Zion Williamson is the main prize. Picture: Kevin C Cox/Getty Images
Zion Williamson is the main prize. Picture: Kevin C Cox/Getty Images

Freak’s fate settled in wild NBA lottery

THE New Orleans Pelicans have followed a disastrous season, marked by the controversy surrounding Anthony Davis' trade request, by winning the NBA draft lottery.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said Davis's attempt to force his way out of Louisiana had created the most "toxic" situation he had seen in three decades in the NBA.

But in a staggering turnaround in the franchise's fortunes, the Pelicans hold the No.1 pick in next month's draft and have first shot at Zion Williamson.

After having just a 6 per cent chance of ending up with the top pick, the Pelicans can draft the most-hyped prospect since LeBron James and have a ready-made replacement for Davis.

Seven years after landing "The Brow", the Pels can immediately reboot their team by adding further pieces in an expected Davis trade - or attempt to convince him to stay.

It's certainly not the big-market destination the league perhaps would have hoped for, particularly given the New York Knicks were still in the mix late in the piece before landing the third pick.

But try stopping the excitement in New Orleans - which also suffered a brutal exit from the NFL play-offs last season.

The Memphis Grizzlies and LA Lakers were the other big lottery winners as they jumped up the order to picks two and four, respectively.

It gives the Lakers a solid trade chip to help add talent around James, or a highly rated young star to add to its core.

NBA DRAFT ORDER:

1. New Orleans Pelicans

2. Memphis Grizzlies

3. New York Knicks

4. Los Angeles Lakers

5. Cleveland Cavaliers

6. Phoenix Suns

7. Chicago Bulls

8. Atlanta Hawks

9. Washington Wizards

10. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas Mavericks)

11. Minnesota Timberwolves

12. Charlotte Hornets

13. Miami Heat

14. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento)

A former Duke star who is turning pro after one season with the Blue Devils, Williamson said last month: "Whatever NBA team I land on, that's where I want to be. Whoever drafts me, that's where I want to be."

Of course, Williamson isn't the only prize available to teams, with his teammates RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish to be among the top picks, as well as Murray State's Ja Morant, Vanderbilt's Darius Garland and De'Andre Hunter, fresh off an NCAA title with Virginia, already to make the jump.

How does the Draft Lottery work?

The 14 teams that did not make the post-season were all eligible to win the lottery, with the NBA's three worst teams having the best odds, capped at 14 per cent. The percentage decreased for each following the team's regular-season finish - Charlotte, Miami and Sacramento, which finished just outside the playoffs, all had approximately a 1 per cent shot at the top pick.

Ping pong balls numbered 1-14 were placed in a lottery machine, with four balls selected, creating a combination that determined the winners of the top picks (for the first time, the process went through four picks instead of three) with the rest being completed by record - the team with the worst records cannot finish lower than the fifth pick.

What were each team's odds of winning?

New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns - 14 per cent

Chicago Bulls - 12.5 per cent

Atlanta Hawks - 10.5 per cent

Washington Wizards - 9.0 per cent

New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks (y) - 6 per cent

Minnesota Timberwolves - 3.0 per cent

Los Angeles Lakers - 2 per cent

Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings (z) - 1 per cent

y = This pick was conveyed to Atlanta

z = This pick was conveyed to Boston via Philadelphia

How do picks 15-60 work?

The remainder of the first-round selections and the entire second round (picks 31-60) are determined by reverse order of regular-season record.

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