Odds better than the numbers say for Pelicans to take advantage of lottery win

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Zion Williamson

With excitement surrounding the future of the New Orleans Pelicans building towards a crescendo at next month’s NBA Draft, it’s hard not to be swept up in visions of championships, or sustained success at the very least.

The harsh reality is that having the top overall pick doesn’t guarantee anything. The ongoing Anthony Davis saga serves as a harsh reminder of that fact.

Fact is, since the inception of the Draft Lottery in 1985, only three players – San Antonio’s David Robinson (1987) and Tim Duncan (1997) along with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving (2011) – have won championships with the teams that drafted them.

Yes, LeBron James also won a title with the Cavs while teamed up with Irving, but that was after he left for Miami to collect a pair of rings first.

So, roughly nine percent of top picks win it all with their original teams.

Does that mean that Pelicans fans should already be preparing for another heartbreak years down the road?

Not at all.

Of those 33 previous number one selections, nine (including Duncan and Robinson) made it to at least one Finals with their original teams.

Player Year drafted Team Finals
Patrick Ewing 1985 Knicks 2
David Robinson 1987 Spurs 2
Shaquille O’Neal 1992 Magic 1
Allen Iverson 1996 76ers 1
Tim Duncan 1997 Spurs 6
Kenyon Martin 2000 Nets 2
LeBron James 2003 Cavaliers 1
Dwight Howard 2004 Magic 1
Kyrie Irving 2011 Cavaliers 3

Three others (Brad Daugherty, Glenn Robinson, and Derrick Rose) took their teams to a conference final. That means better than 36 percent of top picks have given their team a realistic chance at a title.

The odds improve even more when you take give some leeway to the last four top overall picks (Karl-Anthony Towns, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz and DeAndre Ayton) for still being in the relative infancy of their careers.

The one thing that each of the players that made it to the promised land have in common is that their organizations were able to create consistency in their front offices and make quality personnel moves either through the draft or free agency to create rosters that complimented the skills of their centerpieces.

That isn’t something that could be said about the Pelicans over the last decade.

Every move made by the front office seemed reactionary or short-sighted. Players were brought in to plug holes in a ship trying to stay afloat rather than set sail.

There weren’t enough guys around to take advantage of what Davis does well or make up for the things he does not.

That all led to last season’s debacle and Davis’ trade demand heard round the world.

But since hitting the reset button by hiring David Griffin and following up with the additions of Trajan Langdon and Aaron Nelson, the Pelicans find themselves in possession of one of the most respected brain trusts in the association.

This week, Griffin and other representatives of the franchise met with Davis to attempt to convince him that he can become the next player to join that exclusive group. Their pitch is centered around their belief that New Orleans is now capable of doing exactly what it needs to in order to build a long-term winner.

So far, there’s been no indication that Davis has been swayed.

And that’s okay. Griffin and his team will be prepared to act whether AD is all in or not.

With Zion Williamson poised to take the Crescent City and the NBA by storm and Jrue Holiday at the peak of his powers, Griffin already has his foundation in place.

And whatever assets the Pelicans get if/when (but seriously, it’s when) AD is traded will be brought in with a team concept in mind, not just an assemblage of talent.

While the rest of the pundits and observers may say that New Orleans doesn’t deserve the chance at another possible generational talent, I say simply, “This is not that New Orleans.”

It’s a new day, and I like the odds of the Pelicans getting it right this time a lot more than I did in 2012.

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David Grubb

David Grubb

Sports 1280am host/CCS reporter

David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…

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