The hottest of hot takes would be to anoint Zion Williamson either a loser or a winner after last night’s NBA Draft Lottery. In reality, no one will know how to answer that distinction for several years. Variables abound.
What will Anthony Davis do now? How will RJ Barrett do in New York? Will the Knicks trade that pick? Will Zion’s legacy be as the folk hero who saved basketball in New Orleans? Will he waste the first seven years of his career by being too nice to ask out?
(Technically, he has until June 10 to pull completely out of the draft and go back to Duke.)
No matter the outcome, last night’s drawing was going to shake the tectonics of the league for a few decades to come. It would be dumb to act like we have any logical answers on the big picture stuff, so let’s go through who won and lost the actual night.
Draft Lottery Winners
Mediocrity: Adam Silver’s lottery reform worked perfectly in its first year. He didn’t want to reward overt losing. He wanted to reward a team in the 30-win range that was at least trying at some point in the past season to make the playoffs. The Pelicans, who had a six percent chance of winning the lottery last night, were doing that until Anthony Davis bailed, and now they’re adding a transcendent talent to a team that won a round in 2018’s playoffs.
The tattooed Knicks fan: Before the lottery began, someone got a tattoo on their right foot of New York’s logo with Zion’s name above it. No matter what, this was going viral, which is what the person wanted.
Las Vegas: So many people bet on the Knicks to win the lottery last night, that every sportsbook had a Knicks victory as a much lesser payout than if the Cavaliers or Suns won the lottery, despite the three teams each having a 14 percent chance to win.
Here’s how one book had the odds a few hours before the reveal:
Knicks +250 Cavs +400 Suns +400
In other words, a $100 bet on the Knicks would win you $250. The same on the Cavs or Suns would win you $400.
Math: What’s more likely to happen? The thing with a 14 percent chance or the thing with an 86 percent chance? Knicks fans? You there?
Alvin Gentry: The New Orleans coach let out a huge fuck yeah! in the fallout shelterright after the Pelicans won the lottery. Here’s the full video of the actual ping pong ball-drawing.
David Griffin: The new Pelicans general manager has a lot of adrenaline-filled days ahead of him. According to Woj, Griffin doesn’t envision sending Anthony Davis anywhere this offseason.
The Pelicans’ sales team: Here they are losing their shit over getting the top pick. Hours after the draft they received double the amount of season ticket purchases than after they won the 2012 lottery, picking Anthony Davis.
Karma: You could argue no fanbase suffered more this season than the Pelicans’. Anthony Davis decided he no longer wanted to do the job he was being paid to do. He wore a That’s all folks! shirt to his final game. He gave condescending interviews. Did the organization deserve that? Maybe. Did the fans? Hellllll no. Now they have Zion, presumably, who is nice and fun and easy to root for.
Draft Lottery Losers
Anthony Davis’ wardrobe: Is that really all, folks?
Tanking: A 33-win team is getting the best player in the NBA Draft. Six teams had a worse record than the Pelicans.
The Times-Picayune: The three-day-a-week newspaper with arguably the best name in the country was bought out and terminated earlier this month by the New Orleans Advocate. Every member of the staff was fired. If only they knew the greatest content machine since LeBron James was barreling their way. Maybe they would have held on.
Human decency: All night, ESPN had cameras on Zion while talking heads either marvelled about his skill or wondered about his fit in the NBA. They ignored most other draftees and equated draft picks to liquid assets with NBA prospects on hand. And people think Rachel Nichols was drunk. Decide for yourself.
Conspiracy theorists: The Alex Joneses of the NBA, the ones who still air-quote Michael Jordan’s first retirement, were so damn ready to burn down the entire league when New York won the lottery. The fact that it came down to Memphis and New Orleans -- the two smallest and most remote outposts in the league -- is not convenient for big-market truthers.
Memphis: In the 2003 NBA Draft Lottery, where LeBron was the prize, the Grizzlies finished second, which meant they had to give up their top-one protected pick to the Pistons, who chose Darko Milicic. Had they won the lottery, LeBron would have been headed to Memphis. They narrowly missed another generational star on Tuesday, though Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. are still exciting.
Let's take this to your inbox. Sign up below.