Pelicans hit the lottery, land top overall pick in NBA Draft

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Zion Williamson

It happened. Somehow, someway, it actually happened.

For the second time in franchise history the New Orleans Pelicans defied the odds to win the NBA Draft Lottery and earned the rights to select the consensus top pick, Duke forward Zion Williamson.

The Pelicans also received a major boost in their leverage in negotiating with and for Anthony Davis.

New Orleans entered Tuesday with the seventh-best opportunity to claim the number one pick after their 33-49 season.

Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin, a veteran of a few lotteries and a winner with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, represented the Pelicans with a quiet confidence.

His confidence would pay off.

The first surprise of the night was the Los Angeles Lakers moving up into the top four, but that wasn’t the end of it.

The Grizzlies jumped up, as did the Pelicans to join the New York Knicks and Lakers in the final grouping.

Years ago, the lottery was over in a matter of minutes. Now, where milking every last ratings point and advertising dollar takes precedence, fans were forced to sit for agonizing minute after minute for the big reveal.

When the Lakers were handed the fourth pick, fans began to hold their breath. When the Knicks took the third pick, they began to see the light.

As Griffin and Memphis’ Elliot Perry huddled together awaiting the final announcements, time slowed down. Once the envelope opened and the Grizzlies were handed the second pick, the rejoicing began.

You could almost hear the cheers from fans throughout the Gulf Coast as their franchise finally got the break it had been looking for.

All season New Orleans has to endure the mockery of the league for every perceived misstep or failure that led to its franchise player saying “anywhere but here.”

In a matter of weeks, the image of a feckless franchise has been broken apart by Griffin, with the support of Gayle Benson.

First, Griffin brought stability and respectability, and now he has brought hope.

Of course the lottery is a random event, and the Pelicans winning is a fortunate coincidence. But with David Griffin now calling the shots, there is less concern with how this rare gift will be squandered. Instead the thoughts of what is possible now seem limitless.

Whatever your dream scenario may be, it could be plausible.

That’s a far cry from where we were in January, when the season more closely resembled a nightmare, as the Pelicans crumbled before our eyes.

From the rubble comes a rebuild. Jrue Holiday has been declared a foundational player and now New Orleans has another piece to add to that foundation.

There is much work left to be done, but with the top overall pick the Pelicans’ bird in the hand is worth just about any number in the bush.

What a night.

PELICANS RELEASE:

The New Orleans Pelicans received the 1st overall selection in the upcoming NBA Draft, as determined by the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery, which took place earlier this evening in Chicago.

The pick is the first lottery selection for the Pelicans since 2016, when New Orleans selected Buddy Hield with the sixth overall selection. It is the second time in franchise history New Orleans has netted the 1st overall pick, selecting Anthony Davis in 2012.

“This is a great night for our city and our fans. It is a new beginning as we continue working to build a championship team with David Griffin and Alvin Gentry,” said Pelicans Owner Gayle Benson. “And, of course, Mr. Benson continues to look over us all!”

Entering the lottery, New Orleans was slotted seventh. The Pelicans held just a 19-percent chance of moving into the top three, and held just a six-percent chance of winning the draft lottery.

Additionally, the Pelicans currently hold two second round draft picks – the 37th and 57th (from Denver via Milwaukee) overall selections.

Representing the Pelicans at the lottery were Head Coach Alvin Gentry and Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin.

The 2019 NBA Draft will be held on Thursday, June 20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Pelicans All-Time Lottery Selections
Year Pick Player Position Prior to NBA
2005 4 Chris Paul G Wake Forest
2006 12 Hilton Armstrong F/C Connecticut
2007 13 Julian Wright F Kansas
2010 11 Cole Aldrich* C Kansas
2012 1 Anthony Davis F Kentucky
2012 10 Austin Rivers G Duke
2013 6 Nerlens Noel** C Kentucky
2016 6 Buddy Hield G Oklahoma

*Draft rights traded to Oklahoma City along with Morris Peterson in exchange for draft rights to Craig Brackins and Quincy Pondexter
**Draft rights traded to Philadelphia in exchange for Jrue Holiday and the rights to Pierre Jackson

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David Grubb

Featured Columnist

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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