In all likelihood, Zion Williamson will begin his career in the Big Easy.
That’s because the New Orleans Pelicans won Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery. The Duke superstar is expected by many to be the top pick in next month’s draft, and the Pelicans will be able to call Williamson’s name at the podium June 20 in Brooklyn. New Orleans had the seventh-best odds of the 14 teams in the lottery, with a six percent chance of winning.
Here are the full results of Tuesday’s draft lottery.
1. New Orleans Pelicans
2. Memphis Grizzlies
3. New York Knicks
4. Los Angeles Lakers
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
6. Phoenix Suns
7. Chicago Bulls
8. Atlanta Hawks
9. Washington Wizards
10. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas Mavericks)
11. Minnesota Timberwolves
12. Charlotte Hornets
13. Miami Heat
14. Boston Celtics (via Kings)
The Kings would’ve picked No. 14 overall in this draft, but forfeited their pick after trading former first-round pick Nik Stauskas to the Philadelphia 76ers in order to pursue free agents in the summer of 2015. The 76ers then traded that pick to the Boston Celtics at the 2017 NBA Draft, moving back from the No. 1 spot while Philadelphia moved up to pick former University of Washington guard Markelle Fultz. Both the Kings and Sixers probably are kicking themselves for said trades, as either team would have been able to add a cost-controlled player to their roster ahead of pivotal summers.
The Knicks won’t be able to pick Williamson, and that’s good news for the Warriors. Kevin Durant might or might not have his heart set on going to New York this summer — depending upon who you ask — but the Knicks’ ability to surround Durant with talent just got more difficult. New York still has more salary-cap space than anyone else, but a trade package for disgruntled Pelicans star Anthony Davis won’t be as enticing with Williamson already in New Orleans. The Knicks can still easily sign another star with Durant, but their path to NBA Finals contention won’t be a straight line.
The Lakers did not land Williamson, but they will be able to add a young cost-controlled player to their lineup to play with LeBron James. Depending on who they select at No. 4 — NBC Sports California’s James Ham predicts they’ll select Jarrett Culver out of Texas Tech — they might even have a more enticing trade package to land disgruntled Davis in a trade. Whether the Warriors lose Durant or not, a James-Davis combination would pose problems for the reigning champions.
The Kings, meanwhile, would then have yet one more team in a loaded Western Conference to fend off as they try to return to the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2006. The Lakers’ pick is no guarantee that Davis is headed to Hollywood, but the possibility at least has to be considered.
The worst news for the Warriors and Kings, though, is that they’ll play Williamson at least three times a year for the foreseeable future. The Warriors’ stranglehold on the Western Conference could loosen if Durant walks in free agency, while the Kings would have another up-and-coming team to contend with as they try to return to the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2006.