The New Orleans Pelicans won the 2019 NBA Draft lottery Tuesday night, which gives them the right to draft Duke star Zion Williamson.
It is thought that Williamson has the skills to turn around a franchise and New Orleans hopes the experts are correct. Not much thought was put into the Pelicans’ chances, as they had a 6.0 percent chance to land the top pick.
The Memphis Grizzlies landed the second pick, while the New York Knicks wound up third, the Los Angeles Lakers are fourth and the Cleveland Cavaliers are fifth.
The big losers on the night were the Phoenix Suns and Chicago Bulls. The Suns had a 14.0 percent chance to wind up with the top pick, which was the highest percentage available. They wound up dropping to the sixth pick. The Bulls had a 12.5 percent chance (fourth-best odds) at landing the top pick and slipped all the way to seventh.
The Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards were also big losers. The Hawks had a fifth-best odds at 10.5 percent and they fell all the way to the eighth pick. The Wizards had the sixth-best odds (9.0 percent) and dropped to ninth.
There was a great deal of interest in this year’s lottery due to Williamson and the new lottery system. The new system clearly had a huge impact on the results, as teams that tanked big-time wound up not being rewarded. Meanwhile, the Lakers (who had just the 11th-best odds) moved up seven spots to the fourth slot.
What I find interesting about New Orleans having the first pick is that it may have to think about what to do with their star, Anthony Davis. If you remember, Davis has made it clear he wants out of New Orleans. He wants trades but the Pelicans have yet to find a deal they like. This difference led to Davis sitting out the final third of the season. His primary concern is that there was not enough talent around him. Will he change his mind and play out the final year on his New Orleans’ contract or still want to be dealt? I feel the Pelicans will have three of the top 25 players in the NBA if he stays. Davis is somewhere in the top 10 while Williamson will likely be a top 20 player along with current Pelican Jru Holiday. That is a threesome that could play deep into the playoffs with the right supporting cast.
But hold on. Early reports are that Davis still wants to be traded. But he will likely listen to one more pitch from the Pelicans. If I was New Orleans, I would trade him now. Davis misses between 10-20 games annually due to nagging injuries. And he does not want to be there. Give your team to Zion and move Davis for a bounty of young players from either the Boston Celtics or the Los Angeles Lakers.
The biggest losers of the night had to be the Suns, the Cavs, the Bulls, and the NBA league office. The league will not admit it, but you know there were whispers of hope Zion would go to the Lakers or Knicks. Bigger markets and the belief that the Association would be better with strong franchises in Los Angeles or the Big Apple. New Orleans is considered a fine city but it has never been a basketball town.
You know Phoenix and Cleveland fans are hurting. Their teams clearly tanked the season and ended up falling in the lottery. Cleveland will still get a good player at No. 5 but this draft is considered a three player draft. Phoenix fell to No. 6. Poor Chicago had a 12.5% chance for the first overall pick and slipped all the way to seventh.
All of the talk of Zion ending up in New York or Los Angeles with the likes of LeBron James or free agents like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, or Kawhi Leonard will likely stop unless the Pelicans trade the pick. I just do not see that happening. Maybe it would be best for Williamson to be on his own and build a winner like top picks used to do before players starting buddying up with friends to form Super Teams.