Things will be as difficult as one, two, three for the New Orleans Pelicans in Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery at the Disney/ABC Times Square Studios in New York.
If the Pelicans don’t land one of the top three spots, this year’s first-round pick goes to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Pelicans traded their pick on last year’s draft night to obtain defensive stalwart point guard Jrue Holiday.
It came with the stipulation that the Pelicans would keep the pick if it was one of the top five. However, the odds don’t favor their retaining it. New Orleans, which finished 34-48 last season and is in the 10th spot, has a 4 percent chance of landing in the top three.
General Manager Dell Demps will represent the Pelicans on stage in New York.
“Hopefully we can be in the top three, but if not, we’re prepared,” Demps said Saturday. “We like our team, but it’s a lot more fun when you have a pick.”
The 14 teams who do not make the playoffs participate annually in the draft lottery, with each having a chance — even if slight — of landing among the top three selections. However, after those spots, positions four through 14 are awarded according to teams’ records, in reverse order. The Pelicans are at 87 percent of remaining at the 10th spot.
A top-three selection would provide the Pelicans a chance to fill an immediate need at center or small forward. The highest-rated players available are Kansas center Joel Embiid, Duke small forward Jabari Parker and Kansas small forward Andrew Wiggins.
In 2012, New Orleans went into the lottery with a 13.7 percent chance of landing the top spot and won. It selected Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis as the No. 1 pick. Davis has shown improvement in his two NBA seasons and was chosen to the 2014 Western Conference All-Star team.
This time, New Orleans’ chances of landing the No. 1 selection is 1.1 percent, and it is 1.3 percent of getting the second spot and 1.6 of getting the third.
“We’ve got our fingers crossed,” Demps said.
The teams with the best odds of landing the No. 1 pick are the Milwaukee Bucks (25.0), who finished with the league’s worst record, the 76ers (19.9), the Orlando Magic (15.6) and the Utah Jazz (11.9).
After the 2012-13 season, New Orleans, which finished 27-55, came away with the No. 6 pick. It selected Nerlens Noel, another Kentucky freshman center, but traded him to Philadelphia for Holiday, along with this year’s protected pick.
The Pelicans also received in the trade a second-round pick, the No. 42 selection overall, which was used to get Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson, who turned heads by averaging 29.1 points per game in the NBA Development League.
If the Pelicans don’t get the first, second or third selection, they will have one of picks 10 through 14, which would go to the Sixers. If the Pelicans land either of the top three spots, thereby keeping the pick, the top-five stipulation would carry over to next year for the 76ers.
It they don’t keep the pick, it will be the first time since 2002 New Orleans has been without a first-round selection. Demps said the Pelicans were prepared for the event they may not have a pick when they made the trade.
“We knew we were giving up a draft pick,” Demps said. “We counted (Jackson) as a draft pick for this year. So we have his draft rights moving forward. And, he’s a year older and more experienced now.”
Drafts in recent years have been filled with talented but undeveloped players, many of them teenagers, because of the rule that allows them to go pro after one year of college. However, this draft is considered deep with good prospects.
Demps did not rule out a trade to get in it, saying he’ll do anything he can to improve the roster.
However, he may stand pat.
“We’re not going to decide anything until after the lottery,” he said. “But we like our roster. We have a good core of guys.”