Lotteries, by their very nature, are game changers.
That applies, comparatively speaking, to those of the NBA variety as well. The New Orleans Pelicans can attest.
The stars aligned in their favor Tuesday night. That left them as the somewhat unlikely owners of the No. 1 pick in next month’s draft. Coming in, the Pels sported just 6.0 percent odds of landing the top selection.
Their stroke of luck affords them a clear path to Duke phenom Zion Williamson — should they choose to take it — and a chance to re-chart the course of the franchise in one fell swoop.
Or, it gives them even more trade capital than they already have in the form of disgruntled All-Star forward Anthony Davis. However, the consensus is that New Orleans keeps the pick and pounces on Williamson.
Lottery luck leads to big futures odds shift
Davis, despite some musings from executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin on Tuesday about a Zion-Brow combo, is still expected to be moved for a king’s ransom. Yet, even factoring in the big man’s almost certain exit, New Orleans’ 2019-20 futures odds saw notable movement overnight.
Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas brought the Pels’ odds at winning it all next season down from 300-1 to 25-1. That, it has to be presumed, is based primarily on the prospect of New Orleans landing Williamson.
Yes, the Pelicans will certainly get some quality pieces to complement their prodigy through the presumed eventual trade of Davis. But, those naturally remain firmly in the speculative realm for the time being. After all, there are multiple potentially interested teams.
And on that subject, it’s worth dreaming a bit on how much New Orleans could enrich itself via the trade market ahead of next season. Another blockbuster acquisition could enhance those title odds even further.
Deals that could make the Pelicans an even more serious contender
A look at the three most speculated Davis destinations and how those franchises might be able to immediately help the Pelicans fortify the talent around Zion:
Los Angeles Lakers
What they could offer: No. 4 overall pick in June draft; young talent such as Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma or Brandon Ingram
The latest: Los Angeles scored a higher-than-expected draft slotting when it drew the No. 4 selection Tuesday night. The Lakers have been Davis suitors since last January, so they would seemingly be in better position than ever in terms of what they could offer New Orleans. Yet, reports Wednesday from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst indicate the Pels are “not interested” in doing any Davis business with their conference rival.
If that stance eventually shifts or is a smokescreen to begin with, there’s plenty of opportunity for the Pelicans to get exponentially better. First, the No. 4 pick would give them an opportunity at securing another top talent. Then, a get such as Ball, Kuzma or Ingram would represent notable upgrades at point guard or small forward, respectively, for the Pels. What’s more, if Julius Randle declines his 2019-20 player option (just over $9 million) and opts to hit the open market, Kuzma would go a long way toward replacing his offense while sliding in at power forward if necessary.
New York Knicks
What they could offer: No. 3 overall pick in June draft; young talent such as Dennis Smith, Jr. or Kevin Knox; multiple future first-round picks
The latest: Despite being one of three teams that shared a 14 percent chance at garnering the No. 1 overall pick, New York finished with the third instead. Prior to the lottery, the Knicks were reportedly ready to flip that selection for Davis. Therefore, the interest is certainly high. Following last night’s proceedings, the prevailing view is that it would take this year’s No. 3, 2018 first-round pick Kevin Knox and a package of picks including future first-rounders to pry The Brow loose.
This year’s No. 3 would almost certainly equate to Williamson’s college teammate R.J. Barrett. The talented wing averaged 22.6 points (on 45.4 percent shooting), 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists in his one college season with the Blue Devils. The acquisition of both Barret and improving Knox would give New Orleans some quality options on the wing and potentially shift veteran Jrue Holiday to point guard for a more well-rounded, balanced starting five.
What they could offer: No. 14, 20 and 22 overall picks in June draft; young talent such as Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum or Marcus Smart; 2020 top-six protected pick (from Grizzlies)
The latest: Boston has the draft capital this year to make an enticing offer. Moreover, they’re one of the two teams in the top trio of purported leading contenders for Davis that would enable New Orleans to get the ultra-talented big man out of their conference. And yes, Boston can offer the best volume when it comes to first-rounders this year. But, they can’t come close to matching the quality of what New York or Los Angeles is selling with their respective No. 3 and No. 4 picks. That’s particularly true in a year when the draft is by and large considered shallow past that point.
Brown or Tatum are attractive to varying degree. The latter’s upside is especially tantalizing. Reports are the Celtics remain as motivated as ever to try and make a move for Davis. There’s even speculation that bringing him on board could potentially even persuade Kyrie Irving to stay put. The addition of say, Tatum, plus multiple first-round selections would represent a nice haul for the Pelicans. Plus, a multi-talented piece like the 2017 third overall pick could prove an ideal complement to Williamson and help draw a fair share of defensive attention from him.