Amid Anthony Davis’ still-pending trade request, the Pelicans land Zion
Well, it looks like the basketball karma gods took note when a superstar power forward requested out of New Orleans this winter because now it looks like another one will be arriving this summer. With a 6% chance to land #1, the ping pong balls fell in New Orleans’ favor, and they will (presumably) be drafting Zion Williamson this June.
Before the lottery tonight, various journalists reported that the Knicks were hoping to use their pick to trade for Anthony Davis, especially if they were to win the lottery. Ironically, the Pelicans ended up with both trade assets, Davis and #1. So that begs the question…what will the Pelicans, and Davis, do now?
First off, the Athletic reported Tuesday night that despite the lottery victory, Anthony Davis’ stance has not changed. He would still like to be traded from New Orleans. After the lottery, some speculated that playing with Zion could convince Davis to stick around or even sign the supermax extension, but it sounds like AD wants out either way. That being said, the Pelicans could wait, let AD play with Zion, then deal him at the deadline if an extension still doesn’t get done. Or they could trade him before the draft, as many have speculated since the end of the regular season.
Either way, the Pelicans’ future is far brighter than it was a day ago. With Williamson, they have a generational talent, and a piece to build around for the future. Whatever they get back for Davis, New Orleans will have one of the league’s best young cores when the trade is finally said and done.
Will Memphis go with Morant?
The other big winner of this lottery was the Memphis Grizzlies. Moving up six spots, Memphis was chosen as the #2 team in the draft order. Ja Morant is the consensus 2nd best prospect in this draft, and most mocks should have the Grizz taking Morant at that 2nd pick. However, R.J. Barrett isn’t far behind Morant, and I’ve already seen some mocks that have Barrett going #2 instead.
Part of this is likely due to the presence of Mike Conley, Memphis’ longtime point guard and franchise player. How much influence could Conley have on the Grizzlies’ decision? Even if he wasn’t there, Morant vs. Barrett is by no means a no-brainer. Scouts disagree on who’s #2 and who’s #3. But would the positional fit sway Memphis’ choice at #2?
It shouldn’t. Mike Conley is 31, and whichever prospect the Grizzlies prefer, they should go with the best player available to pair with Jaren Jackson. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if Memphis takes Morant, if they choose to deal Conley or play the two together. Either way, it’s safe to say Conley won’t be around near as long as Morant, and it’s exciting to imagine a Morant/Jackson duo for years to come.
Lakers get Lucky
Speaking of big winners, Kyle Kuzma and his purple blazer may have pushed the Lakers into the top 4. There are lots of ways LA could go with the 4th pick… we’re not sure exactly who will be making the decision in the Lakers’ ever-dysfunctional front office, but it sure is nice to have another chess piece fall in your lap. There’s no question the Lakers will try to package the pick in a trade for Anthony Davis, but it probably won’t be enough, considering the Pelicans’ denial of their past offers.
In my rankings, Darius Garland will be sitting pretty at #4, and not far behind Morant and Barrett. A point guard that can create threes off the dribble like Garland is an absolute premium in today’s game… and not a bad fit with LeBron, either. In an ideal scenario, Garland could develop into the Kyrie-type sidekick that LeBron and the Lakers need. But the problem with that is the timelines. LeBron is already 33, so by the time a rookie could develop into a real star, King James could be past his prime.
Due to the naturally escalated LeBron timeline, a rookie probably wouldn’t hold lots of value for the Lakers… but a core of Ball, Ingram, Hart, Kuzma, and Garland/Reddish/Culver/Hunter/Whoever… isn’t a bad group for the future. Putting those guys with LeBron and whatever free agents you can get? Not an awful plan. Maybe you can put a foot in both camps.
Teams 3-7 Fall to 5-9
As the lottery goes, when three teams get lucky in the top four, others have to take the hit and fall… namely, Cleveland, Phoenix, Chicago, Atlanta, and Washington. It was a disappointing night for those four, especially in a draft with a clear top 3 or 4 prospects, and a big dropoff after that. Yes, Zion wasn’t the only big prize, but prospects 5-9 don’t measure up to the players that these teams could’ve landed.
The lottery is an opportunity for a franchise-changing night, and these were the franchises with hopes for a change. Of course, franchise-changers can come from those lower slots in the draft, just ask the Warriors… and Rockets… and Bucks… and Raptors, Nuggets, Blazers, most of the contenders in the NBA.
The truth is, yes, each draft has its sure things, but there’s always one or two superstars that come from the 7th spot, the 14th spot, or even the 20s or 30s. There’s still hope for these teams, maybe Coby White, Cam Reddish, or Sekou Doumbouya become superstars. Who knows? Whatever happens till then, I can’t wait till June 20. The draft is one of the most fun nights in the NBA, and until then we’ve got big playoff matchups and trade speculation. There’s never been a better time to be an NBA fan.