The NBA Lottery results are in and the New Orleans Pelicans were the biggest winners in Chicago Tuesday night. With newly minted GM David Griffin on hand as the team's lottery representative, the Pelicans entered the night with just a 6.0% chance at the No. 1 pick. Nevertheless, the team will leave Chicago in pole position for Zion Williamson, the most exciting draft prospect to hit the NBA in 15 years.
Here are a few instant reactions.
1. The Pelicans hit the jackpot. Obviously. This is a team that as recently as a few months ago had outsiders wondering whether relocation was on the horizon. Now the entire story could be flipped on its head. For a team that has struggled to generate interest over the years, Zion Williamson should help solve that problem. Likewise, for a team faced with trading Anthony Davis and moving on from the greatest player New Orleans has seen, Zion could bring a whole new identity, and there's an outside chance that his presence could convince Davis to rethink his stance. Finally, and almost as important as the Zion pick itself, the Pelicans saw multiple Davis suitors land in the top four of the draft, which means that a bidding war for Davis in June and July just got richer on all sides. All in all, the night couldn't have gone any better for David Griffin.
2. The Lakers also hit the jackpot. It's for the best that the Lakers didn't actually land at No. 1, because the cries of conspiracy would have been deafening. The Lakers at No. 1 could have ended in Congressional hearings upstaging the conference finals. Still, beyond that dream scenario for LeBron and Co., this was the next best thing. L.A. started the night with the 11th best odds on the board and just a 5% chance of moving into the top four. Now, they'll leave Chicago with a top-four pick and a killer asset to use in trades as they look to pick up the pieces and build a contender around LeBron James.
3. Small market teams lived their worst scenario. When the NBA announced its lottery reforms last year, the most significant pushback came from small-market teams who argued that the draft was always their most reliable path to the kind of superstar talent required to be relevant in the NBA. By flattening the odds and punishing teams that chose to bottom out in hopes of rebuilding around a star, the teams argued that the NBA was removing one of the few strategic advantages that actually leveled the playing field. Ultimately, at least this year, those fears proved prophetic. The Cavs entered the in a tie for the best odds at Zion Williamson and they finished with the fifth pick, while the Phoenix Suns entered with the same odds and landed at No. 6. Meanwhile, the Knicks and Lakers landed in the top four and now look poised to steal Anthony Davis.
It's not great if you're a Cavs or Suns fan, and this is a subplot that could definitely linger among small-market teams in the years to come. On the bright side: the Grizzlies and Pelicans play in two markets even smaller than Phoenix or Cleveland, and they won huge Tuesday night. So, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant? Zion and Jrue Holiday—or maybe Zion and Anthony Davis?
We'll see. For now, all that matters is that the lottery drama is over, and as the order falls into place, the possibilities from here will only get wilder. Let the games begin.