The NBA draft lottery was held on May 14, a precursor to what is expected to be one of the wildest offseasons in league history.
Fourteen teams were in contention for the No. 1 overall pick. While that pick is coveted every year, teams were more than hopeful for the top pick in this year’s draft. The team to win the No. 1 overall pick is the team expected to draft Duke phenom Zion Williamson. That team, for now, is the New Orleans Pelicans.
Not the New York Knicks. Not the Cleveland Cavaliers. Not the Phoenix Suns. These three teams had the best odds, all at 14 percent, to win the top pick and put themselves in position to draft the next greatest basketball player on the planet.
Instead, the Suns ended up with the No. 6 pick, making them the biggest loser after the draft lottery had concluded. One of three teams with the best odds to land the top pick couldn’t win a spot in the top four, or even the top five.
To say the Suns have been down on their luck for the past several years would be an understatement. Phoenix finished with a losing record for the fifth straight year. They haven’t had a winning record since the 2013-14 season. Even then, they failed to make the playoffs. The Suns won the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft and used it to draft Deandre Ayton. They still finished as one of the worst teams in the NBA.
The biggest winner after the draft lottery is obviously New Orleans. The Pelicans not only have an opportunity to draft the NBA’s next superstar, they already have a superstar on their roster who could be one of the more coveted free agents after the 2019-20 season – Anthony Davis.
Davis has already drawn plenty of interest from other teams. The Los Angeles Lakers made a push to trade for Davis before last season’s trade deadline. That trade fell through, despite reports that Davis was unhappy in New Orleans and wanted to play elsewhere. Perhaps, the opportunity to play with Williamson could change Davis’s mind. Then again, the Pelicans could trade the No. 1 pick for an already established superstar in an attempt to keep their current superstar in New Orleans. Davis can opt out of his contract after next season, and is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2020-21 season.
Lebron James, who signed with the Lakers last offseason, has made it known he would like to play with Davis. The Lakers currently hold the No. 4 pick. One scenario could be them trading that pick along with one of their players for Davis. The Pelicans would then hold two top four picks. Whether this actually happens is yet to be seen.
The New York Knicks are another team said to make an aggressive trade offer for Davis. Reports ahead of the draft lottery indicated that if the Knicks had won the top pick, they would have traded it to New Orleans. This supposedly would have been an attempt to lure Kevin Durant to New York. The Knicks have the cap space to award two max contracts when free agency begins. A max contract plus the opportunity to play with Anthony Davis could have been enough to land Durant. Without the top pick, the Knicks have no shot at acquiring Davis. A video posted to ESPN’s YouTube channel basically sums up the current state of Knicks basketball.
The 2019 NBA Draft is June 20. For now, it is to be assumed that Williamson will be a Pelican, and that he will play alongside Anthony Davis next season. However, a lot can happen between now and then. A report from the New York Post on May 14 said that Williamson preferred the Knicks. If he stays in the draft and accepts his fate to play in New Orleans is yet to be seen. He could pull a shocker and return to Duke for another season, and see how the odds play out at next year’s draft lottery.
The Pelicans should feel good about having the top pick, but they have their own questions to answer. Will Zion want to play for them? Will Anthony Davis sign an extension with the Pelicans? Would they go so far to use their top pick, and miss out on drafting Zion, as leverage to keep Davis on their roster for the next several years?
The Pelicans could trade the top pick, or they could draft Williamson and then trade his rights to another team. We’ll have the answers to at least the Williamson questions by June 20.