There were f-bombs of joy emitted from New Orleans – and likely many were spewed out of despair in New York.
Despite having just a 6% chance to land the No. 1 pick, the New Orleans Pelicans won the draft lottery on Tuesday in Chicago – and likely the Zion Williamson sweepstakes. It gives New Orleans the rights to the top spot in the NBA draft, which takes place June 20.
The Memphis Grizzlies, who also had a 6% chance, moved up to second. The New York Knicks – who at 14% had the highest odds along with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns of winning the pick – received the third pick.
Williamson, who was on hand for the lottery, told ESPN he still felt nervous even after the lottery results were announced, saying that it was a lot to take in.
“It’s definitely a possibility (of going to New Orleans), but it’s not sure until it actually happens,” Williamson said.
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Meanwhile, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry was a very happy man, dropping the f-word in celebration when it was announced his team would have the top pick, while the Pelicans’ ticket office exploded in euphoria, with employees screaming and jumping up and down.
“I probably overreacted a little bit,” Gentry said, according to USA Today. “I probably said a word I shouldn’t have. It was raw emotion, it really was. I think what our fans have been through, what our team has been through.”
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Meanwhile, Knicks fans went from excited – at least one fan appeared to be celebrating prematurely by getting a Zion Knicks tattoo before the lottery started – to downtrodden.
“I just sat back and hoped it was going to be No. 1,” Patrick Ewing, whom New York selected No. 1 back in 1985 and was representing the Knicks on stage, said to ESPN.
The Pelicans last had the No. 1 pick in 2012, when they selected Anthony Davis.
In 2017, the NBA board of governors approved changes to the lottery system to discourage teams from tanking in the regular season. Before this year, the top seed had a 25% chance of winning the lottery. The 14 teams that missed the playoffs all had a chance at the coveted No. 1 spot.
This was the most anticipated draft lottery since LeBron James was entering the NBA in 2003. Per league rules, Williamson had to wait one year after graduating from high school to be eligible for the draft.
In his lone season at Duke, Williamson was the biggest draw men’s college basketball saw in years. At 18 years old and listed at 6 feet, 7 inches tall and 285 pounds, Williamson was a human highlight reel – not just with his explosive dunks but with his all-round game.
Will Williamson’s game translate to the NBA? That remains to be seen, but it’s tough to see any team wanting to pass up his potential.
“It’s my will to win, and whatever that team needs me to do, I’m going to be able to do it,” Williamson said to ESPN.