It’s not often you’ll see professional sports franchises throw their hands up and simply wish for a lucky bounce.

In an industry characterized by over-preparation, overwrought attention to detail and an endless competitive arms race of technology and personnel, the NBA draft lottery provides a refreshing exception to the rule.

While the New Orleans Pelicans have spent the past several months overhauling their structure and implementing a new model, their approach to the lottery draw will rely on the same old tactics.

Hope and pray.

But don’t let the Pelicans’ lack of control fool you. There might not be an event more impactful to the team’s future than what unfolds inside a secured conference room Tuesday evening in Chicago.

The Pelicans’ newly appointed executive vice president, David Griffin, will have a handful of rooting interests when commissioner Adam Silver begins to draw Ping-Pong balls from the hopper. The rest of the world will see the results at 7:30 p.m., with coach Alvin Gentry representing the team on ESPN’s broadcast.

Each of the scenarios Griffin and Gentry are chasing come with major implications.

First and most obviously, the Pelicans want to win the lottery. There’s a 6 percent likelihood one of the team’s combination of assigned numbers matches the top pick, and a 26.3 percent chance they can move into the top four selections.

Landing the No. 1 spot would provide Griffin the opportunity to draft Duke's Zion Williamson, the most hyped and magnetic player to come out of college in recent memory. It would immediately wash away the bitterness of the Anthony Davis era and inject optimism into the franchise that no managerial shakeup or single personnel move could do otherwise.

Williamson is the silver bullet. It’s not that he’s necessarily a lock to be a Hall of Famer or even an All-Star, but it erases the concept the Pelicans need to wander through the wilderness of losing and living in the lottery cycle before capturing the region’s attention again.

The No. 2 or No. 3 pick wouldn’t cause the same tremors, but could be equally impactful in the long term, with electric Murray State guard Ja Morant or lengthy Duke swingman R.J. Barrett waiting behind Williamson.

But, in the Pelicans’ peculiar and unique setting, their hopes go beyond those individuals and a single crack at good fortune.

Even if New Orleans stays at its No. 7 slot or slides down, there’s plenty of intrigue for Griffin at the top of the draft. Because whichever team does end up in those top spots immediately becomes one of the most attractive places to trade Davis.

And the more accelerated the franchise’s timeline, the better it is for the Pelicans, who are eager to drum up the most possible suitors in hopes of stacking leverage on their side for the upcoming deal.


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The Knicks, who are expected to chase both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in free agency, could make an inviting impression to those stars by exchanging a top pick for Davis and immediately thrust the moribund franchise into Eastern Conference contention. While New York isn’t loaded with win-now talent, the chance to land Williamson could headline a deal loaded with future picks and young players like Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith, Jr., and former Chalmette star Mitchell Robinson.

More important, if their 14 percent odds for the top pick cash in, the Knicks are a serious threat to both the Lakers and Celtics, the two teams that pine for Davis more than anyone. That could prompt them to enhance their trade offerings.

In other scenarios, the Lakers themselves own a 2 percent chance to jump into the No. 1 slot and a 9.4 percent opportunity to land a top-four selection, which would change the calculus on the offer New Orleans declined at the trade deadline.

And Boston, which owns Sacramento’s and Memphis’ protected picks, could end up with two top-10 selections if the Kings somehow land in the 2-4 slots and Memphis doesn’t draft better than No. 9.

What about Chicago? The Bulls and their 12.5 percent crack at No. 1 could feel optimistic about signing Davis to a long-term deal in his hometown. They also have a number of young prospects who could be attractive.

So as Griffin watches the numbers pop out Tuesday, he’s essentially sitting behind a roulette wheel, placing uneven bets on a variety of scattered numbers.

There are plenty of longshot chances on the board. Some are better than others, but any win would change the complexion of the future.

Conversely, if the top 4 is made up entirely of franchises with long arcs toward contention and no interest in sacrificing assets for a single guaranteed season of Davis, it swiftly tempers Griffin’s opportunity to quickly rebuild his roster and make use of leverage in upcoming negotiations.

So there’s a lot more than usual on the line Tuesday night, and the implications are deeper and more complicated than they are for nearly any other team in the room.

There’s just nothing Griffin, or anyone else, can do about it but watch, hope and wish.

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Pelicans draft lottery odds

 PickOdds 
 No. 1 6 percent 
 No. 2 6.3 percent 
 No. 3 6.7 percent  
 No. 4 7.2 percent  
 No. 5  0 
 No. 6  0
 No. 7   19.7 percent  
 No. 8  37.2 percent
 No. 9  15.1 percent
 No. 10   1.6 percent 
 No. 11  <0.0 percent 
 No. 12  0 
 No. 13  0 
 No. 14  0 

NBA draft lottery odds

Team  Odds of top pickOdds of top-four pick 
 New York Knicks 14 percent 52.1 percent 
 Cleveland Cavaliers  14 percent 52.1 percent
 Phoenix Suns 14 percent 52.1 percent
 Chicago Bulls 12.5 percent 48.1 percent
 Atlanta Hawks 10.5 percent 42.1 percent
 Washington Wizards 9 percent 37.2 percent
 New Orleans Pelicans 6 percent 26.1 percent
 Memphis Grizzlies* 6 percent 26.1 percent
 Dallas Mavericks^ 6 percent 26.1 percent
 Minnesota Timberwolves 3 percent 13.9 percent
 Los Angeles Lakers 2 percent 9.4 percent
 Charlotte Hornets 1 percent 4.8 percent
 Miami Heat 1 percent 4.8 percent
 Sacramento Kings& 1 percent 4.8 percent

*—the Celtics receive the Grizzlies' pick if it falls outside the top 8

^—the Hawks receive the Mavericks' pick if it falls outside the top 5

&—the Celtics will receive the Kings' pick unless it is No. 1, in which case it goes to the 76ers and the Celtics receive the 76ers' pick