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The New Orleans Pelicans had a six-percent chance to win the NBA draft lottery.
Cash in that ticket, David Griffin.
The Pelicans’ new president of basketball operations, Griffin made it two top picks in two tries sitting in the chair representing a team at the lottery as New Orleans did indeed win the lottery Tuesday night in Chicago. Griffin represented the Cleveland Cavaliers when they won the lottery in 2014 and selected Andrew Wiggins with the No. 1 overall pick.
Griffin, the hand-picked choice by Pelicans owner Gayle Benson to run the basketball side of the franchise, will now have the opportunity to select overwhelming consensus No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson of Duke in the draft in June.
“I think it’s just another positive event for us in what we hope is going to be several we stack together,” Griffin said moments after the lottery results were revealed. “I think Mrs. Benson and her ownership group have invested in this very heavily. And my presence there and my desire to be there had everything to do with this community. So I’m really excited for our fanbase, and we’ve got a lot of work to do, but this is a good start.”
For his part, Williamson told Maria Taylor of ESPN that he has never been to New Orleans, but added he will bring his “will to win” to whatever team selects him.
“I don’t know why… I’m just still nervous,” Williamson said. “Maybe because… all eyes were on me. And I think it’s a lot to take in, ’cause I don’t know where I’m gonna be.”
Here is New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry reacting to the Pelicans nabbing the No. 1 overall pick:
Receiving the No. 1 overall pick in the draft will provide Griffin with much-needed ammunition as he attempts to persuade face-of-the-franchise Anthony Davis to rescind his request to be traded. Davis will become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2020. He is represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, LeBron James’ childhood friend and agent. James’ Lakers offered pretty much everyone but him in an effort the trade for Davis at the Feb. 7 deadline, but were not successful, a turn of events that caused chaos for both the Pelicans and the Lakers for the remainder of their respective seasons.
“We have a long, successful history with Klutch Sports,” Griffin said last month. “Rich Paul and I have spoke about Anthony. We are both excited about what we could potentially build here.”
The games of Williamson and Davis appear to be a good match. Davis’ abilities to play outside of the paint would conceivably create space for the 6-foot-7, 280-pound Williamson to attack the bucket as a roll man. Or how about a pick-and-roll combo of Davis and Williamson?
Defensively, Davis’ length and reach already make him an effective rim protector. Combined with Williamson’s burly athleticism would allow the Pelicans to mix and match with any team in the league inside.
Throw in point guard Jrue Holiday’s terrific all-around floor game and if Griffin can somehow sway Davis to remain in New Orleans, the Pelicans would have an outstanding foundation on which to build for years to come.
If Griffin cannot persuade Davis to have a change of heart, he will get to work on acquiring the best package available, most likely focusing on a group of young players and draft picks.
Which would seem to align New Orleans with the Boston Celtics. President Danny Ainge could dangle Jayson Tatum along with another player and dive into his war chest of first-round draft picks in order to chase dealing for Davis.
The Memphis Grizzlies will pick No. 2, the New York Knicks No. 3, the Los Angeles Lakers No. 4 and the Cleveland Cavaliers No. 5.