In the annual contest for losers that is the NBA draft lottery, the New Orleans Pelicans are 2019’s big winners. The Pelicans had only a 6 percent chance of being awarded the top pick, but the ping-pong balls bounced their way on Tuesday night and Zion Williamson will now fall into their laps. It’s a franchise-altering event for a franchise that desperately needed it, and it sets into motion perhaps the most confusing NBA offseason ever.
Williamson is the most-hyped college prospect either since LeBron James in 2003 or since Anthony Davis in 2012. The latter was selected by … the New Orleans Pelicans. The former was hoping that Davis would leave New Orleans to join him with the Los Angeles Lakers, which was looking like a better bet before Tuesday night. Davis has fulfilled his potential, becoming one of the best players in the NBA, but the Pelicans have made the postseason only twice during his seven years in the league. This season saw Davis get disgruntled enough to issue a trade demand. In February, he gave an interview in which he said he was happy to play anywhere but New Orleans. Before the last game of the year, he wore a shirt printed with the message “That’s All, Folks.”
Will the presence of the jet-powered Panzer tank that is Zion Williamson change Davis’ mind? A trio of Davis, Williamson, and point guard Jrue Holiday could be one of the most formidable in the league, though there’s no telling whether it’s enough to make New Orleans’ disgruntled star gruntled again (re-gruntled?). He already wore the “That’s All, Folks” shirt—maybe he can get someone to print him a retraction on a henley?
Meanwhile, here’s how the rest of the draft lottery shook out, a.k.a. the “We Didn’t Get Zion” parade of sadness.
No. 2: Memphis Grizzlies.
Like New Orleans, the Grizzlies had a 6 percent shot at the top pick. They will happily settle for the runner-up spot, as Murray State point guard Ja Morant is no slouch. (They are excused from the sadness parade.)
No. 3: New York Knicks.
The Knicks have spent decades humiliating themselves for the chance that, one day, they’d be able to draft a player like Zion Williamson. Their 2018-19 season was a shameless, months-long bacchanal of tanking, but despite their league-worst 17-65 record, New York will have to settle for the third pick. Whoopsies! (Maybe R.J. Barrett will be great. Or maybe they’ll trade the No. 3 pick to the Pelicans for Davis. But still: Whoopsies.)
No. 4: Los Angles Lakers.
Could you imagine Zion Williamson with LeBron James? Wow, that’d be amazing, and the only way that will happen is if the Lakers trade LeBron to New Orleans.
And, to bring up the rear: No. 5: Cleveland Cavaliers; No. 6: Phoenix Suns ;No. 7: Chicago Bulls; No. 8: Atlanta Hawks; No. 9: Washington Wizards; No. 10: Atlanta Hawks; No. 11: Minnesota Timberwolves; No. 12: Charlotte Hornets; No. 13: Miami Heat; No. 14: Boston Celtics.
Cheer up, losers. There’s always next year for more losing.