The Pelicans are winning. And losing ground.
New Orleans has won two straight and three of its past four as it faces the 76ers on Tuesday in Philadelphia, and the Sixers are a reminder of why those wins might not be such a good thing.
Philadelphia (9-68) has clinched the NBA’s worst record and therefore the league’s best chance, at 25 percent, to land the No. 1 pick in the league’s June draft. The Pelicans, at 29-47, have the league’s sixth-worst record and a 6.3 percent chance at the top pick.
But while the 76ers are in the midst of a roster teardown and rebuild, New Orleans — its season crippled by injuries — hasn’t adopted a full-on tanking philosophy.
This week, coach Alvin Gentry said that the Pelicans still are trying to win every game they can. But he admitted, “If it doesn’t work out, it’s not something that’s so detrimental,” given that falling further down the standings would increase the chances of jumping into the draft’s top three picks.
And it’s clear that the draft already is at least in the back of the organization’s mind. Genty wrapped up a pregame television interview last week by asking fans to cross their fingers for draft lottery luck.
Still, Gentry said he’s spent little time focusing on when and who the Pelicans might pick in June, and he said he’ll be active in the draft process when the time comes. But with six games still to play, that time is not now.
“I haven’t looked at it the way that I will,” Gentry said. “Obviously I’ve looked at all the NCAA (tournament) games. I think there have been some interesting things that have happened in the NCAAs, and I think guys have kind of helped themselves. Obviously I can’t talk about drafting players or anything like that. It’s fun watching, and obviously we’ll get down to looking at it much more seriously in the next three weeks or month and go from there.”
NBA rules prohibit Gentry from talking about specific players. But the coach said he walks in the room with the Pelicans’ draft board “all the time” and said he’ll “look a little closely” at a college game featuring players the front office has targeted.
But that’s general manager Dell Demps’ territory. Gentry, who has scouted in the past, will have input in the draft process but said he’ll remain mostly quiet about it publicly.
“I think unless you’re there to see guys in person and in practice and in their element, I think it’s hard to comment on it anyway,” Gentry said. “And to me, I think having one voice is what you want to have anyway. You don’t want to have three or four opinions out there. You can’t really talk about guys anyway, specifically.”
The Pelicans on Monday signed guard/forward Jordan Hamilton through the end of the season. The 6-foot-7 swingman signed a 10-day contract with the team March 25.
In five games with the Pelicans, Hamilton is averaging 11.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 28 minutes per game.