Before the NBA draft lottery, the Lakers had already made the Pelicans lucky


FILE – Auburn forward Jabari Smith (10) reacts after scoring 3 points against Alabama in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022 in Auburn, Ala. Houston, Detroit and Orlando share the best odds to win the Tuesday, May 17, 2022 draft draw and the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. All three are already loaded with young players, even before the possibility of adding someone like Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero or Jabari Smith. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)


It’s time for the NBA draft lottery, where some teams will get a nice reward for a miserable season.

Not the Los Angeles Lakers, though. Their misery should make a good year even better for the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Pelicans are the only playoff team among clubs that can take advantage of lotto luck in Tuesday night’s draw in Chicago.

The Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons all share a 14% chance of winning the lottery and the No. 1 pick for the June 23 NBA draft in New York. Auburn’s Jabari Smith, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Duke’s Paolo Banchero are some of the best college players available.

The Rockets, Magic and Pistons were young teams that finished bottom of the league, the kind of teams the lottery is supposed to benefit from.

Then there are the Pelicans.

They were like most other observers in and around the NBA this season, expecting the Lakers to be a winning team, perhaps a championship contender. But when the Lakers instead faltered to a 33-49 finish, eighth-worst in the league, they left New Orleans in position to cash in one of its chips from the 2019 trade that sent Anthony Davis in Los Angeles.

The Pelicans will pick the Lakers as long as they land in the top 10 – and there’s about a 99.6% chance of that happening.

Executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said no one on the Pelicans expected to get a top-10 pick from the Lakers this season, in which New Orleans bounced back from a 1-12 start to make the playoffs led by All-Star Brandon Ingram — trade-acquired with Los Angeles.

“So we were very lucky and as is often the case in our industry, it’s better to be lucky than good,” Griffin said after the playoffs. “And if you can be both, you can achieve something and so we’re grateful to be a playoff team that holds a lottery pick. That’s something very unusual.

“So we were lucky there for sure.”

That’s what Tuesday is about.

The Pistons got lucky last year, when they won the lottery and ultimately picked guard Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 pick. He went on to finish third in the rookie of the year voting.

Houston and Orlando also have plenty of young talent and are ready to add more. All three have a greater than 52% chance of landing a top-four selection.

The lottery defines the first four choices. The rest of the non-playoff teams choose in reverse order of their finish. Besides the Rockets, Magic, Pistons and Pelicans, the other participating teams on Tuesday are Oklahoma City, Indiana, Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio, Washington, New York, Charlotte and Cleveland.

There are only 13 teams instead of the 14 that missed the playoffs, as the Thunder also own the Clippers’ selection, which moves into the lottery at the No. 12 position.

Hall of Famer David Robinson will sit on stage to represent Spurs, a reminder of the type of franchise-changing player that could be available to a lottery winner. Spurs took Robinson No.1 after winning the 1987 lottery.

The Rockets found themselves with a dominant big man in the lottery 20 years ago when they selected Yao Ming from China. Digging now since the end of the James Harden era, they finished 20-62 that season, the worst in the NBA.

Houston had the No. 2 pick last year and took Jalen Green, who showed great promise as a rookie. Now they might be able to add two talented young players to their roster, one of their top five picks and the No. 17 pick from Brooklyn they acquired when they traded Harden in January 2021.

“I think we’ll be a more talented team next year than we were this year and I actually think, just in terms of talent, we were a pretty talented team,” said general manager Rafael Stone. . We were just extraordinarily young. Chances are we’ll be even younger next year, but you never know.”


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Sandy A. Greer