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Luck Of The Lottery: Pelicans Ready To Fill The Bill

zion williamson

(Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

Before the NBA Draft lottery on Tuesday, the thought was whomever won the first overall pick might be willing to dangle the chance to draft Zion Williamson in return for New Orleans forward Anthony Davis.

Now that the Pelicans have won the pick, the mindset has shifted. Perhaps Davis will rethink his desire to be traded knowing he’ll have a chance to play and win with the prodigy.

This was the big story line that emerged from Tuesday’s made-for-television event in Chicago. The 14 teams with the worst records in the league, armed with nothing but statistical probability, all hoped they’d be fortunate enough to be in position to take the Duke star.

As in turned out, the Pelicans won the lottery for the second time. Ironically, they used the first pick in 2012 to take Davis from Kentucky.

If things do not change, if Davis decides he still wants to be traded (and The Athletic says he does), should the Pelicans decide to move him before he becomes a free agent in 2020, the consolation prize will be gift bag of prized players and future draft picks to lineup next to Zion.

Barely a minute after the lottery ended, David Griffin, the vice president of basketball operations for the Pelicans, said the idea Davis harbors about not being able to win in New Orleans is no longer valid.

“If I’m Anthony Davis, I’m skeptical obviously,” Davis said. “He’s wanted to win this whole time and he felt compelled to try to win elsewhere. I think if you look at the totality of where this organization is and where we’re going, we feel very strongly that we’re going be the environment he wants to be part of. And if we’re not, that’s fine; we can deal with it from there. But I’m looking at this believing that there’s no reason he wouldn’t want to win with us, because that’s what we do. It’s who we are. And I think culturally we’re about all the same things.

“I don’t think it’ll play into it hugely. If he was open-minded to believing that we could build a winner around him, he’s more open-minded to it. … We’re going to build something that we hope everyone wants to be part of and I believed very strongly Anthony’s going to want to be part of that whether we win this or not. I think when you have elite talent, that tends to attract other truly elite talent.”

During what’s expected to be the most transitional offseason in the history of the NBA, the fate of Davis is certainly as newsworthy as that of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving.

Anthony Davis

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry beliefs the prospect of having Williamson will convince Davis to stay.

“Guys, the one thing you got to understand is [Davis] is still on our roster,” Gentry said. “He is on our roster. All of that will take care of itself. I’m not worried about it. I know Griff has some plans to talk to him, and it will be fine.”

One of the reasons the Pelicans hired Griffin was his relationship with Paul. Griffin was Cleveland’s general manager during the franchise’s glory days with Lebron James

Davis is averaging 23.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 466 games, but the Pelicans have made the playoffs twice on his watch.

A large number of teams are said to be very interested in Davis with the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers at the top of the list. And its conceivable that the Pelicans can draft Williamson and then peddle Davis to the Knicks or Lakers for the third or fourth overall pick and a parcel of players.

It’s good to be a Pelican today. Soon its throat pouch will be filled with goodies.

The Pelicans had only a six percent chance to win the lottery. The Knicks, Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns led the way at 14 percent each.

“I just sat back and hoped it was going to be No. 1,” said Patrick Ewing, the Knicks’ most recent No. 1 pick, 34 years ago, and who was representing the team Tuesday.

Here’s how it played out:  No. 1 New Orleans. No. 2 Memphis, No. 3 New York and No. 4 the Lakers.

“I don’t want to focus on individual players,” Griffin said. “But I think it’s really good at the top.”

The league reworked the lottery for the first time since 2005, fearing teams were purposely tanking in order to improve their odds. Before having the worst record guaranteed a 25 percent chance of winning the top pick. The team that was second had a 19.9 percent. Now the teams with the three worst records – the Knicks, Suns and Cavaliers – had the same chance – 14 percent – with the odds incrementally greater for those below.

Memphis had a 19% chance of moving into the top three and a 6.3% chance to moving to No. 2. The Lakers had just a 9% chance of a top-four pick. The Cavaliers and Suns fell to No. 5 and No. 6.

It’s expected that the Grizzlies may look at Murray State point Ja Morant. The Knicks might then select Williamson’s Duke teammate, R.J. Barrett. But there’s a lot of time to figure all that out.

I don’t think it’s luck,” Gentry said. “It’s definitely luck on (the surface). That’s what the lottery is. What I think it says is that you deserve to play the whole season out. Try to win every basketball game. You know, not doing that, (other teams) picking up 2 percent chance winning doesn’t mean anything when you look at what happened tonight — how everything fell into place. Actually losing games to try to better yourself in the lottery doesn’t mean a whole lot. Except losing tonight.

“Obviously, we had injuries and stuff like that affect us (last year). All of the sudden a team that missed (the) playoffs to winning the lottery, that can change everything about a franchise.”