The New Orleans Pelicans didn’t defy the odds, after all.
Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery ended the Pelicans’ chances at keeping its first-round draft selection, missing out on the pick’s top-three protection, forced to send it to the Sacramento Kings to complete February’s trade for DeMarcus Cousins.
New Orleans entered the lottery with the 10th best odds to obtain a top-three pick, holding out hope that its 4 percent likelihood of moving up became a reality. Instead, the drama was thwarted quickly as Pelicans’ coach Alvin Gentry glumly looked on when the Pelicans’ name was called in its expected slot, complete with a Kings logo.
Instead, he watched the Boston Celtics win the sweepstakes, coming from the No. 1 position thanks to owning the Brooklyn Nets pick from a previous trade.
Other highlights included the Philadelphia 76ers invoking a pick-swap option to switch places with the Kings to move into the top three and the Los Angeles Lakers hanging on to their pick thr would’ve been traded if it slipped beyond No. 3.
The Pelicans miss continues a long run of rotten lottery luck for the No. 10 position, which hasn’t moved into the top three since the Seattle Supersonics acquired Gary Patyon at No. 2 in 1990. It leaves New Orleans with just one selection for the June draft, a second-rounder at No. 40.
The franchise has still only struck it rich once in the lottery, earning the rights to No. 1 pick Anthony Davis in 2012, thanks to the famous 4-8-6-4 combination, which bumped them to the top despite a 13.6 percent chance to do so.
Tuesday’s process began in the late afternoon when 14 balls, numbered one through 14, were placed in a hopper. After being jumbled for 20 seconds, one was drawn and the remaining balls were mixed for 10 seconds before drawing again. This process was repeated until four balls were selected create a four-digit combination, determining each of the top three picks.
There were 1,001 total combinations available, so one combination got thrown out and the other 1,000 were distributed amongst the non-playoff franchises. The Celtics received 250 combinations, and the odds declined for each subsequent team.
The Miami Heat, who finished with the best record in the lottery, only received five combinations. The Pelicans had 40, none of which matched the critical numbers.
And it accelerates the Pelicans offseason, without the potential of a future star or a trade chip coming from the draft in its arsenal.
Now, the Pelicans’ highest order of attention turns to free agent point guard Jrue Holiday, whose decision will alter the team’s offseason plans and its available cap space. It’s expected Holiday will at least double his $11 million annual salary and could potentially triple it if he receives a maximum offer by the Pelicans.
From there, New Orleans will seek to upgrade its point guard position and add a dose of shooting0 but could be strapped on cap room and short on trade chips.
Regardless of the outcome, the team officially announced general manager Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry will be directing the Pelicans from their current positions entering the 2017-18 season, making a commitment Monday afternoon.
“Our organizational expectations and goals have not changed and all of our efforts are focused on putting together a playoff-caliber roster entering training camp and ultimately into the season,” owner Tom Benson said in a statement. “The end result as we move forward — playoffs and winning a championship for our fans.”