2019 NBA Draft Lottery Winners and Losers
The anticipation for the Zion Williamson sweepstakes ended in dramatic fashion on Tuesday night when the New Orleans Pelicans, who are facing the specter of losing their franchise player Anthony Davis, came out of nowhere to grab the chance at taking the Duke freshman phenom as the no.1 overall pick in the upcoming Draft.
To recap, here is the 2019 Draft Lottery Order and their no.1 pick odds:
1. New Orleans Pelicans (6.0%)
2. Memphis Grizzlies (6.0%)
3. New York Knicks (14.0%)
4. Los Angeles Lakers (2.0%)
5. Cleveland Cavaliers (14.0%)
6. Phoenix Suns (14.0%)
7. Chicago Bulls (12.5%)
8. Atlanta Hawks (10.5%)
9. Washington Wizards (9.0%)
10. Atlanta Hawks via Dallas Mavericks (6.0%)
11. Minnesota Timberwolves (3.0%)
12. Charlotte Hornets (1.0%)
13. Miami Heat (1.0%)
14. Boston Celtics via Sacramento Kings (1.0%)
The domino effect of these results will spill over this summer with one of the most anticipated free agent classes in recent memory led by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Let’s take a quick look on who were the Draft Lottery winners and losers.
1. New Orleans Pelicans
In a sudden twist of fate, despair turned into hope for New Orleans. Davis’ mid-season trade demand turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Pelicans, who played the second half of the season with their franchise star on a minute-restriction, eventually shutting him down that led to them losing more games. The no.1 pick has opened up plenty of options for the Pelicans.
The Pelicans’ recently-hired Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin will now have the bargaining chip – may it be Williamson or a proven superstar via trade – to sell to Davis to reconsider staying.
On the flipside, they can build around Williamson and now have more leverage on Davis’ suitors. They can turn Davis into a trove of young pieces who can grow with their prized rookie that will set them up for years to come.
Whichever path they choose, the Pelicans are now in a much better position than they were during the February trade deadline.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
With only a two percent chance of getting the no.1 pick, the Lakers were still lucky to land in the top four. The shift from 11th to 4th in the Draft order provides the silver lining to a chaotic first season of LeBron James in Tinseltown.
Lakers’ general manager Rob Pelinka referred to the fourth pick as a ‘powerful asset’.
Pelinka said they can draft an impact player at fourth which may not fit their timeline given James’ contract with the team. So the most logical choice is to explore the market.
They can re-engage the Pelicans again using this pick to add to their package of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart for Davis or go after Bradley Beal if the Washington Wizards decide to start a full rebuild.
3. Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis was the other team which made a significant jump outside the bottom four teams. They went up from ninth to the second pick which the Grizzlies will likely use to get Ja Morant, setting them up for the likely departure of their long-time point guard Mike Conley.
A Morant-Jaren Jackson Jr. combo will usher in a new era in Memphis plus the additional pieces or future assets which they can get from moving Conley.
4. Boston Celtics
The Grizzlies’ pick this year and their future will have a domino effect on Boston’s swing for Davis this summer.
As part of the Jeff Green trade in 2015, the Celtics received a 2019 top-8 protected pick. Since Memphis moved up to number 2, the Grizzlies were able to keep their pick. Next year, that pick will become top-6 protected and if it is not conveyed to the Celtics, becomes unprotected in 2021.
With Grizzlies looking more likely to rebuild around the projected second pick Ja Morant, there’s a greater chance they will keep their pick again next year and surrender their 2021 unprotected first round pick to the Celtics, which can be a sweetener for a possible Boston package for Davis.
The Celtics also got to keep the Sixers’ top-1 protected pick (via Sacramento) which they acquired from the Markelle Fultz-Jayson Tatum swap. Had the Kings’ pick became no.1, it would have gone to the 76ers and the Celtics would then have Philadelphia’s 25th overall pick this year. As it turned out, the Celtics will have two first round picks this year – their own pick and the Kings’ 14th pick.
5. The NBA’s War Against Tanking
The Pelicans winning the lottery and the Lakers crashing the top four validated the reforms instituted by the league starting this year to discourage teams from tanking.
Under the previous lottery rules, the worst team in the league had a 25 percent chance at the number one pick. That was reduced to just 14 percent, the same odds as the next two worst teams. Also, the other teams outside the bottom three also received an increased chance of landing in the top three and top five of the draft.
Without that previous ‘greater odds’ incentive for a losing season, now the teams can still win (like the Pelicans and Lakers who’ve won more than 30 games each this season) and still get a fair shot at the lottery.
1. Zion Williamson and New York Knicks
Williamson was reportedly hoping that he’ll land with the Knicks and the feeling was mutual. But everything came crashing down on Tuesday night.
Williamson will have to make do playing on a small-market team to start his NBA career while the Knicks will presumably have Williamson’s Duke teammate RJ Barrett as a consolation prize as it is assumed that is who the Knicks will take with the third pick.
It remains to be seen on how this loss will impact their dream of luring Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving this summer but having that number 1 pick could have been a more powerful bargaining chip.
All is not lost for the Knicks though, as they can still use that number 3 pick as an additional asset in a package to go after Davis. A continuation of the Williamson-Barrett partnership in New Orleans will need to have a much better appeal to the Pelicans than what the Lakers and Celtics can possibly offer.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns and Chicago Bulls
The other teams in the bottom four missed out on Williamson and find themselves outside the top four in the draft order.
The Cavaliers and the Suns, who shared the second worst record in the league, went down to no.5 and 6, respectively. They went to Chicago with a 14 percent chance of having the no.1 pick and 52.1 percent odds of snatching a top-four pick but the ping-pong balls did not go their way.
Many people feel that this is a three player draft with Williamson, Morant and Barrett. Missing out on those players to help them turn their franchises around hurts.
3. Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks
Atlanta was seen as an ideal landing spot for Williamson as a potential running mate of Trae Young. They had a 10.5 percent chance but just couldn’t cash in. Worse, they moved down from the fifth to the eighth pick.
But as a consolation, they got an additional first round pick at no.10 from the Dallas Mavericks (6.0 percent) as part of the Trae Young-Luka Doncic swap.
That Mavericks pick was top-5 protected, which meant they could have kept had it become a high pick. With a healthy Kristaps Porzingis on board and a possible big free agent joining him and Doncic, this could have been the last chance Dallas has to have a lottery pick in a long while.
4. Washington Wizards
The Wizards are at the crossroads after a promising season turned into a nightmare. With the fourth best odds at 9.0 percent, they were hoping to land the no.1 pick or even crack the top three to get a young impact talent that can either signal a full rebuild or to improve their core for one more run.
Instead of a shot at redemption, they fell down to number 9.
5. Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers, who were still licking the wounds of their second round loss to the Toronto Raptors on a Kawhi Leonard buzzer-beating series winner, got roasted by the Sacramento Kings on their social media page after missing out on winning the lottery to keep their top-1 protected pick.
The Sixers missed on their chance of having Williamson to add to ‘The Process’ as it went all the way down to number 14 and automatically went to the Celtics as part of their earlier Fultz-Tatum trade.