy.”
His selection follows Australian Josh Giddey’s pick at No.6 last year and Josh Green (No.18) in 2020, underlining the emerging talent at the Boomers’ disposal ahead of next year’s World Cup, the Paris 2024 Olympics and beyond.
The first pick in Thursday’s draft brought the first mild surprise, when the Orlando Magic chose Duke forward Paolo Banchero with the No.1 selection, following weeks of speculation that Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr or Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren might be the ones atop Orlando’s list.
Smith went to the Houston Rockets with pick No.3 while Holmgren (No.2) will join Giddey at Oklahoma City, who also landed an NBL graduate at pick No.11.
French NBL Next Stars product Ousmane Dieng, the New Zealand Breakers import, was taken by the New York Knicks and then immediately traded for future first-round picks.
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